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This is an Emacs configuration. There are many like it, but this one is mine. If you like it, make it yours! It provides lots of functionality while keeping things light and fast. It tries to tames Emacs, making it behave more like other applications you use.

Project goals and philosophy

The main goal of this project is to provide an Emacs configuration that works more or less they way you would expect an editor or IDE to work in the second decade of the twenty-first century, without losing the things that make Emacs special. The included packages were selected with social scientists in mind (e.g., it includes support for R, Stata, Python, Markdown, and LaTeX).

The overarching philosophy is pragmatism; we’re trying to make Emacs as useful as possible, and to reduce the time needed to start using Emacs productively.

Feature highlights

Highlights of this Emacs configuration: - Literate programming configuration for running R, python, or other programming languages inside markdown or org-mode files. - Consistent and familiar code evaluation using C-ret (that’s Control + Return). - Consistent indentation and folding using the tab key. - Consistent completion using <tab>. - Support for LaTeX and other markup languages. - Powerful and simple search-based tools for finding commands, files and buffers, inserting citations etc. - More standard select/copy/paste keys and right-click behavior makes it more familiar to those new to Emacs. - Multiple cursors, as in Sublime and VScode - Convenient window management.


If you previously had another version of Emacs installed it is a good idea to move your ~/.emacs.d configuration folder to a backup location before installing this Emacs configuration. If you do not yet have Emacs, installers available for Mac OSX and Windows.

Once Emacs is installed, install this configuration by copying the files from to a folder named .emacs.d in your home directory. For example, you can run git clone ~/.emacs.d, or you can download the .zip archive from, extract it, and move the files to ~/.emacs.d.

First run

Note that after installing this configuration emacs will be slow to start up the first time. This is due to package installation; just be patient and wait for it to finish–subsequent start-ups will be much faster.

Getting started

If you have never used Emacs before many things will work as you expect. This is especially true on Mac OS X. If you use Windows, note that standard Windows shortcuts starting with control have been shifted to the windows key. For example, to copy use win-c rather than control-c, and to paste use win-v rather than control-c.

A few things may not work as you expect, in which case you will need to search the web or read the Emacs documentation to learn the Emacs way. You can launch a built-in tutorial by pressing =C-h t= (that’s “Control+h, then t”), or read the getting started documentation at A cheat-sheet / survival guide is available at

If you are an Emacs user, most things will mostly work as you expect, though you may wish to familiarize yourself with the alternative key bindings configured here. If you are an Emacs user and you find key bindings that don’t work as they should please open an issue in the [[][github repo]].

Keyboard shortcuts

This documentation mostly uses Emacs notation for keybindings, e.g., C means “the Control key”, S means “the Shift key”, and M means “the Meta (aka Alt) key”. Note that on a Mac M means “the Option key”. Refer to if you are not familiar with this notation.

The most important keyboard shortcut in Emacs is M-x (that’s “hold down Alt and press x” Windows, and “hold down Option and press x” on Mac). M-x brings up a search-able list of all Emacs commands. In fact you could use this interface for everything and never bother learning any of the other keybindings listed below. For example, to open a file you could type M-x counsel-find-file <ret> instead of win-o. Nobody does this in practice, because win-o is easier. But if you can’t remember the name of a keyboard shortcut don’t worry: just type M-x and search for the command you need.

The second most important keyboard shortcut is C-g (that’s “hold down control and press g”). If Emacs starts doing something you don’t want it to, press C-g to cancel. If it doesn’t work, press C-g again.

Other commonly used key bindings are listed in the following sections.

Standard shortcuts

On Mac OS X standard keyboard shortcuts should mostly work as expected.

On Windows, many common keyboard shortcuts start with the control key. This is a problem for Emacs, since many of it’s most-used shortcuts conflict with the usual Windows meaning. For example, C-a means “select all” on Windows, but “go to the beginning of the line” in Emacs. The solution adopted here is to move standard Windows keybindings to the win key. The advantage is that we retain normal Emacs behavior (C-a has the Emacs meaning of "go to the beginnign of the line). The disadvantage is that you’ll have to get used to pressing different keys (win-a instead of c-a to select all).

Multiple cursors

You can add multiple cursors by pressing C-c m and following the on-screen prompts. This feature is experimental; comments or suggestions welcome at For more information about the Emacs multiple cursors implementation refer to

Window management

One of the things that makes Emacs different that most other applications is the way that it handles windows. Unlike most Integrated Development Environments, there is no fixed layout. Instead, windows are created and killed as needed. New Emacs uses sometimes try to get Emacs to stop messing with their window layout – my approach is to just let Emacs do what it wants and the revert the layout using C-c left.

Key Description
C-x 2 Split horizontally
C-x 3 Split vertically
C-x 1 Remove splits
C-x S-<arrow> Move to other window
C-x S-0 Move to a window by number
C-c left Undo a window layout change
C-c right Redo a window layout change
C-c v Save window layout
C-c V Restore a saved window layout
C-c a Rotate window arrangements
C-c b Rotate buffers

Searching and Completion

Utilities have been configured to make it easy to search by file name as well as to search the contents of files. Some of this functionality works much better if certain system utilities are found. See this list of useful programs, especially everything (windows only) and the silver searcher or ripgrep.

Basic search/replace should work as you expect, except that again on Windows you should use the win key instead of the control key. For example, you can use win-f to search.

In addition, you can search for files in a directory by name or contents using the keys described in the table below.

Key Description Notes
win-f Find in file
C-c l Searches for files by name (think “locates”)
C-c f (or C-c s) Searches file contents requires mlocate on linux, everything ( on windows
<tab> Completion suggestions
win-S-v Paste from the clipboard history M-S-y also works for this
C-c r Search for a reference to insert You must set bibtex-completion-bibliography to your BibTeX files for this to work

REPL interaction

This should be easy, and hopefully it is!

Note that we use a heuristic to decide whether to install language support (e.g., for R or Scala etc.). If the corresponding program is in your PATH Emacs support will be installed. For example, if R is in your PATH the ESS package will be installed.

Aliases have been created for starting R, python, haskell, and terminals. For example, to start python just type M-x python <ret>.

To execute a line, region, or buffer from a script (R, python, bash) etc.) use the keybindings below.

Key Description Notes
C-RET Line/selection/expression evaluation Works for R, python, shell, and others
S-C-RET Buffer evaluation Evaluate the whole script

Interacting with external programs

Many of the Emacs features configured here are designed to make it easier to interact with external programs. For example, ESS makes it easy to interact with R, and AUCTEX makes it easy to interact with LaTeX. If you need help installing these programs, this short guide may help.


You can put any additional Emacs configuration in ~/.emacs.d/custom.el. This file is loaded last, so you always have the chance to override any settings you don’t like. You can require additional packages by adding the to package-selected-packages. For example, putting (add-to-list 'package-selected-packages 'matlab-mode) in your custom.el file will ensure that the matlab-mode package is installed.

More information

For more information refer to the annotated configuration file.