[image of the Head of a GNU]

GNU Emacs

  1. What is Emacs?
  2. Releases?
  3. Supported Platforms
  4. Why is it called Emacs?
  5. Obtaining GNU Emacs
  6. Getting help with GNU Emacs
  7. Finding additional packages for Emacs
  8. Further information
  9. If you want to help with GNU Emacs
  10. GNU Emacs Fun

What is Emacs?

To quote the Emacs Manual:

Emacs is the extensible, customizable, self-documenting real-time display editor.
If this seems to be a bit of a mouthful, an easier explanation is Emacs is a text editor and more. At its core is an interpreter for Emacs Lisp (``elisp'', for short), a dialect of the Lisp programming language with extensions to support text editing. Some of the features of GNU Emacs include:


GNU Emacs is a rapidly developed project. Extensions require time to develop right and test thoroughly.

Supported Platforms

Emacs 21 runs on these operating systems regardless of the machine type: Here are other machines that GNU Emacs has code to support. These machines are old, and in many cases we don't know whether they still work. The definitive reference for this is the etc/MACHINES file distributed with GNU Emacs, which also lists special requirements for these systems if compiling GNU Emacs from source.

  • Acorn
  • Alliant
  • Alliant FX/2800
  • Alpha (DEC)
  • Altos 3068
  • Amdahl UTS
  • Apollo
  • AT&T 3b2, 3b5, 3b15, 3b20
  • AT&T 7300 or 3b1
  • Bull DPX/2 models 2nn or 3nn
  • Bull DPX/20
  • Bull sps7
  • CCI 5/32, 6/32
  • Celerity
  • Clipper
  • Convex
  • Cubix QBx/386
  • Cydra 5
  • Data General Aviion
  • DECstation
  • Motorola Delta 147, Delta 187
  • Dual running System V or Uniplus
  • Elxsi 6400
  • Encore
  • GEC 63
  • Gould Power Node
  • Gould NP1
  • Harris Night Hawk
  • Harris Power PC
  • Honeywell XPS100
  • Hewlet-Packard 9000 series 200, 300, 700, 800
  • High Level Hardware Orion, Orion 1/05
  • Hitachi SR2001/SR2201
  • IBM PS/2
  • IBM RS/6000
  • Integrated Solutions 'Optimum V'
  • Intel x86
  • Masscomp
  • Megatest
  • Mips
  • National Semiconductor 32000
  • NCR Tower 32
  • NCR Intel system
  • NeXT
  • Nixdorf Targon 31
  • Nu (TI or LMI)
  • Paragon OSF/1
  • Plexus
  • Pmax (DEC Mips)
  • Prime EXL
  • Pyramid
  • Sequent Balance
  • Sequent Symmetry
  • SGI (most or all models)
  • Siemens Nixdorf RM600 and RM400
  • Sony News
  • Sony News 3000 series
  • Stardent i860
  • Stardent 1500 or 3000
  • Stride
  • Sun 3, Sun 4 (sparc), Sun 386
  • Tadpole 68K
  • Tahoe
  • Tandem Integrity S2
  • Tektronix XD88
  • Tektronix 16000 box
  • Tektronix 4300
  • Titan P2, P3
  • Ustation E30 (SS5E)
  • Vax
  • Whitechapel MG1
  • Wicat

Next, here is a table listing some additional operating systems which Emacs supports. We have listed an operating system here if it can run on more than one machine type, or if other operating systems can also run on the same machine type.

Many of the computer types listed above always or usually run one particular operating system developed by the computer manufacturer. (Often this is a variant of Unix.) We have not listed the names of those operating systems here.

Why is it called Emacs?

The name ``Emacs'' was originally chosen as an abbreviation of Editor MACroS.

The original Emacs implementation was written for the Incompatible Timesharing System (ITS) as a collection of TECO macros for ITS TECO. There was a custom of giving such macro packages names ending in ``mac'' or ``macs''. A further reason for choosing this particular name was that the abbreviation ``e'' was unused at the time on ITS.

The Emacs FAQ (html, plain text, Texinfo in the Emacs source distribution) contains a longer explanation, as well as a brief history of Emacs.

Obtaining GNU Emacs

GNU Emacs can be obtained from <http://ftp.gnu.org/pub/gnu/emacs/>, or from a local FTP mirror.

The GNU Emacs CVS repository is available for general access through savannah.gnu.org's emacs project page

Getting Help with GNU Emacs

Information on getting help with GNU software in general is available at the Get Help with GNU Software page.

Finding packages for GNU Emacs

If you are looking for ELisp packages, check out the following resources:

Further Information

The Savannah Emacs page has additional information about Emacs, including CVS access to the Emacs development sources.

The Emacs Wiki is a community website which collects ELisp code, questions and answers related to ELisp code and style; introductions to ELisp packages and links to their sources; complete manuals or documentation fragments; comments on features, differences, and history of different Emacs versions, flavors, and ports; jokes; pointers to clones and Emacs look-alikes, as well as references to other Emacs related information on the Web.

If you haven't had any experience with Lisp, you can find some useful information at The Association of Lisp Users.

We also have a copy of the 1981 paper by Richard Stallman, describing the design of the original Emacs and the lessons to be learned from it.

There is also a transcript of a speech, My Lisp Experiences and the Development of GNU Emacs given by Richard Stallman at the International Lisp Conference on 28 Oct 2002.

How to Help with GNU Emacs

To contact the maintainers of Emacs, either to report a bug or to contribute fixes or improvements, send mail to <bug-gnu-emacs@gnu.org>.

GNU Emacs Fun

Return to GNU's home page.

Please send FSF & GNU inquiries & questions to gnu@gnu.org. There are also other ways to contact the FSF.

We thank Greg Harvey for writing this page.

Please send comments on these web pages to webmasters@www.gnu.org, send other questions to gnu@gnu.org.

Copyright © 1998, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 Free Software Foundation, Inc., 51 Franklin Street, Fifth Floor, Boston, MA 02110-1301, USA

Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium, provided this notice is preserved.

Updated: $Date: 2006/12/18 17:32:24 $ $Author: karl $