Various programs can invoke your choice of editor to edit a
particular piece of text. For instance, version control programs
invoke an editor to enter version control logs (see Version Control), and the Unix
EDITOR. If you set
EDITOR to ‘emacs’, Emacs would be invoked, but in an
inconvenient way—by starting a new Emacs process. This is
inconvenient because the new Emacs process doesn’t share buffers, a
command history, or other kinds of information with any existing Emacs
You can solve this problem by setting up Emacs as an edit server, so that it “listens” for external edit requests and acts accordingly. There are various ways to start an Emacs server:
server-startin an existing Emacs process: either type M-x server-start, or put the expression
(server-start)in your init file (see Init File). The existing Emacs process is the server; when you exit Emacs, the server dies with the Emacs process.
server-startafter initialization and does not open an initial frame. It then waits for edit requests from clients.
systemdto manage startup, you can automatically start Emacs in daemon mode when you login using the supplied systemd unit file. To activate this:
systemctl --user enable emacs
(If your Emacs was installed into a non-standard location, you may need to copy the emacs.service file to a standard directory such as ~/.config/systemd/user/.)
systemdservice creates a socket and listens for connections on it; when
emacsclientconnects to it for the first time,
systemdcan launch the Emacs server and hand over the socket to it for servicing
emacsclientconnections. A setup to use this functionality could be:
[Socket] ListenStream=/path/to/.emacs.socket [Install] WantedBy=sockets.target
(The emacs.service file described above must also be installed.)
ListenStream path will be the path that Emacs listens for
emacsclient; this is a file of your choice.
Once an Emacs server is started, you can use a shell
emacsclient to connect to the Emacs process
and tell it to visit a file. You can then set the
environment variable to ‘emacsclient’, so that external programs
will use the existing Emacs process for editing.21
You can run multiple Emacs servers on the same machine by giving
each one a unique server name, using the variable
server-name. For example, M-x set-variable RET
server-name RET "foo" RET sets the server name to
emacsclient program can specify a server by
name, using the ‘-s’ or the ‘-f’ option (see emacsclient Options), depending on whether or not the server uses a TCP socket
(see TCP Emacs server).
If you want to run multiple Emacs daemons (see Initial Options), you can give each daemon its own server name like this:
If you have defined a server by a unique server name, it is possible
to connect to the server from another Emacs instance and evaluate Lisp
expressions on the server, using the
(server-eval-at "foo" '(+ 1 2)) evaluates the
(+ 1 2) on the ‘foo’ server, and returns
3. (If there is no server with that name, an error is
signaled.) Currently, this feature is mainly useful for developers.
|• TCP Emacs server||Listening to a TCP socket.|
|• Invoking emacsclient||Connecting to the Emacs server.|
|• emacsclient Options||Emacs client startup options.|
programs use a different environment variable; for example, to make
TeX use ‘emacsclient’, set the
variable to ‘emacsclient +%d %s’.