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Appendix A Command Line Arguments for Emacs Invocation

Emacs supports command line arguments to request various actions when invoking Emacs. These are for compatibility with other editors and for sophisticated activities. We don’t recommend using them for ordinary editing (@xref{Emacs Server}, for a way to access an existing Emacs job from the command line).

Arguments starting with ‘-’ are options, and so is ‘+linenum’. All other arguments specify files to visit. Emacs visits the specified files while it starts up. The last file specified on the command line becomes the current buffer; the other files are also visited in other buffers. As with most programs, the special argument ‘--’ says that all subsequent arguments are file names, not options, even if they start with ‘-’.

Emacs command options can specify many things, such as the size and position of the X window Emacs uses, its colors, and so on. A few options support advanced usage, such as running Lisp functions on files in batch mode. The sections of this chapter describe the available options, arranged according to their purpose.

There are two ways of writing options: the short forms that start with a single ‘-’, and the long forms that start with ‘--’. For example, ‘-d’ is a short form and ‘--display’ is the corresponding long form.

The long forms with ‘--’ are easier to remember, but longer to type. However, you don’t have to spell out the whole option name; any unambiguous abbreviation is enough. When a long option takes an argument, you can use either a space or an equal sign to separate the option name and the argument. Thus, for the option ‘--display’, you can write either ‘--display sugar-bombs:0.0’ or ‘--display=sugar-bombs:0.0’. We recommend an equal sign because it makes the relationship clearer, and the tables below always show an equal sign.

Most options specify how to initialize Emacs, or set parameters for the Emacs session. We call them initial options. A few options specify things to do, such as loading libraries or calling Lisp functions. These are called action options. These and file names together are called action arguments. The action arguments are stored as a list of strings in the variable command-line-args. (Actually, when Emacs starts up, command-line-args contains all the arguments passed from the command line; during initialization, the initial arguments are removed from this list when they are processed, leaving only the action arguments.)

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A.1 Action Arguments

Here is a table of action arguments:


Visit the specified file. @xref{Visiting}.

When Emacs starts up, it displays the startup buffer in one window, and the buffer visiting file in another window (@pxref{Windows}). If you supply more than one file argument, the displayed file is the last one specified on the command line; the other files are visited but their buffers are not shown.

If the startup buffer is disabled (@pxref{Entering Emacs}), then starting Emacs with one file argument displays the buffer visiting file in a single window. With two file arguments, Emacs displays the files in two different windows. With more than two file arguments, Emacs displays the last file specified in one window, plus another window with a Buffer Menu showing all the other files (@pxref{Several Buffers}). To inhibit using the Buffer Menu for this, change the variable inhibit-startup-buffer-menu to t.

+linenum file

Visit the specified file, then go to line number linenum in it.

+linenum:columnnum file

Visit the specified file, then go to line number linenum and put point at column number columnnum.

-l file

Load a Lisp library named file with the function load. If file is not an absolute file name, Emacs first looks for it in the current directory, then in the directories listed in load-path (@pxref{Lisp Libraries}).

Warning: If previous command-line arguments have visited files, the current directory is the directory of the last file visited.

-L dir

Prepend directory dir to the variable load-path. If you specify multiple ‘-L’ options, Emacs preserves the relative order; i.e., using ‘-L /foo -L /bar’ results in a load-path of the form ("/foo" "/bar" …). If dir begins with ‘:’, Emacs removes the ‘:’ and appends (rather than prepends) the remainder to load-path. (On MS Windows, use ‘;’ instead of ‘:’; i.e., use the value of path-separator.)

-f function

Call Lisp function function. If it is an interactive function (a command), it reads the arguments interactively just as if you had called the same function with a key sequence. Otherwise, it calls the function with no arguments.


Evaluate Lisp expression expression.


Insert the contents of file into the buffer that is current when this command-line argument is processed. Usually, this is the ‘*scratch*’ buffer (@pxref{Lisp Interaction}), but if arguments earlier on the command line visit files or switch buffers, that might be a different buffer. The effect of this command-line argument is like what M-x insert-file does (@pxref{Misc File Ops}).


Exit from Emacs without asking for confirmation.


Print a usage message listing all available options, then exit successfully.


Print Emacs version, then exit successfully.

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A.2 Initial Options

The initial options specify parameters for the Emacs session. This section describes the more general initial options; some other options specifically related to the X Window System appear in the following sections.

Some initial options affect the loading of the initialization file. Normally, Emacs first loads ‘site-start.el’ if it exists, then your own initialization file if it exists, and finally the default initialization file ‘default.el’ if it exists (@pxref{Init File}). Certain options prevent loading of some of these files or substitute other files for them.

-chdir directory

Change to directory before doing anything else. This is mainly used by session management in X so that Emacs starts in the same directory as it stopped. This makes desktop saving and restoring easier.

-t device

Use device as the device for terminal input and output. This option implies ‘--no-window-system’.

-d display

Use the X Window System and use the display named display to open the initial Emacs frame. See section Specifying the Display Name, for more details.


Don’t communicate directly with the window system, disregarding the DISPLAY environment variable even if it is set. This means that Emacs uses the terminal from which it was launched for all its display and input.


Run Emacs in batch mode. Batch mode is used for running programs written in Emacs Lisp from shell scripts, makefiles, and so on. To invoke a Lisp program, use the ‘-batch’ option in conjunction with one or more of ‘-l’, ‘-f’ or ‘--eval’ (see section Action Arguments). See section Command Argument Example, for an example.

In batch mode, Emacs does not display the text being edited, and the standard terminal interrupt characters such as C-z and C-c have their usual effect. Emacs functions that normally print a message in the echo area will print to either the standard output stream (stdout) or the standard error stream (stderr) instead. (To be precise, functions like prin1, princ and print print to stdout, while message and error print to stderr.) Functions that normally read keyboard input from the minibuffer take their input from the terminal’s standard input stream (stdin) instead.

--batch’ implies ‘-q’ (do not load an initialization file), but ‘site-start.el’ is loaded nonetheless. It also causes Emacs to exit after processing all the command options. In addition, it disables auto-saving except in buffers for which auto-saving is explicitly requested, and when saving files it omits the fsync system call unless otherwise requested.

--script file

Run Emacs in batch mode, like ‘--batch’, and then read and execute the Lisp code in file.

The normal use of this option is in executable script files that run Emacs. They can start with this text on the first line

#!/usr/bin/emacs --script

which will invoke Emacs with ‘--script’ and supply the name of the script file as file. Emacs Lisp then treats the ‘#!’ on this first line as a comment delimiter.


Omit details like system name and build time from the Emacs executable, so that builds are more deterministic.


Do not load any initialization file (@pxref{Init File}). When Emacs is invoked with this option, the Customize facility does not allow options to be saved (@pxref{Easy Customization}). This option does not disable loading ‘site-start.el’.


Do not load ‘site-start.el’ (@pxref{Init File}). The ‘-Q’ option does this too, but other options like ‘-q’ do not.


Do not include the ‘site-lisp’ directories in load-path (@pxref{Init File}). The ‘-Q’ option does this too.


Do not display a startup screen. You can also achieve this effect by setting the variable inhibit-startup-screen to non-nil in your initialization file (@pxref{Entering Emacs}).


Start Emacs with minimum customizations. This is similar to using ‘-q’, ‘--no-site-file’, ‘--no-site-lisp’, and ‘--no-splash’ together. This also stops Emacs from processing X resources by setting inhibit-x-resources to t (@pxref{Resources}).


Start Emacs as a daemon: after Emacs starts up, it starts the Emacs server without opening any frames. (Optionally, you can specify an explicit name for the server.) You can then use the emacsclient command to connect to Emacs for editing. @xref{Emacs Server}, for information about using Emacs as a daemon. A “background” daemon disconnects from the terminal and runs in the background (‘--daemon’ is an alias for ‘--bg-daemon’).


Do not reload any saved desktop. @xref{Saving Emacs Sessions}.

-u user

Load user’s initialization file instead of your own(1).


Enable the Emacs Lisp debugger for errors in the init file. See Entering the Debugger on an Error in The GNU Emacs Lisp Reference Manual.


Enable expensive correctness checks when dealing with dynamically loadable modules. This is intended for module authors that wish to verify that their module conforms to the module API requirements. The option makes Emacs abort if a module-related assertion triggers.

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A.3 Command Argument Example

Here is an example of using Emacs with arguments and options. It assumes you have a Lisp program file called ‘hack-c.el’ which, when loaded, performs some useful operation on the current buffer, expected to be a C program.

emacs --batch foo.c -l hack-c -f save-buffer >& log

This says to visit ‘foo.c’, load ‘hack-c.el’ (which makes changes in the visited file), save ‘foo.c’ (note that save-buffer is the function that C-x C-s is bound to), and then exit back to the shell (because of ‘--batch’). ‘--batch’ also guarantees there will be no problem redirecting output to ‘log’, because Emacs will not assume that it has a display terminal to work with.

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A.4 Environment Variables

The environment is a feature of the operating system; it consists of a collection of variables with names and values. Each variable is called an environment variable; environment variable names are case-sensitive, and it is conventional to use upper case letters only. The values are all text strings.

What makes the environment useful is that subprocesses inherit the environment automatically from their parent process. This means you can set up an environment variable in your login shell, and all the programs you run (including Emacs) will automatically see it. Subprocesses of Emacs (such as shells, compilers, and version control programs) inherit the environment from Emacs, too.

Inside Emacs, the command M-x getenv reads the name of an environment variable, and prints its value in the echo area. M-x setenv sets a variable in the Emacs environment, and C-u M-x setenv removes a variable. (Environment variable substitutions with ‘$’ work in the value just as in file names; see @ref{File Names with $}.) The variable initial-environment stores the initial environment inherited by Emacs.

The way to set environment variables outside of Emacs depends on the operating system, and especially the shell that you are using. For example, here’s how to set the environment variable ORGANIZATION to ‘not very much’ using Bash:

export ORGANIZATION="not very much"

and here’s how to do it in csh or tcsh:

setenv ORGANIZATION "not very much"

When Emacs is using the X Window System, various environment variables that control X work for Emacs as well. See the X documentation for more information.

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A.4.1 General Variables

Here is an alphabetical list of environment variables that have special meanings in Emacs. Most of these variables are also used by some other programs. Emacs does not require any of these environment variables to be set, but it uses their values if they are set.


Used by the cd command to search for the directory you specify, when you specify a relative directory,


Used by D-Bus when Emacs is compiled with it. Usually, there is no need to change it. Setting it to a dummy address, like ‘unix:path=/dev/null’, suppresses connections to the D-Bus session bus as well as autolaunching the D-Bus session bus if not running yet.


Directory for the architecture-independent files that come with Emacs. This is used to initialize the variable data-directory.


Directory for the documentation string file, which is used to initialize the Lisp variable doc-directory.


A colon-separated list of directories(2) to search for Emacs Lisp files. If set, it modifies the usual initial value of the load-path variable (@pxref{Lisp Libraries}). An empty element stands for the default value of load-path; e.g., using ‘EMACSLOADPATH="/tmp:"’ adds ‘/tmp’ to the front of the default load-path. To specify an empty element in the middle of the list, use 2 colons in a row, as in ‘EMACSLOADPATH="/tmp::/foo"’.


A colon-separated list of directories to search for executable files. If set, Emacs uses this in addition to PATH (see below) when initializing the variable exec-path (@pxref{Shell}).


Your email address; used to initialize the Lisp variable user-mail-address, which the Emacs mail interface puts into the ‘From’ header of outgoing messages (@pxref{Mail Headers}).


Used for shell-mode to override the SHELL environment variable (@pxref{Interactive Shell}).


The name of the file that shell commands are saved in between logins. This variable defaults to ‘~/.bash_history’ if you use Bash, to ‘~/.sh_history’ if you use ksh, and to ‘~/.history’ otherwise.


The location of your files in the directory tree; used for expansion of file names starting with a tilde (‘~’). On MS-DOS, it defaults to the directory from which Emacs was started, with ‘/bin’ removed from the end if it was present. On Windows, the default value of HOME is the ‘Application Data’ subdirectory of the user profile directory (normally, this is ‘C:/Documents and Settings/username/Application Data’, where username is your user name), though for backwards compatibility ‘C:/’ will be used instead if a ‘.emacs’ file is found there.


The name of the machine that Emacs is running on.


A colon-separated list of directories in which to search for Info files.


The user’s preferred locale. The locale has six categories, specified by the environment variables LC_COLLATE for sorting, LC_CTYPE for character encoding, LC_MESSAGES for system messages, LC_MONETARY for monetary formats, LC_NUMERIC for numbers, and LC_TIME for dates and times. If one of these variables is not set, the category defaults to the value of the LANG environment variable, or to the default ‘C’ locale if LANG is not set. But if LC_ALL is specified, it overrides the settings of all the other locale environment variables.

On MS-Windows and macOS, if LANG is not already set in the environment, Emacs sets it based on the system-wide default. You can set this in the “Regional Settings” Control Panel on some versions of MS-Windows, and in the “Language and Region” System Preference on macOS.

The value of the LC_CTYPE category is matched against entries in locale-language-names, locale-charset-language-names, and locale-preferred-coding-systems, to select a default language environment and coding system. @xref{Language Environments}.


The user’s login name. See also USER.


The name of your system mail inbox.


Name of setup file for the mh system. See MH-E in The Emacs Interface to MH.


Your real-world name. This is used to initialize the variable user-full-name (@pxref{Mail Headers}).


The name of the news server. Used by the mh and Gnus packages.


The name of the organization to which you belong. Used for setting the ‘Organization:’ header in your posts from the Gnus package.


A colon-separated list of directories containing executable files. This is used to initialize the variable exec-path (@pxref{Shell}).


If set, this should be the default directory when Emacs was started.


If set, this specifies an initial value for the variable mail-default-reply-to (@pxref{Mail Headers}).


The name of a directory in which news articles are saved by default. Used by the Gnus package.


The name of an interpreter used to parse and execute programs run from inside Emacs.


The name of the outgoing mail server. This is used to initialize the variable smtpmail-smtp-server (@pxref{Mail Sending}).


The type of the terminal that Emacs is using. This variable must be set unless Emacs is run in batch mode. On MS-DOS, it defaults to ‘internal’, which specifies a built-in terminal emulation that handles the machine’s own display.


The name of the termcap library file describing how to program the terminal specified by TERM. This defaults to ‘/etc/termcap’.


These environment variables are used to initialize the variable temporary-file-directory, which specifies a directory in which to put temporary files (@pxref{Backup}). Emacs tries to use TMPDIR first. If that is unset, Emacs normally falls back on ‘/tmp’, but on MS-Windows and MS-DOS it instead falls back on TMP, then TEMP, and finally ‘c:/temp’.


This specifies the default time zone and possibly also daylight saving time information. See Time Zone Rules in The GNU Emacs Lisp Reference Manual. On MS-DOS, if TZ is not set in the environment when Emacs starts, Emacs defines a default value as appropriate for the country code returned by DOS. On MS-Windows, Emacs does not use TZ at all.


The user’s login name. See also LOGNAME. On MS-DOS, this defaults to ‘root’.


Used to initialize the version-control variable (@pxref{Backup Names}).

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A.4.2 Miscellaneous Variables

These variables are used only on particular configurations:


On MS-DOS and MS-Windows, the name of the command interpreter to use when invoking batch files and commands internal to the shell. On MS-DOS this is also used to make a default value for the SHELL environment variable.


On MS-DOS, this variable defaults to the value of the USER variable.


On MS-DOS, this specifies a file to use to log the operation of the internal terminal emulator. This feature is useful for submitting bug reports.


On MS-DOS, this specifies the screen colors. It is useful to set them this way, since otherwise Emacs would display the default colors momentarily when it starts up.

The value of this variable should be the two-character encoding of the foreground (the first character) and the background (the second character) colors of the default face. Each character should be the hexadecimal code for the desired color on a standard PC text-mode display. For example, to get blue text on a light gray background, specify ‘EMACSCOLORS=17’, since 1 is the code of the blue color and 7 is the code of the light gray color.

The PC display usually supports only eight background colors. However, Emacs switches the DOS display to a mode where all 16 colors can be used for the background, so all four bits of the background color are actually used.


On MS-Windows, if you set this variable, Emacs will load and initialize the network library at startup, instead of waiting until the first time it is required.


On MS-Windows, emacs_dir is a special environment variable, which indicates the full path of the directory in which Emacs is installed. If Emacs is installed in the standard directory structure, it calculates this value automatically. It is not much use setting this variable yourself unless your installation is non-standard, since unlike other environment variables, it will be overridden by Emacs at startup. When setting other environment variables, such as EMACSLOADPATH, you may find it useful to use emacs_dir rather than hard-coding an absolute path. This allows multiple versions of Emacs to share the same environment variable settings, and it allows you to move the Emacs installation directory, without changing any environment or registry settings.

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A.4.3 The MS-Windows System Registry

On MS-Windows, the installation program addpm.exe adds values for emacs_dir, EMACSLOADPATH, EMACSDATA, EMACSPATH, EMACSDOC, SHELL and TERM to the ‘HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE’ section of the system registry, under ‘/Software/GNU/Emacs’. It does this because there is no standard place to set environment variables across different versions of Windows. Running addpm.exe is no longer strictly necessary in recent versions of Emacs, but if you are upgrading from an older version, running addpm.exe ensures that you do not have older registry entries from a previous installation, which may not be compatible with the latest version of Emacs.

When Emacs starts, as well as checking the environment, it also checks the System Registry for those variables and for HOME, LANG and PRELOAD_WINSOCK.

To determine the value of those variables, Emacs goes through the following procedure. First, the environment is checked. If the variable is not found there, Emacs looks for registry keys by that name under ‘/Software/GNU/Emacs’; first in the ‘HKEY_CURRENT_USER’ section of the registry, and if not found there, in the ‘HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE’ section. Finally, if Emacs still cannot determine the values, compiled-in defaults are used.

In addition to the environment variables above, you can also add settings to the ‘/Software/GNU/Emacs’ registry key to specify X resources (@pxref{X Resources}). Most of the settings you can specify in your ‘.Xdefaults’ file can be set from that registry key.

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A.5 Specifying the Display Name

The environment variable DISPLAY tells all X clients, including Emacs, where to display their windows. Its value is set by default in ordinary circumstances, when you start an X server and run jobs locally. You can specify the display yourself; one reason to do this is if you want to log into another system and run Emacs there, and have the window displayed at your local terminal.

DISPLAY has the syntax ‘host:display.screen’, where host is the host name of the X Window System server machine, display is an arbitrarily-assigned number that distinguishes your server (X terminal) from other servers on the same machine, and screen is a field that allows an X server to control multiple terminal screens. The period and the screen field are optional. If included, screen is usually zero.

For example, if your host is named ‘glasperle’ and your server is the first (or perhaps the only) server listed in the configuration, your DISPLAY is ‘glasperle:0.0’.

You can specify the display name explicitly when you run Emacs, either by changing the DISPLAY variable, or with the option ‘-d display’ or ‘--display=display’. Here is an example:

emacs --display=glasperle:0 &

You can inhibit the use of the X window system with the ‘-nw’ option. Then Emacs uses its controlling text terminal for display. See section Initial Options.

Sometimes, security arrangements prevent a program on a remote system from displaying on your local system. In this case, trying to run Emacs produces messages like this:

Xlib:  connection to "glasperle:0.0" refused by server

You might be able to overcome this problem by using the xhost command on the local system to give permission for access from your remote machine.

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A.6 Font Specification Options

You can use the command line option ‘-fn font’ (or ‘--font’, which is an alias for ‘-fn’) to specify a default font:

-fn font

Use font as the default font.

When passing a font name to Emacs on the command line, you may need to quote it, by enclosing it in quotation marks, if it contains characters that the shell treats specially (e.g., spaces). For example:

emacs -fn "DejaVu Sans Mono-12"

@xref{Fonts}, for details about font names and other ways to specify the default font.

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A.7 Window Color Options

You can use the following command-line options to specify the colors to use for various parts of the Emacs display. Colors may be specified using either color names or RGB triplets (@pxref{Colors}).

-fg color

Specify the foreground color, overriding the color specified by the default face (@pxref{Faces}).

-bg color

Specify the background color, overriding the color specified by the default face.

-bd color

Specify the color of the border of the X window. This has no effect if Emacs is compiled with GTK+ support.

-cr color

Specify the color of the Emacs cursor which indicates where point is.

-ms color

Specify the color for the mouse cursor when the mouse is in the Emacs window.


Reverse video: swap the foreground and background colors.


Set the color support mode when Emacs is run on a text terminal. This option overrides the number of supported colors that the character terminal advertises in its termcap or terminfo database. The parameter mode can be one of the following:


Don’t use colors even if the terminal’s capabilities specify color support.


Same as when ‘--color’ is not used at all: Emacs detects at startup whether the terminal supports colors, and if it does, turns on colored display.


Turn on the color support unconditionally, and use color commands specified by the ANSI escape sequences for the 8 standard colors.


Use color mode for num colors. If num is -1, turn off color support (equivalent to ‘never’); if it is 0, use the default color support for this terminal (equivalent to ‘auto’); otherwise use an appropriate standard mode for num colors. Depending on your terminal’s capabilities, Emacs might be able to turn on a color mode for 8, 16, 88, or 256 as the value of num. If there is no mode that supports num colors, Emacs acts as if num were 0, i.e., it uses the terminal’s default color support mode.

If mode is omitted, it defaults to ansi8.

For example, to use a coral mouse cursor and a slate blue text cursor, enter:

emacs -ms coral -cr 'slate blue' &

You can reverse the foreground and background colors through the ‘-rv’ option or with the X resource ‘reverseVideo’.

The ‘-fg’, ‘-bg’, and ‘-rv’ options function on text terminals as well as on graphical displays.

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A.8 Options for Window Size and Position

Here is a list of the command-line options for specifying size and position of the initial Emacs frame:

-g widthxheight[{+-}xoffset{+-}yoffset]]

Specify the size width and height (measured in character columns and lines), and positions xoffset and yoffset (measured in pixels). The width and height parameters apply to all frames, whereas xoffset and yoffset only to the initial frame.


Specify that width and height should be that of the screen. Normally no window manager decorations are shown. (After starting Emacs, you can toggle this state using <F11>, toggle-frame-fullscreen.)


Specify that the Emacs frame should be maximized. This normally means that the frame has window manager decorations. (After starting Emacs, you can toggle this state using M-F10, toggle-frame-maximized.)


Specify that the height should be the height of the screen.


Specify that the width should be the width of the screen.

In the ‘--geometry’ option, {+-} means either a plus sign or a minus sign. A plus sign before xoffset means it is the distance from the left side of the screen; a minus sign means it counts from the right side. A plus sign before yoffset means it is the distance from the top of the screen, and a minus sign there indicates the distance from the bottom. The values xoffset and yoffset may themselves be positive or negative, but that doesn’t change their meaning, only their direction.

Emacs uses the same units as xterm does to interpret the geometry. The width and height are measured in characters, so a large font creates a larger frame than a small font. (If you specify a proportional font, Emacs uses its maximum bounds width as the width unit.) The xoffset and yoffset are measured in pixels.

You do not have to specify all of the fields in the geometry specification. If you omit both xoffset and yoffset, the window manager decides where to put the Emacs frame, possibly by letting you place it with the mouse. For example, ‘164x55’ specifies a window 164 columns wide, enough for two ordinary width windows side by side, and 55 lines tall.

The default frame width is 80 characters and the default height is 40 lines. You can omit either the width or the height or both. If you start the geometry with an integer, Emacs interprets it as the width. If you start with an ‘x’ followed by an integer, Emacs interprets it as the height. Thus, ‘81’ specifies just the width; ‘x45’ specifies just the height.

If you start the geometry with ‘+’ or ‘-’, that introduces an offset, which means both sizes are omitted. Thus, ‘-3’ specifies the xoffset only. (If you give just one offset, it is always xoffset.) ‘+3-3’ specifies both the xoffset and the yoffset, placing the frame near the bottom left of the screen.

You can specify a default for any or all of the fields in your X resource file (@pxref{Resources}), and then override selected fields with a ‘--geometry’ option.

Since the mode line and the echo area occupy the last 2 lines of the frame, the height of the initial text window is 2 less than the height specified in your geometry. In non-X-toolkit versions of Emacs, the menu bar also takes one line of the specified number. But in the X toolkit version, the menu bar is additional and does not count against the specified height. The tool bar, if present, is also additional.

Enabling or disabling the menu bar or tool bar alters the amount of space available for ordinary text. Therefore, if Emacs starts up with a tool bar (which is the default), and handles the geometry specification assuming there is a tool bar, and then your initialization file disables the tool bar, you will end up with a frame geometry different from what you asked for. To get the intended size with no tool bar, use an X resource to specify “no tool bar” (@pxref{Table of Resources}); then Emacs will already know there’s no tool bar when it processes the specified geometry.

When using one of ‘--fullscreen’, ‘--maximized’, ‘--fullwidth’ or ‘--fullheight’, some window managers require you to set the variable frame-resize-pixelwise to a non-nil value to make a frame appear truly maximized or full-screen.

Some window managers have options that can make them ignore both program-specified and user-specified positions. If these are set, Emacs fails to position the window correctly.

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A.9 Internal and Outer Borders

An Emacs frame has an internal border and an outer border. The internal border is an extra strip of the background color around the text portion of the frame. Emacs itself draws the internal border. The outer border is drawn by X outside the tool and menu bars of the frame. There is also an external border which is drawn by the window manager. The size of the external border cannot be set from within Emacs.

-ib width

Specify width as the width of the internal border (around the frame’s text area), in pixels.

-bw width

Specify width as the width of the outer border, in pixels.

When you specify the size of the frame, that does not count the borders. The frame’s position is measured from the outside edge of the external border.

Use the ‘-ib n’ option to specify an internal border n pixels wide. The default is 1. Use ‘-bw n’ to specify the width of the outer border (though the window manager may not pay attention to what you specify). The default width of the outer border is 2.

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A.10 Frame Titles

Each Emacs frame always has a title, which appears in window decorations and icons as the name of the frame. The default title is of the form ‘invocation-name@machine’ (if there is only one frame) or shows the selected window’s buffer name (if there is more than one frame).

You can specify a non-default title for the initial Emacs frame with a command line option:

-T title

Specify title as the title for the initial Emacs frame.

The ‘--name’ option (@pxref{Resources}) also specifies the title for the initial Emacs frame.

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A.11 Icons


Start Emacs in an iconified state.


Disable the use of the Emacs icon.

Most window managers allow you to iconify (or “minimize”) an Emacs frame, hiding it from sight. Some window managers replace iconified windows with tiny icons, while others remove them entirely from sight. The ‘-iconic’ option tells Emacs to begin running in an iconified state, rather than showing a frame right away. The text frame doesn’t appear until you deiconify (or “un-minimize”) it.

By default, Emacs uses an icon containing the Emacs logo. On desktop environments such as Gnome, this icon is also displayed in other contexts, e.g., when switching into an Emacs frame. The ‘-nbi’ or ‘--no-bitmap-icon’ option tells Emacs to let the window manager choose what sort of icon to use—usually just a small rectangle containing the frame’s title.

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A.12 Other Display Options

--parent-id id

Open Emacs as a client X window via the XEmbed protocol, with id as the parent X window id. Currently, this option is mainly useful for developers.


Enable vertical scroll bars.

-lsp pixels

Specify pixels as additional space to put between lines, in pixels.


Disable the blinking cursor on graphical displays.


Disable the menu-bar, the tool-bar, the scroll-bars, and tool tips, and turn off the blinking cursor. This can be useful for making a test case that simplifies debugging of display problems.

The ‘--xrm’ option (@pxref{Resources}) specifies additional X resource values.

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This option has no effect on MS-Windows.


Here and below, whenever we say “colon-separated list of directories”, it pertains to Unix and GNU/Linux systems. On MS-DOS and MS-Windows, the directories are separated by semi-colons instead, since DOS/Windows file names might include a colon after a drive letter.

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About This Document

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