Making GNU Emacs play well on Microsoft Windows 7

Posted: - Modified: | emacs

Emacs 24 has been released, hooray! Here’s how you can download and install it on Windows 7. Bonus tip: pin it to your taskbar so that you can open Emacs easily.

Step 1. Get the Emacs zip file from . You’re looking for something like, or whatever the latest version is. Download and extract the files. I like extracting it to C:\ and renaming the new emacs-24.1 directory to c:\emacs so that I can get to it easily. I’ll assume you’re renaming it too, but if you prefer to keep your Emacs installation elsewhere, just translate the rest of these instructions.

Step 2. Add Emacs to your path. This way, you can start Emacs or emacsclient from anywhere. To change your system path, click on the Windows logo, right-click on Computer, and choose Properties. Click on Advanced system settings, then click on Environment Variables.

If you see a Path variable under User variables, click on it, then click on Edit. Add c:\emacs\bin to the beginning of this path, separating it from the next item with a semicolon. Click OK.

On the other hand, if you don’t see a Path variable under User variables, click on New and add it. The variable name should be Path and the value should be c:\emacs\bin. Click OK.

Step 3. While you’re here, you might as well set your Home variable. This is what Emacs will use whenever you refer to ~, or the home directory. To set that, look under User variables and click on New. Create a variable called HOME, and set the value to whichever directory you would like to use as your home directory. For example, I’ll set mine to c:\sacha. Again, click on OK, then click OK a few more times until you’re done with the System Properties dialog box.

Step 4. All right, let’s start up Emacs! Click on the Windows icon, and type runemacs at the Run prompt. You should see runemacs in the list. If you don’t, you may need to log out and log in so that your new path settings are applied. Once you’ve sorted that out, start runemacs. You should see Emacs open, yay!

Step 5. Want to be able to start up and switch to Emacs quickly? To pin Emacs to your task bar, right-click on the Emacs icon in the task bar. Right-click on the small Emacs icon that appears, and click on Properties. Change the target to c:\emacs\bin\runemacs.exe, and change the start directory to whichever directory you prefer. You can also choose to start it maximized – handy. Once you’ve set that up, click OK. I like dragging the Emacs icon so that it’s the very first item in my task bar. That way, pressing the Windows key and the number 1 at the same time lets me switch to Emacs and away from Emacs easily.

That’s it. Check out for lots of other Emacs bloggers. Happy editing!

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