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1.2.6 Installation for non-privileged users

Often people without system administration privileges want to install software for their private use. In that case you need to pass more options to the configure script. For XEmacs users, this is fairly easy, because the XEmacs package system has been designed to make this sort of thing practical: but GNU Emacs users (and XEmacs users for whom the package system is for some reason misbehaving) may need to do a little more work.

The main expedient is using the ‘--prefix’ option to the ‘configure’ script, and let it point to the personal home directory. In that way, resulting binaries will be installed under the ‘bin’ subdirectory of your home directory, manual pages under ‘man’ and so on. It is reasonably easy to maintain a bunch of personal software, since the prefix argument is supported by most ‘configure’ scripts.

You’ll have to add something like ‘/home/myself/share/emacs/site-lisp’ to your load-path variable, if it isn’t there already.

XEmacs users can achieve the same end by pointing configure at an appropriate package directory (normally ‘--with-packagedir=~/.xemacs/xemacs-packages’ will serve). The package directory stands a good chance at being detected automatically as long as it is in a subtree of the specified prefix.

Now here is another thing to ponder: perhaps you want to make it easy for other users to share parts of your personal Emacs configuration. In general, you can do this by writing ‘~myself/’ anywhere where you specify paths to something installed in your personal subdirectories, not merely ‘~/’, since the latter, when used by other users, will point to non-existent files.

For yourself, it will do to manipulate environment variables in your ‘.profile’ resp. ‘.login’ files. But if people will be copying just Elisp files, their copies will not work. While it would in general be preferable if the added components where available from a shell level, too (like when you call the standalone info reader, or try using ‘preview.sty’ for functionality besides of Emacs previews), it will be a big help already if things work from inside of Emacs.

Here is how to do the various parts:

Making the Elisp available

In GNU Emacs, it should be sufficient if people just do

(load "~myself/share/emacs/site-lisp/auctex.el" nil t t)
(load "~myself/share/emacs/site-lisp/preview-latex.el" nil t t)

where the path points to your personal installation. The rest of the package should be found relative from there without further ado.

In XEmacs, you should ask the other users to add symbolic links in the subdirectories ‘lisp’, ‘info’ and ‘etc’ of their ‘~/.xemacs/xemacs-packages/’ directory. (Alas, there is presently no easy programmatic way to do this, except to have a script do the symlinking for them.)

Making the Info files available

For making the info files accessible from within Elisp, something like the following might be convenient to add into your or other people’s startup files:

(eval-after-load 'info
   '(add-to-list 'Info-directory-list "~myself/info"))

In XEmacs, as long as XEmacs can see the package, there should be no need to do anything at all; the info files should be immediately visible. However, you might want to set INFOPATH anyway, for the sake of standalone readers outside of XEmacs. (The info files in XEmacs are normally in ‘~/.xemacs/xemacs-packages/info’.)

Making the LaTeX style available

If you want others to be able to share your installation, you should configure it using ‘--without-texmf-dir’, in which case things should work as well for them as for you.

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