40.3 emacsclient Options

You can pass some optional arguments to the emacsclient program, such as:

emacsclient -c +12 file1 +4:3 file2

The ‘+line’ or ‘+line:column’ arguments specify line numbers, or line and column numbers, for the next file argument. These behave like the command line arguments for Emacs itself. See Action Arguments.

The other optional arguments recognized by emacsclient are listed below:

-a command

Specify a shell command to run if emacsclient fails to contact Emacs. This is useful when running emacsclient in a script. The command may include arguments, which may be quoted "like this". Currently, escaping of quotes is not supported.

As a special exception, if command is the empty string, then emacsclient starts Emacs in daemon mode (as ‘emacs --daemon’) and then tries connecting again.

The environment variable ALTERNATE_EDITOR has the same effect as the ‘-a’ option. If both are present, the latter takes precedence.


Create a new graphical client frame, instead of using an existing Emacs frame. See below for the special behavior of C-x C-c in a client frame. If Emacs cannot create a new graphical frame (e.g., if it cannot connect to the X server), it tries to create a text terminal client frame, as though you had supplied the ‘-t’ option instead.

On MS-Windows, a single Emacs session cannot display frames on both graphical and text terminals, nor on multiple text terminals. Thus, if the Emacs server is running on a text terminal, the ‘-c’ option, like the ‘-t’ option, creates a new frame in the server’s current text terminal. See How to Start Emacs on MS-Windows.

If you omit a filename argument while supplying the ‘-c’ option, the new frame displays the *scratch* buffer by default. You can customize this behavior with the variable initial-buffer-choice (see Entering Emacs).


Create a new graphical client frame if none exists, otherwise use an existing Emacs frame.

-F alist

Set the parameters for a newly-created graphical frame (see Frame Parameters).

-d display

Tell Emacs to open the given files on the X display display (assuming there is more than one X display available).


Tell Emacs to evaluate some Emacs Lisp code, instead of visiting some files. When this option is given, the arguments to emacsclient are interpreted as a list of expressions to evaluate, not as a list of files to visit.

-f server-file

Specify a server file (see TCP Emacs server) for connecting to an Emacs server via TCP. Alternatively, you can set the EMACS_SERVER_FILE environment variable to point to the server file. (The command-line option overrides the environment variable.)

An Emacs server usually uses a local socket to listen for connections, but also supports connections over TCP. To connect to a TCP Emacs server, emacsclient needs to read a server file containing the connection details of the Emacs server. The name of this file is specified with this option, either as a file name relative to ~/.emacs.d/server or as an absolute file name. See TCP Emacs server.


Let emacsclient exit immediately, instead of waiting until all server buffers are finished. You can take as long as you like to edit the server buffers within Emacs, and they are not killed when you type C-x # in them.


Wait for a response from Emacs for N seconds before giving up. If there is no response within that time, emacsclient will display a warning and exit. The default is ‘0’, which means to wait forever.


Open an emacsclient frame as a client frame in the parent X window with id id, via the XEmbed protocol. Currently, this option is mainly useful for developers.


Do not let emacsclient display messages about waiting for Emacs or connecting to remote server sockets.


Do not let emacsclient display results returned from the server. Mostly useful in combination with ‘-e’ when the evaluation performed is for side-effect rather than result.

-s server-name

Connect to the Emacs server named server-name. (This option is not supported on MS-Windows.) The server name is given by the variable server-name on the Emacs server. If this option is omitted, emacsclient connects to the default socket. If you set server-name of the Emacs server to an absolute file name, give the same absolute file name as server-name to this option to instruct emacsclient to connect to that server. You need to use this option if you started Emacs as daemon (see Initial Options) and specified the name for the server started by the daemon.

Alternatively, you can set the EMACS_SOCKET_NAME environment variable to point to the server socket. (The command-line option overrides the environment variable.)


Create a new client frame on the current text terminal, instead of using an existing Emacs frame. This behaves just like the ‘-c’ option, described above, except that it creates a text terminal frame (see Text Terminals).

On MS-Windows, ‘-t’ behaves just like ‘-c’ if the Emacs server is using the graphical display, but if the Emacs server is running on a text terminal, it creates a new frame in the current text terminal.

-T tramp-prefix

Set the prefix to add to filenames for Emacs to locate files on remote machines (see Remote Files) using TRAMP (see The Tramp Manual in The Tramp Manual). This is mostly useful in combination with using the Emacs server over TCP (see TCP Emacs server). By ssh-forwarding the listening port and making the server-file available on a remote machine, programs on the remote machine can use emacsclient as the value for the EDITOR and similar environment variables, but instead of talking to an Emacs server on the remote machine, the files will be visited in the local Emacs session using TRAMP.

Setting the environment variable EMACSCLIENT_TRAMP has the same effect as using the ‘-T’ option. If both are specified, the command-line option takes precedence.

For example, assume two hosts, ‘local’ and ‘remote’, and that the local Emacs listens on tcp port 12345. Assume further that /home is on a shared file system, so that the server file ~/.emacs.d/server/server is readable on both hosts.

local$ ssh -R12345:localhost:12345 remote
remote$ export EDITOR="emacsclient \
        --server-file=server \
remote$ $EDITOR /tmp/foo.txt #Should open in local emacs.

The new graphical or text terminal frames created by the ‘-c’ or ‘-t’ options are considered client frames. Any new frame that you create from a client frame is also considered a client frame. If you type C-x C-c (save-buffers-kill-terminal) in a client frame, that command does not kill the Emacs session as it normally does (see Exiting Emacs). Instead, Emacs deletes the client frame; furthermore, if the client frame has an emacsclient waiting to regain control (i.e., if you did not supply the ‘-n’ option), Emacs deletes all other frames of the same client, and marks the client’s server buffers as finished, as though you had typed C-x # in all of them. If it so happens that there are no remaining frames after the client frame(s) are deleted, the Emacs session exits.

As an exception, when Emacs is started as a daemon, all frames are considered client frames, and C-x C-c never kills Emacs. To kill a daemon session, type M-x kill-emacs.

Note that the ‘-t’ and ‘-n’ options are contradictory: ‘-t’ says to take control of the current text terminal to create a new client frame, while ‘-n’ says not to take control of the text terminal. If you supply both options, Emacs visits the specified files(s) in an existing frame rather than a new client frame, negating the effect of ‘-t’.