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C.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 init files. The normal actions of Emacs are to first load ‘site-start.el’ if it exists, then your own init file ‘~/.emacs’ if it exists, and finally ‘default.el’ if it exists. See section The Init File, ‘~/.emacs. Certain options prevent loading of some of these files or substitute other files for them.

-t device

Use device as the device for terminal input and output. ‘--terminal’ 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. You should also use the ‘-l’, ‘-f’ or ‘--eval’ option, to invoke a Lisp program to do batch processing.

In batch mode, Emacs does not display the text being edited, and the standard terminal interrupt characters such as C-z and C-c continue to have their normal effect. The functions prin1, princ and print output to stdout instead of the echo area, while message and error messages output to stderr. Functions that would normally read from the minibuffer take their input from stdin instead.

--batch’ implies ‘-q’ (do not load an init 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 it has been explicitly 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 ‘#!’ as a comment delimiter.


Do not load your Emacs init file ‘~/.emacs’, or ‘default.el’ either. Regardless of this switch, ‘site-start.el’ is still loaded. When invoked like this, Emacs does not allow saving options changed with the M-x customize command and its variants. See section Easy Customization Interface.


Do not load ‘site-start.el’. The options ‘-q’, ‘-u’ and ‘--batch’ have no effect on the loading of this file—this option and ‘-Q’ are the only options that block it.


Start emacs with minimum customizations. This is like using ‘-q’ and ‘--no-site-file’, but also disables the startup screen.


Do not display a splash screen on startup. You can also achieve this effect by setting the variable inhibit-splash-screen to non-nil in you personal init file (but not in ‘site-start.el’). (This variable was called inhibit-startup-message in previous Emacs versions.)


Do not reload any saved desktop. See section Saving Emacs Sessions.

-u user

Load user's Emacs init file ‘~user/.emacs’ instead of your own(21).


Enable the Emacs Lisp debugger for errors in the init file. See (elisp)Error Debugging section `Entering the Debugger on an Error' in The GNU Emacs Lisp Reference Manual.


Do almost everything with single-byte buffers and strings. All buffers and strings are unibyte unless you (or a Lisp program) explicitly ask for a multibyte buffer or string. (Note that Emacs always loads Lisp files in multibyte mode, even if ‘--unibyte’ is specified; see Enabling Multibyte Characters.) Setting the environment variable EMACS_UNIBYTE has the same effect (see section General Variables).


Inhibit the effect of EMACS_UNIBYTE, so that Emacs uses multibyte characters by default, as usual.

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