GNU Hyperbole 9.0.1 - The Everyday Hypertextual Information Manager

[We work on Hyperbole as a gift to the Emacs community and request you send us a thank you or a testimonial describing your usage if you like Hyperbole (].

Hyperbole screenshot of the Koutliner, DEMO file and HyRolo


If you prefer video introductions, visit the videos linked to below; otherwise, skip to the next section.


GNU Hyperbole (pronounced Ga-new Hi-per-bo-lee), or just Hyperbole, is like Markdown for hypertext. Hyperbole automatically recognizes dozens of common, pre-existing patterns in any buffer regardless of mode and can instantly activate them as hyperbuttons with a single key: email addresses, URLs, grep -n outputs, programming backtraces, sequences of Emacs keys, programming identifiers, Texinfo and Info cross-references, Org links, Markdown links and on and on. All you do is load Hyperbole and then your text comes to life with no extra effort or complex formatting.

Hyperbole includes easy-to-use, powerful hypertextual button types without the need to learn a markup language. Hyperbole's button types are written in Lisp and can be wholly independent of the web, i.e. web links are one type of Hyperbole link, not fundamental to its link architecture. However, Hyperbole is a great assistant when editing HTML or Javascript or when browsing web pages and links.

Hyperbole comes pre-built with most of the implicit button types you will need but with a little extra effort and a few lines of code (or even just a few words), you can define your own implicit button types to recognize your specific buttons and then activate them anywhere in Emacs. You press a single key, {M-RET} by default, on any kind of Hyperbole button to activate it, so you can rely on your muscle memory and let the computer do the hard work of figuring out what to do. {C-u M-RET} shows you what any button will do in any context before you activate it, so you can always be sure of what you are doing when needed or if some emails you a button (you can do that too).

Hyperbole is something to be experienced and interacted with, not understood from reading alone. It installs normally as a single Emacs package with no dependencies outside of standard Emacs libraries. Most of Hyperbole is a single global minor mode that you can activate and deactivate at will. And it can be uninstalled quickly as well if need be, so there is no risk to giving it a spin.

Once you have it installed and activated {C-u M-x hyperbole-mode RET}, try the interactive demo with {C-h h d d}. In fact, if you have Hyperbole loaded, you can press {M-RET} inside any of the brace delimited series of keys you see in this document and it will execute them on-the-fly (easy keyboard-macro style buttons in any text).

Hyperbole can dramatically increase your productivity and greatly reduce the number of keyboard/mouse keys you'll need to work efficiently.

In short, Hyperbole lets you:

  1. Quickly create hyperlink buttons either from the keyboard or by dragging between a source and destination window with a mouse button depressed. Later, activate buttons by pressing/clicking on them or by giving the name of the button.

  2. Activate many kinds of implicit buttons recognized by context within text buffers, e.g. URLs, grep output lines, and git commits. A single key or mouse button automatically does the right thing in dozens of contexts; just press and go.

Hyperbole Animation of Action Key Contexts
  1. Build outlines with multi-level numbered outline nodes, e.g., that all renumber automatically as any node or tree is moved in the outline. Each node also has a permanent hyperlink anchor that you can reference from any other node;

  2. Manage all your contacts or record-based, unstructured nodes quickly with hierarchical categories; each entry can have embedded hyperbuttons of any type. Or create an archive of documents with hierarchical entries and use the same search mechanism to quickly find any matching entry;

  3. Use single keys to easily manage your Emacs windows or frames and quickly retrieve saved window and frame configurations;

  4. Search for things in your current buffers, in a directory tree or across major web search engines with the touch of a few keys.

The common thread in all these features is making retrieval, management and display of information fast and easy. That is Hyperbole's purpose. It may be broad but it works amazingly well. If it is textual information, Hyperbole can work with it. In contrast to Org mode, Hyperbole works across all Emacs modes and speeds your work by turning all kinds of references into clickable hyperlinks and allowing you to create new hyperlinks by dragging between two windows. The Hyperbole wiki page explains the many ways it differs from and is complementary to Org mode. Hyperbole is designed to work with Org mode, so use them both across your tasks.

Hyperbole allows hypertext buttons to be embedded within unstructured and structured files, mail messages and news articles. It offers intuitive keyboard and mouse-based control of information display within multiple windows. It also provides point-and-click access to World-Wide Web URLs, Info manuals, ftp archives, etc.

Hyperbole works well on GNU Emacs 27.1 or above. It is designed and written by Bob Weiner. It is maintained by him and Mats Lidell. Its main distribution site is: If any term in here is new or unfamiliar to you, you can look it up in the Hyperbole Glossary.

Hyperbole is available for download and installation through the GNU Emacs package manager.

Unlock the power of GNU Hyperbole to make your information work for you. One system. One language. One manual. One solution. Learn Hyperbole and start moving further, faster.

Mailing Lists

Ftp and Git Repository Downloads

To inspect the Hyperbole source code online rather than installing it for use (which will also give you the source code), open a web page to:

Alternatively, you may download a tar.gz source archive from either:

which will find the closest mirror of the GNU ftp site and show it to you.

If you want to follow along with Hyperbole development and maintain a copy/clone of the current version-controlled git tree, use a command listed here to clone the Hyperbole project tree.


Once you have Emacs set up at your site, GNU Hyperbole may be installed by using the Emacs Package Manager. If you are not familiar with it, see the Packages section of the GNU Emacs Manual, Emacs Packages.

If you have Hyperbole 5.10 or higher already installed and simply want to upgrade it, invoke the Emacs Package Manager with {M-x list-packages RET}, then use the {U} key followed by the {x} key to upgrade all out-of-date packages, Hyperbole among them. Then skip the text below and move on to the next section, Invocation.

Otherwise, to download and install the Hyperbole package, you should add several lines to your personal Emacs initialization file, typically "~/.emacs". For further details, see Emacs Init File.

Below are the lines to add:

(require 'package)
(setq package-enable-at-startup nil) ;; Prevent double loading of libraries
(unless (package-installed-p 'hyperbole)
  (package-install 'hyperbole))
(hyperbole-mode 1)

Now save the file and then restart Emacs. Hyperbole will then be downloaded and compiled for use with your version of Emacs; give it a minute or two. You may see a bunch of compilation warnings but these can be safely ignored and have no impact on Hyperbole's performance.


Once Hyperbole has been installed for use at your site and loaded into your Emacs session, it is ready for use. You will see a Hyperbole menu on your menubar and 'Hypb' in the minor-mode section of your modeline. {C-h h} will display a Hyperbole menu in the minibuffer for quick keyboard-based selection.

You can invoke Hyperbole commands in one of three ways:

use the Hyperbole menu on your menubar;

Hyperbole Menubar Menu

type {C-h h} or {M-x hyperbole RET} to bring up the Hyperbole main menu in the minibuffer window, for fast keyboard or mouse-based selection; select an item from this menu by typing the item's first letter; use {q} to quit from the menu.

use a specific Hyperbole command such as an Action Key click {M-RET} on a pathname to display the associated file or directory.

Use {C-h h d d} for an interactive demonstration of standard Hyperbole button capabilities.

Hyperbole screenshot of the DEMO

{C-h h k e} offers an interactive demonstration of the Koutliner, Hyperbole's multi-level autonumbered hypertextual outliner.

Hyperbole screenshot of the Koutliner

To try out HyControl, Hyperbole's interactive frame and window control system, use {C-h h s w} for window control or {C-h h s f} for frame control. {t} switches between window and frame control once in one of them. Hyperbole also binds {C-c } for quick access to HyControl's window control menu if it was not already bound prior to Hyperbole's initialization. A long video demonstrating many of HyControl's features is available at

The above are the best interactive ways to learn about Hyperbole. Hyperbole also includes the Hyperbole Manual, a full reference manual, not a simple introduction. It is included in the "man/" subdirectory of the Hyperbole package directory in four forms: - online Info browser version
hyperbole.html - web HTML version
hyperbole.pdf - printable version
hyperbole.texi - source form

The Hyperbole package installation places the Info version of this manual where needed and adds an entry for Hyperbole into the Info directory under the Emacs category. {C-h h d i} will let you browse the manual. For web browsing, point your browser at "${hyperb:dir}/man/hyperbole.html", wherever the Hyperbole package directory is on your system; often this is: "~/.emacs.d/elpa/hyperbole-${hyperb:version}/".

Hyperbole Components

Hyperbole consists of five parts:

  1. Buttons and Smart Keys: A set of hyperbutton types which supply core hypertext and other behaviors. Buttons may be added to documents (explicit buttons) with a simple drag between windows, no markup language needed. Implicit buttons are patterns automatically recognized within text that perform actions, e.g. bug#24568 displays the bug status information for that bug number.

    These actions may be links or arbitrary Lisp expressions. So for example, you could create your own button type of Wikipedia searches that jumped to the named Wikipedia page whenever point was within text of the form [wp]. You define the pattern so {} might do the same thing if you preferred. And this works within any Emacs buffer you want it to, regardless of major or minor mode.

    Buttons are accessed by clicking on them or referenced by name (global buttons), so they can be activated regardless of what is on screen. Users can make simple changes to button types and those familiar with Emacs Lisp can prototype and deliver new types quickly with just a few lines of code.

    Hyperbole includes two special `Smart Keys', the Action Key and the Assist Key, that perform an extensive array of context-sensitive operations across emacs usage, including activating and showing help for Hyperbole buttons. In many popular Emacs modes, they allow you to perform common, sometimes complex operations without having to use a different key for each operation. Just press a Smart Key and the right thing happens;

  2. Contact and Text Finder: an interactive textual information management interface, including fast, flexible file and text finding commands. A powerful, hierarchical contact manager, HyRolo, which anyone can use is also included. It is easy to learn to use since it introduces only a few new mechanisms and has a menu interface, which may be operated from the keyboard or the mouse.

    HyRolo Menubar Menu

  3. Screen Control: Hyperbole includes HyControl, the fastest, easiest-to-use window and frame control available for GNU Emacs. With just a few keystrokes, you can shift from increasing a window's height by 5 lines to moving a frame by 220 pixels or immediately moving it to a screen corner. Text in each window or frame may be enlarged or shrunk (zoomed) for easy viewing, plus many other features;

    The broader vision for HyControl is to support persistent window and frame configurations as link targets. Then a user will be able to create the views of information he wants and store them as links for rapid display. Work remains to implement this feature but it helps explain the connection of HyControl to the rest of Hyperbole;

  4. The Koutliner: an advanced outliner with multi-level autonumbering and permanent ids attached to each outline node for use as hypertext link anchors, per node properties and flexible view specifications that can be embedded within links or used interactively;

  5. Programming Library: a set of programming library classes for system developers who want to integrate Hyperbole with another user interface or as a back-end to a distinct system. (All of Hyperbole is written in Emacs Lisp for ease of modification. Hyperbole has been engineered for real-world usage and is well structured).

We find Hyperbole's parts are more powerful as one package, i.e. the sum is greater than the parts, so we don't offer them separately. Hyperbole is free software, however, so you may modify it as you see fit.

Hyperbole Buttons

A Hyperbole hypertext user works with buttons; he may create, modify, move or delete buttons. Each button performs a specific action, such as linking to a file or executing a shell command.

There are three categories of Hyperbole buttons:

  1. Explicit Buttons created by Hyperbole, accessible from within a single document;

  2. Global Buttons created by Hyperbole, accessible anywhere within a user's network of documents;

  3. Implicit Buttons buttons created and managed by other programs or embedded within the structure of a document, accessible from within a single document. Hyperbole recognizes implicit buttons by contextual patterns given in their type specifications.

Hyperbole buttons may be clicked upon with a mouse to activate them or to describe their actions. Thus, a user can always check how a button will act before activating it. Buttons may also be activated from a keyboard. (In fact, virtually all Hyperbole operations, including menu usage, may be performed from any standard terminal interface, so one can use it on distant machines that provide limited display access).

Hyperbole does not enforce any particular hypertext or information management model, but instead allows you to organize your information in large or small chunks as you see fit, organizing each bit as time allows. The Hyperbole Koutliner and HyRolo tools organize textual hierarchies and may also contain links to external information sources.

Important Features

Some of Hyperbole's most important features include:

Hyperbole Uses

Typical Hyperbole applications include:


See the HY-ABOUT file for a description and overview of Hyperbole.

See the HY-NEWS file for a summary of new features in this release.

See the INSTALL file for installation and invocation instructions.

See the HY-COPY and COPYING files for license information.

See the MANIFEST file for summaries of Hyperbole distribution files.

See FAST-DEMO for a demonstration of Hyperbole implicit button capabilities. This is the best way to initially interactively learn about Hyperbole after installing it.

Various forms of the Hyperbole are below the "man/" subdirectory.

Programmer Quick Reference

MANIFEST summarizes most of the files in the distribution.

See DEMO for a lengthier tutorial of standard Hyperbole button capabilities. This is the best way to go deeper into all of Hyperbole. The Hyperbole Manual is a reference manual, not a simple introduction.

Naming conventions:

Most of the standard Emacs user interface for Hyperbole is located in hui.el. Most of the Hyperbole application programming interface can be found in hbut.el. hbdata.el encapsulates the button attribute storage implemented by Hyperbole. hmail.el provides a basic abstract interface for integrating mail readers other than Rmail into Hyperbole.

See the Hyperbole Questions and Answers appendix in the Hyperbole manual for information on how to alter the default context-sensitive Hyperbole key bindings (Smart Keys).

User Quotes

Hyperbole is a wonderful package, I love the feeling of the deep, well-thought out, poised engineering. It may be from the 90s, but it feels like a breath of fresh air to me.

                    -- de_sonnaz on reddit  

*** MAN I love Hyperbole!!! Wow! ***

                    -- Ken Olstad  
                       Cheyenne Software, Inc.

I love koutlines.

                    -- Bob Glickstein  
                       Z-Code Software Corporation

One of the nicest things about Hyperbole is that it's available everywhere. Org-mode is a mode and its features are only available in Org files. For instance if you dropped into eshell' or ansi-term' and did `ls', you can move point to any of the directory's contents, do M-RET (or Shift-Button2) and jump to that file. And that's just one example. Note that this means that all Hyperbole functionality is available in Org files as well. To me, except for the Hyperbole outliner, that means complementary not conflicting. It's Hyperbole and org-mode, not Hyperbole vs. org-mode.

Additionally, off the bat, I found it very well documented and for me that's a proxy for the quality of a package. The maintainers are quite responsive. There's plenty more functionality that I haven't uncovered yet but due to the ease of installation and the quality of the documentation, digging into it is actually fun.

                    -- Aditya Siram  

GNU Hyperbole is a game-changer for your mental model of information management and personal productivity. Even if you don't use it you should study one or two of the modules and compare them to how you solve the same problem with your preferred tool of choice. It is subtle, and subtle is one of the hardest and post powerful things to reside in your mental landscape these days.

                    -- Grant Rettke__
                       Org2Blog Maintainer

For me, Emacs isn't Emacs without Hyperbole. I have depended on Hyperbole daily since 1992, when I first started using it to manage my development environment. It didn't take long before I could summon almost any information I needed directly from within my editing environment with an implicit button. Since I almost never have to slow down to look for things--one context-dependent button usually produces exactly what I need --I am able to maintain focus on the task I am working on and complete it more quickly. With its gestural interface, seamless integration with other Emacs packages and incredibly useful set of core features. I think that Hyperbole is one of the best designed and most easily extensible software products I have ever come across. It is certainly the one which has made the biggest improvement in my personal productivity.

My Hyperbole button file is my start page in Emacs. It's a quickly searchable index with links to countless resources. We also have a library of implicit buttons that enable rapid navigation from references in our code to our issue tracking system, so clicking a reference like Client6502 opens the relevant conversation. Hyperbole provides a really useful set of power tools. If Emacs is your preferred productivity environment, it's definitely worth getting familiar with it.

                    -- Chris Nuzum  
                       Co-founder, Traction Softwarea, Inc.

I've found Hyperbole (in conjunction with XEmacs) to be very useful for signal processing algorithm development.

For me, it has almost completely obsoleted the engineering notebook: I keep a set of files with ideas, algorithms, and results, linked together and to the implementation in C++ files. Using XEmacs' support for embedding graphics, I've written a mode that accepts image tags (formatted like HTML), and reads in GIF files to display plots. I have another program that converts the file to HTML (not perfect, but adequate), so I can put any aspect of development on our internal web for others to see.

                    -- Farzin Guilak  
                       Protocol Systems, Inc., Engineer

I am blind and have been using Hyperbole since 1992. I used to use a PC as a talking terminal attached to a UNIX system, but then I developed Emacspeak which lets me use Emacs and Hyperbole from standard UNIX workstations with an attached voice synthesizer.

My main uses are:

  1. Global and implicit buttons for jumping to ftp sites.

  2. The contact manager with Emacspeak support.

  3. Explicit buttons as part of comments made about a structured document. Each button jumps to the document section referred to by the comment. This is very, very useful.

  4. The Hyperbole Koutliner, which I find a very useful tool. I've implemented Emacspeak extensions to support it.

                  -- TV Raman  
                     Google Inc.

I've been a grateful Hyperbole user for a few years now. Hyperbole's flexibility and ease of use is a marvel.

Mainly, I write easy little implicit button types (and corresponding action types) to make my life easier. For example, I have an implicit button type to bury certain buffers when I click at their bottoms, one that recognizes a bug report record in various contexts and edits it, one that links pieces of test output in a log file to the corresponding test case source code (EXTREMELY helpful in interpreting test output), others that support our homegrown test framework, one that handles tree dired mode the way I'd like, one that completely handles wico menus (I've also overloaded the wconfig actions triggered by diagonal mouse drags with wicos actions), and a couple that support interaction with BBDB.

Other than that, I keep a global button file with 30 or so explicit buttons that do various little things, and I index saved mail messages by putting explicit link-to-mail buttons in an outline file.

                    -- Ken Olstad  
                       Cheyenne Software, Inc.

In general, Hyperbole is an embeddable, highly extensible hypertext tool. As such, I find it very useful. As it stands now, Hyperbole is particularly helpful for organizing ill-structured or loosely coupled information, in part because there are few tools geared for this purpose. Hyperbole also possesses a lot of potential in supporting a wider spectrum of structuredness, ranging from unstructured to highly structured environments, as well as structural changes over time.

Major Uses:

Hyperbole is the first hyper-link system I've run across that is actually part of the environment I use regularly, namely Emacs. The complete flexibility of the links is both impressive and expected -- the idea of making the link itself programmable is clever, and given that one assumes the full power of Emacs. Being able to send email with buttons in it is a very powerful capability. Using ange-ftp mode, one can make file references "across the world" as easily as normal file references.

                    -- Mark Eichin  
                       Cygnus Support

I just wanted to say how much I enjoy using the Hyperbole Koutliner. It is a great way to quickly construct very readable technical documents that I can pass around to others. Thanks for the great work.

                    -- Jeff Fried  

The Hyperbole system provides a nice interface to exploring corners of Unix that I didn't know existed before.

                    -- Craig Smith  

Why was Hyperbole developed?

Hyperbole was originally designed to aid in research aimed at Personalized Information production/retrieval Environments (PIEs). Hyperbole was a PIE Manager that provided services to PIE Tools. PIEmail, a mail reader was the only PIE Tool developed as part of this research but Hyperbole has greatly expanded since then and has long been a production quality toolset.

An examination of many hypertext environments as background research did not turn up any that seemed suitable for the research envisioned, mainly due to the lack of rich, portable programmer and user environments. We also tired of trying to manage our own distributed information pools with standard UNIX tools. And so Hyperbole was conceived and raved about until it got its name.

Since then Hyperbole has proved indispensable at improving information access and organization in daily use over many years. Why not start improving your information handling efficiency today?

-- The End --