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8.6 What is the difference between Emacs and XEmacs (formerly Lucid Emacs)?

XEmacs is a branch version of Emacs. It was first called Lucid Emacs, and was initially derived from a prerelease version of Emacs 19. In this FAQ, we use the name “Emacs” only for the official version.

Emacs and XEmacs each come with Lisp packages that are lacking in the other. The two versions have some significant differences at the Lisp programming level. Their current features are roughly comparable, though the support for some operating systems, character sets and specific packages might be quite different.

Some XEmacs code has been contributed to Emacs, and we would like to use other parts, but the earlier XEmacs maintainers did not always keep track of the authors of contributed code, which makes it impossible for the FSF to get copyright papers signed for that code. (The FSF requires these papers for all the code included in the Emacs release, aside from generic C support packages that retain their separate identity and are not integrated into the code of Emacs proper.)

If you want to talk about these two versions and distinguish them, please call them “Emacs” and “XEmacs.” To contrast “XEmacs” with “GNU Emacs” would be misleading, since XEmacs too has its origin in the work of the GNU Project. Terms such as “Emacsen” and “(X)Emacs” are not wrong, but they are not very clear, so it is better to write “Emacs and XEmacs.”