C.1 Action Arguments

Here is a table of action arguments:


Visit the specified file. See Visiting Files.

When Emacs starts up, it displays the startup buffer in one window, and the buffer visiting file in another window (see Multiple Windows). If you supply more than one file argument, the displayed file is the last one specified on the command line; the other files are visited but their buffers are not shown.

If the startup buffer is disabled (see Entering Emacs), then starting Emacs with one file argument displays the buffer visiting file in a single window. With two file arguments, Emacs displays the files in two different windows. With more than two file arguments, Emacs displays the last file specified in one window, plus another window with a Buffer Menu showing all the other files (see Operating on Several Buffers). To inhibit using the Buffer Menu for this, change the variable inhibit-startup-buffer-menu to t.

+linenum file

Visit the specified file, then go to line number linenum in it.

+linenum:columnnum file

Visit the specified file, then go to line number linenum and put point at column number columnnum.

-l file

Load a Lisp library named file with the function load. If file is not an absolute file name, Emacs first looks for it in the current directory, then in the directories listed in load-path (see Libraries of Lisp Code for Emacs).

Warning: If previous command-line arguments have visited files, the current directory is the directory of the last file visited.

-L dir

Prepend directory dir to the variable load-path. If you specify multiple ‘-L’ options, Emacs preserves the relative order; i.e., using ‘-L /foo -L /bar’ results in a load-path of the form ("/foo" "/bar" …). If dir begins with ‘:’, Emacs removes the ‘:’ and appends (rather than prepends) the remainder to load-path. (On MS Windows, use ‘;’ instead of ‘:’; i.e., use the value of path-separator.)

-f function

Call Lisp function function. If it is an interactive function (a command), it reads the arguments interactively just as if you had called the same function with a key sequence. Otherwise, it calls the function with no arguments.


Evaluate Lisp expression expression.


Insert the contents of file into the buffer that is current when this command-line argument is processed. Usually, this is the *scratch* buffer (see Lisp Interaction Buffers), but if arguments earlier on the command line visit files or switch buffers, that might be a different buffer. The effect of this command-line argument is like what M-x insert-file does (see Miscellaneous File Operations).


Exit from Emacs without asking for confirmation.


Print a usage message listing all available options, then exit successfully.


Print Emacs version, then exit successfully.


Print the Emacs “fingerprint”, which is used to uniquely identify the compiled version of Emacs.