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1.2.7 Installation under MS Windows

In a Nutshell

The following are brief installation instructions for the impatient. In case you don’t understand some of this, run into trouble of some sort, or need more elaborate information, refer to the detailed instructions further below.

  1. Install the prerequisites, i.e. GNU Emacs, MSYS or Cygwin, a TeX system, and Ghostscript.
  2. Open the MSYS shell or a Cygwin shell and change to the directory containing the unzipped file contents.
  3. Configure AUCTeX:

    For Emacs: Many people like to install AUCTeX into the pseudo file system hierarchy set up by the Emacs installation. Assuming Emacs is installed in ‘C:/Program Files/Emacs’ and the directory for local additions of your TeX system, e.g. MiKTeX, is ‘C:/localtexmf’, you can do this by typing the following statement at the shell prompt:

    ./configure --prefix='C:/Program Files/Emacs' \
      --infodir='C:/Program Files/Emacs/info' \

    The commands above is example for common usage. More on configuration options can be found in the detailed installation instructions below.

    If the configuration script failed to find all required programs, make sure that these programs are in your system path and add directories containing the programs to the PATH environment variable if necessary. Here is how to do that in W2000/XP:

    1. On the desktop, right click “My Computer” and select properties.
    2. Click on “Advanced” in the “System Properties” window.
    3. Select “Environment Variables”.
    4. Select “path” in “System Variables” and click “edit”. Move to the front in the line (this might require scrolling) and add the missing path including drive letter, ended with a semicolon.
  4. If there were no further error messages, type

    In case there were, please refer to the detailed description below.

  5. Finish the installation by typing
    make install

Detailed Installation Instructions

Installation of AUCTeX under Windows is in itself not more complicated than on other platforms. However, meeting the prerequisites might require more work than on some other platforms, and feel less natural.

If you are experiencing any problems, even if you think they are of your own making, be sure to report them to auctex-devel@gnu.org so that we can explain things better in future.

Windows is a problematic platform for installation scripts. The main problem is that the installation procedure requires consistent file names in order to find its way in the directory hierarchy, and Windows path names are a mess.

The installation procedure tries finding stuff in system search paths and in Emacs paths. For that to succeed, you have to use the same syntax and spelling and case of paths everywhere: in your system search paths, in Emacs’ load-path variable, as argument to the scripts. If your path names contain spaces or other ‘shell-unfriendly’ characters, most notably backslashes for directory separators, place the whole path in ‘"double quote marks"’ whenever you specify it on a command line.

Avoid ‘helpful’ magic file names like ‘/cygdrive/c’ and ‘C:\PROGRA~1\’ like the plague. It is quite unlikely that the scripts will be able to identify the actual file names involved. Use the full paths, making use of normal Windows drive letters like ‘ 'C:/Program Files/Emacs' ’ where required, and using the same combination of upper- and lowercase letters as in the actual files. File names containing shell-special characters like spaces or backslashes (if you prefer that syntax) need to get properly quoted to the shell: the above example used single quotes for that.

Ok, now here are the steps to perform:

  1. You need to unpack the AUCTeX distribution (which you seemingly have done since you are reading this). It must be unpacked in a separate installation directory outside of your Emacs file hierarchy: the installation will later copy all necessary files to their final destination, and you can ultimately remove the directory where you unpacked the files.

    Line endings are a problem under Windows. The distribution contains only text files, and theoretically most of the involved tools should get along with that. However, the files are processed by various utilities, and it is conceivable that not all of them will use the same line ending conventions. If you encounter problems, it might help if you try unpacking (or checking out) the files in binary mode, if your tools allow that.

    If you don’t have a suitable unpacking tool, skip to the next step: this should provide you with a working ‘unzip’ command.

  2. The installation of AUCTeX will require the MSYS tool set from http://www.mingw.org/ or the Cygwin tool set from https://cygwin.com/. The latter is slower and larger (the download size of the base system is about 15 MB) but comes with a package manager that allows for updating the tool set and installing additional packages like, for example, the spell checker aspell.

    If Cygwin specific paths like ‘/cygdrive/c’ crop up in the course of the installation, using a non-Cygwin Emacs could conceivably cause trouble. Using Cygwin either for everything or nothing might save headaches, if things don’t work out.

  3. Install a current version of Emacs from https://ftp.gnu.org/gnu/emacs/windows/.
  4. You need a working TeX installation. One popular installation under Windows is MiKTeX. Another much more extensive system is TeX Live which is rather close to its Unix cousins.
  5. A working copy of Ghostscript is required for preview-latex operation. Examining the output from
    gswin32c -h

    on a Windows command line should tell you whether your Ghostscript supports the png16m device needed for PNG support. MiKTeX apparently comes with its own Ghostscript called ‘mgs.exe’.

  6. Perl is needed for rebuilding the documentation if you are working with a copy from Git or have touched documentation source files in the preview-latex part. If the line endings of the file ‘preview/latex/preview.dtx’ don’t correspond with what Perl calls \n when reading text files, you’ll run into trouble.
  7. Now the fun stuff starts. If you have not yet done so, unpack the AUCTeX distribution into a separate directory after rereading the instructions for unpacking above.
  8. Ready for takeoff. Start some shell (typically bash) capable of running configure, change into the installation directory and call ./configure with appropriate options.

    Typical options you’ll want to specify will be


    which tells configure where to perform the installation. It may also make configure find Emacs automatically; if this doesn’t happen, try ‘--with-emacs’ as described below. All automatic detection of files and directories restricts itself to directories below the prefix or in the same hierarchy as the program accessing the files. Usually, directories like ‘man’, ‘share’ and ‘bin’ will be situated right under prefix.

    This option also affects the defaults for placing the Texinfo documentation files (see also ‘--infodir’ below) and automatically generated style hooks.

    If you have a central directory hierarchy (not untypical with Cygwin) for such stuff, you might want to specify its root here. You stand a good chance that this will be the only option you need to supply, as long as your TeX-related executables are in your system path, which they better be for AUCTeX’s operation, anyway.


    if you are installing for a version of Emacs. You can use ‘--with-emacs=drive:/path/to/emacs’ to specify the name of the installed Emacs executable, complete with its path if necessary (if Emacs is not within a directory specified in your PATH environment setting).


    This option tells a place in load-path below which the files are situated. The startup files ‘auctex.el’ and ‘preview-latex.el’ will get installed here unless a subdirectory ‘site-start.d’ exists which will then be used instead. The other files from AUCTeX will be installed in a subdirectory called ‘auctex’.

    If you think that you need a different setup, please refer to the full installation instructions in Configure.


    If you are installing into an Emacs directory, info files have to be put into the ‘info’ folder below that directory. The configuration script will usually try to install into the folder ‘share/info’, so you have to override this by specifying something like ‘--infodir='C:/Program Files/info'’ for the configure call.


    Directory containing automatically generated information. You should not normally need to set this, as ‘--prefix’ should take care of this.


    Use this option if your Emacs version is unable to support image display.


    This will specify the directory where your TeX installation sits. If your TeX installation does not conform to the TDS (TeX directory standard), you may need to specify more options to get everything in place.

    For more information about any of the above and additional options, see Configure.

    Some executables might not be found in your path. That is not a good idea, but you can get around by specifying environment variables to configure:

    GS="drive:/path/to/gswin32c.exe" ./configure …

    should work for this purpose. ‘gswin32c.exe’ is the usual name for the required command line executable under Windows; in contrast, ‘gswin32.exe’ is likely to fail.

    As an alternative to specifying variables for the configure call you can add directories containing the required executables to the PATH variable of your Windows system. This is especially a good idea if Emacs has trouble finding the respective programs later during normal operation.

  9. Run make in the installation directory.
  10. Run make install in the installation directory.
  11. With Emacs, activation of AUCTeX and preview-latex depends on a working ‘site-start.d’ directory or similar setup, since then the startup files ‘auctex.el’ and ‘preview-latex.el’ will have been placed there. If this has not been done, you should be able to load the startup files manually with
    (load "auctex.el" nil t t)
    (load "preview-latex.el" nil t t)

    in either a site-wide ‘site-start.el’ or your personal startup file (usually accessible as ‘~/.emacs’ or ‘~/.emacs.d/init.el’ from within Emacs).

    The default configuration of AUCTeX is probably not the best fit for Windows systems with MiKTeX. You might want to add

    (require 'tex-mik)

    after loading ‘auctex.el’ and ‘preview-latex.el’ in order to get more appropriate values for some customization options.

    You can always use

    M-x customize-group <RET> AUCTeX <RET>

    in order to customize more stuff, or use the ‘Customize’ menu.

  12. Load ‘circ.tex’ into Emacs and see if you get the ‘Command’ menu. Try using it to LaTeX the file.
  13. Check whether the ‘Preview’ menu is available in this file. Use it to generate previews for the document.

    If this barfs and tells you that image type ‘png’ is not supported, you can either add PNG support to your Emacs installation or choose another image format to be used by preview-latex.

    Adding support for an image format usually involves the installation of a library, e.g. from http://gnuwin32.sf.net/. If you got your Emacs from https://www.gnu.org/ you might want to check its README file for details.

    A different image format can be chosen by setting the variable preview-image-type. While it is recommended to keep the ‘dvipng’ or ‘png’ setting, you can temporarily select a different format like ‘pnm’ to check if the lack of PNG support is the only problem with your Emacs installation.

    Try adding the line

    (setq preview-image-type 'pnm)

    to your init file for a quick test. You should remove the line after the test again, because PNM files take away vast amounts of disk space, and thus also of load/save time.

Well, that about is all. Have fun!

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