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7 Making Interpreter Scripts Executable

Various interpreter modes such as Shell script mode or AWK mode will automatically insert or update the buffer’s magic number, a special comment on the first line that makes the exec systemcall know how to execute the script. To this end the script is automatically made executable upon saving, with executable-chmod as argument to the system chmod command. The magic number is prefixed by the value of executable-prefix.

Any file whose name matches executable-magicless-file-regexp is not furnished with a magic number, nor is it made executable. This is mainly intended for resource files, which are only meant to be read in.

The variable executable-insert says what to do when executable-set-magic is called non-interactively, e.g., when file has no or the wrong magic number:


Do nothing.


Insert or update magic number.


Insert or update magic number, but mark as unmodified.

The variable executable-query controls whether to ask about inserting or updating the magic number. When this is nil updating is only done with M-x executable-set-magic. When this is function you are queried whenever executable-set-magic is called as a function, such as when Emacs puts a buffer in Shell script mode. Otherwise you are always queried.