Sams Teach Yourself Emacs in 24 Hours


Hour 24: Installing Emacs Add-Ons

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A Sampling of Emacs Packages

In this section, several of the numerous Emacs add-ons are described. Some of the package developers have set up Web sites with introductory documentation and access information; other packages are available from public FTP servers.


Jari Aalto has written an enormous collection of miscellaneous Emacs modes, which he calls Tiny-Tools. There are many specialized modes in this package; there is also a wealth of documentation concerning the modes. Several lengthy text files, which discuss general Emacs configuration and usage, are also included. Tiny-Tools is available on this book's CD-ROM, even though it's an ongoing project and a more recent version might be available on the Internet. The following HTML file provides a general introduction with many links:


Cyclebuffer.el provides an alternative to the standard buffer-switching behavior. Rather than typing C-x b and then typing in a buffer name (or pressing Enter if the last-visited buffer is what you want), this add-on enables you to quickly and easily cycle through all the existing buffers. You can find this file on the CD-ROM that is included with this book.


X-Symbol, which is a ground-breaking package for XEmacs, adds semi-WYSIWYG capabilities to LaTeX, HTML, and other tag-based formatting modes. Instead of special symbol and graphics-inclusion tags, the actual symbol or scaled-down graphics image is displayed in the buffer. The package is available at the following Web site:

The Big Brother Database (BBDB)

The Big Brother Database (BBDB) is a highly-evolved address-book/database with hooks that allow it to cooperate with any of the Emacs mail readers. It can be found at the following home page:


Session.el is a desktop-saving utility. It keeps track of recently opened files and the point and mark positions within them, as well as of recently-killed text blocks. Under XEmacs, new File submenus are provided to access these tracked items. The home Web site is


Htmlize.el is an ingenious package that can transform a font-locked HTML file buffer into an HTML file. The new file, when it is displayed with recent Netscape versions (such as 4.5), looks almost exactly like the Emacs display (including background color and font-lock colors). The latest version can be found at

Dictionary Mode

Dictionary Mode is an Emacs interface to the freely available DICT dictionary databases. The mode enables the user to click on a word in a buffer and see the definitions (including clickable links to related words) in a new window. Keybindings are also provided. The latest version can be found at


VM is another mail package, which some people prefer over tormail (the default) or Gnus. This is a user-configurable email interface that includes support for dealing with mailing list message digests. Although VM has some problems with GNU Emacs versions later than 20.0, these will be fixed when 20.4 is released. It works fine with XEmacs. The VM FTP site is as follows:

Noah Friedman's Modes

Noah Friedman has written many interesting modes, all of which are described at


Hm--html-menus is an alternative HTML-editing package with many features and tag keybindings. The home site is


Speedbar is a utility that creates a separate narrow window that contains lists of files (such as source files in a programming project) or locations within a file (such as nodes in an Info file). Speedbar is configurable via Customize. The Speedbar FTP site is as follows:

Follow Mode

Follow Mode is used with an Emacs frame that is split vertically (that is, with two side-by-side windows). The two windows are linked, with the same file shown in each window. When one window is scrolled, the other follows it, enabling you to see twice as much of the file's contents at one time and to scroll both windows simultaneously. Follow Mode is particularly useful if you have a large screen. The latest release (and a demonstration of the mode) can be found at one of Anders Lindgren's Web pages:


Mailcrypt is an Emacs interface to the PGP and GPG keyed encryption utilities. Hooks for interaction with any of the Emacs mail and news readers are included. The Mailcrypt home page is at


Notes-mode is a note-taking and indexing utility. Although it was designed for academic notes, it is also useful for organizing and cross-referencing a variety of notes and to-do lists. The notes are automatically time-stamped and indexed. Notes-mode needs a working Perl installation. The home-page is


vi-dot.el is a mode that gives Emacs users the capability to use one of the most useful vi editor commands: repeating the previous command with a single keystroke. vi-dot.el, as well as many other interesting modes, can be found on Will Mengarini's home page:

Sams Teach Yourself Emacs in 24 Hours


Hour 24: Installing Emacs Add-Ons

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