What is Emacs?

GNU Emacs is an extensible, customizable text editor and much more than that. At its core is the Emacs Lisp interpreter, a dialect of the Lisp programming language with extensions for text editing.

What is Emacs?

What is Emacs Editor in Linux?

GNU Emacs features include:

  1. Content-based text editing modes, including syntax coloring, for a wide variety of file types, including plain text, source code, and HTML.
  2. Fully embedded documentation, including a tutorial for new users.
  3. Support for many languages ​​and characters, including all European, Russian, Greek, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Lao, Ethiopian, and some Indian “Latin” characters.
  4. Many extensions that add other functions including project manager, mail and newsreader, interface debugger, calendar, and more. Most of these extensions are distributed with GNU/Emacs; others are available separately.
  5. It was first implemented in 1976 as a collection of TECO macros in MIT AI labs’ Incompatible Time-Sharing System (ITS-).
  6. Its name was first chosen as the acronym “Editor MACroS”. This version of Emacs was originally written in 1984 and is actively developed.


Current Stable Version: 26.3 (2019-08-28).

It has a wide variety of new features, including GTK+ toolkit support, improved mouse support, a new keyboard macro system, enhanced Unicode support, and drag and drop operations in X, as well as many new modes and packages, including graphics. GDB supports Python mode, Calc mathematical tool, and remote Tramp file editing system and user interface for enhanced Unicode support.

Development resources are available through the CVS repository hosted at savannah.gnu.org.

Version History

The last two versions of Emacs were released on:

  • 2019-08-28: 26.3 released
  • 2019-04-12: 26.2 released

For the release dates of the versions of all distributions, visit https://www.gnu.org/software/emacs/history.html.

Supported Platforms

It can be operated on the following operating systems regardless of machine type:

It also supports Berkeley Unix (BSD) 4.1-4.4, Microport, SCO Unix, System V, Uniplus 5.2, and 0 – 4.0.4 versions of Xenix.

There are codes to support some types of older machines running special operating systems developed by the manufacturer; however, in most cases, we still do not know if it works.

The precise reference is the MACHINES file distributed with GNU Emacs. This file also lists the specific requirements required to compile GNU Emacs on such systems.

GNU Emacs can be obtained from http://ftp.gnu.org/pub/gnu/emacs/ or a GNU mirror. GNU Emacs development resources are available in the CVS repository hosted at savannah.gnu.org.


Printed guides can be purchased. The Free Software Foundation (FSF) publishes two guidelines: Introduction to Manual and Lisp Programming. The third guide, the Lisp Reference Guide, is currently out of print.

The Emacs Guide, Introduction to Lisp Programming, and the Lisp Reference Guide can be read online.

Other manuals with larger modes for different documents and other optional Emacs features are also available online.

All specified guides can be viewed in the form of Information documents from Emacs itself. The distribution also includes the complete source code for the guides and the Reference Letter in multiple languages.

Frequently asked questions can be read online in HTML or plain text. The Savannah page contains additional information, including CVS access to development resources.

Wiki is a community website that collects Lisp code and style questions and answers.

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