Emacs Lisp has several interfaces for loading. For example,
autoload creates a placeholder object for a function defined in a
file; trying to call the autoloading function loads the file to get the
function’s real definition (see Autoload).
require loads a
file if it isn’t already loaded (see Features). Ultimately,
all these facilities call the
load function to do the work.
This function finds and opens a file of Lisp code, evaluates all the forms in it, and closes the file.
To find the file,
load first looks for a file named
filename.elc, that is, for a file whose name is
filename with the extension ‘.elc’ appended. If such a
file exists, and Emacs was compiled with native-compilation support
(see Compilation of Lisp to Native Code),
load attempts to find a
corresponding ‘.eln’ file, and if found, loads it instead of
filename.elc. Otherwise, it loads
filename.elc (and starts a background native compilation
to produce the missing ‘.eln’ file, followed by loading that
file). If there is no filename.elc, then
looks for a file named filename.el. If that file exists,
it is loaded. If Emacs was compiled with support for dynamic modules
(see Emacs Dynamic Modules),
load next looks for a file named
filename.ext, where ext is a system-dependent
file-name extension of shared libraries (‘.so’ on GNU and Unix
systems). Finally, if neither of those names is found,
looks for a file named filename with nothing appended, and loads
it if it exists. (The
load function is not clever about
looking at filename. In the perverse case of a file named
foo.el.el, evaluation of
(load "foo.el") will indeed
If Auto Compression mode is enabled, as it is by default, then if
load can not find a file, it searches for a compressed version
of the file before trying other file names. It decompresses and loads
it if it exists. It looks for compressed versions by appending each
of the suffixes in
jka-compr-load-suffixes to the file name.
The value of this variable must be a list of strings. Its standard
If the optional argument nosuffix is non-
load does not try the suffixes ‘.elc’ and ‘.el’. In
this case, you must specify the precise file name you want, except
that, if Auto Compression mode is enabled,
load will still use
jka-compr-load-suffixes to find compressed versions. By
specifying the precise file name and using
nosuffix, you can prevent file names like foo.el.el from
If the optional argument must-suffix is non-
load insists that the file name used must end in either
‘.el’ or ‘.elc’ (possibly extended with a compression
suffix) or the shared-library extension, unless it contains an
explicit directory name.
If the option
load-prefer-newer is non-
nil, then when
load selects whichever version of a file
(‘.elc’, ‘.el’, etc.) has been modified most recently.
In this case,
load doesn’t load the ‘.eln’
natively-compiled file even if it exists.
If filename is a relative file name, such as foo or
load searches for the file using the variable
load-path. It appends filename to each of the directories
load-path, and loads the first file it finds whose name
matches. The current default directory is tried only if it is specified
nil stands for the default directory.
load tries all three possible suffixes in the first directory in
load-path, then all three suffixes in the second directory, and
so on. See Library Search.
Whatever the name under which the file is eventually found, and the
directory where Emacs found it, Emacs sets the value of the variable
load-file-name to that file’s name.
If you get a warning that foo.elc is older than foo.el, it means you should consider recompiling foo.el. See Byte Compilation.
When loading a source file (not compiled),
character set translation just as Emacs would do when visiting the file.
See Coding Systems.
When loading an uncompiled file, Emacs tries to expand any macros that the file contains (see Macros). We refer to this as eager macro expansion. Doing this (rather than deferring the expansion until the relevant code runs) can significantly speed up the execution of uncompiled code. Sometimes, this macro expansion cannot be done, owing to a cyclic dependency. In the simplest example of this, the file you are loading refers to a macro defined in another file, and that file in turn requires the file you are loading. Emacs will issue an error about (‘Eager macro-expansion skipped due to cycle…’) giving details of the problem. You have to restructure your code so that this does not happen. Loading a compiled file does not cause macroexpansion, because this should already have happened during compilation. See Macros and Byte Compilation.
Messages like ‘Loading foo...’ and ‘Loading foo...done’ appear
in the echo area during loading unless nomessage is
nil. If a natively-compiled ‘.eln’ file is loaded,
the message says so.
Any unhandled errors while loading a file terminate loading. If the
load was done for the sake of
autoload, any function definitions
made during the loading are undone.
load can’t find the file to load, then normally it signals a
file-error (with ‘Cannot open load file
filename’). But if missing-ok is non-
load just returns
You can use the variable
load-read-function to specify a function
load to use instead of
read for reading expressions.
t if the file loads successfully.
This command loads the file filename. If filename is a
relative file name, then the current default directory is assumed.
This command does not use
load-path, and does not append
suffixes. However, it does look for compressed versions (if Auto
Compression Mode is enabled). Use this command if you wish to specify
precisely the file name to load.
This command loads the library named library. It is equivalent to
load, except for the way it reads its argument interactively.
See Lisp Libraries in The GNU Emacs Manual.
This variable is non-
nil if Emacs is in the process of loading a
file, and it is
When Emacs is in the process of loading a file, this variable’s value is the name of that file, as Emacs found it during the search described earlier in this section.
This variable specifies an alternate expression-reading function for
eval-region to use instead of
The function should accept one argument, just as
By default, this variable’s value is
read. See Input Functions.
Instead of using this variable, it is cleaner to use another, newer
feature: to pass the function as the read-function argument to
eval-region. See Eval.
For information about how
load is used in building Emacs, see