This section explains the steps involved in building the Emacs executable. You don’t have to know this material to build and install Emacs, since the makefiles do all these things automatically. This information is pertinent to Emacs developers.
Building Emacs requires GNU Make version 3.81 or later.
Compilation of the C source files in the src directory produces an executable file called temacs, also called a bare impure Emacs. It contains the Emacs Lisp interpreter and I/O routines, but not the editing commands.
temacs -l loadup would run temacs
and direct it to load loadup.el. The
loads additional Lisp libraries, which set up the normal Emacs editing
environment. After this step, the Emacs executable is no longer
Because it takes some time to load the standard Lisp files, the
temacs executable usually isn’t run directly by users.
Instead, one of the last steps of building Emacs runs the command
‘temacs -batch -l loadup --temacs=dump-method’. The
special option --temacs tells
temacs how to record
all the standard preloaded Lisp functions and variables, so that when
you subsequently run Emacs, it will start much faster. The
--temacs option requires an argument dump-method, which
can be one of the following:
Record the preloaded Lisp data in a dump file. This
method produces an additional data file which Emacs will load at
startup. The produced dump file is usually called emacs.pdmp,
and is installed in the Emacs
exec-directory (see Help Functions). This method is the most preferred one, as it does not
require Emacs to employ any special techniques of memory allocation,
which might get in the way of various memory-layout techniques used by
modern systems to enhance security and privacy.
Like ‘pdump’, but used while bootstrapping Emacs, when no previous Emacs binary and no *.elc byte-compiled Lisp files are available. The produced dump file is usually named bootstrap-emacs.pdmp in this case.
This method causes
temacs to dump out an executable program,
called emacs, which has all the standard Lisp files already
preloaded into it. (The ‘-batch’ argument prevents
temacs from trying to initialize any of its data on the
terminal, so that the tables of terminal information are empty in the
dumped Emacs.) This method is also known as unexec, because it
produces a program file from a running process, and thus is in some
sense the opposite of executing a program to start a process.
Although this method was the way that Emacs traditionally saved its
state, it is now deprecated.
Like ‘dump’, but used when bootstrapping Emacs with the
The dumped emacs executable (also called a pure Emacs)
is the one which is installed. If the portable dumper was used to
build Emacs, the emacs executable is actually an exact copy of
temacs, and the corresponding emacs.pdmp file is
installed as well. The variable
preloaded-file-list stores a
list of the preloaded Lisp files recorded in the dump file or
in the dumped Emacs executable. If you port Emacs to a new operating
system, and are not able to implement dumping of any kind, then Emacs
must load loadup.el each time it starts.
By default the dumped emacs executable records details such
as the build time and host name. Use the
--disable-build-details option of
suppress these details, so that building and installing Emacs twice
from the same sources is more likely to result in identical copies of
You can specify additional files to preload by writing a library named site-load.el that loads them. You may need to rebuild Emacs with an added definition
#define SITELOAD_PURESIZE_EXTRA n
to make n added bytes of pure space to hold the additional files; see src/puresize.h. (Try adding increments of 20000 until it is big enough.) However, the advantage of preloading additional files decreases as machines get faster. On modern machines, it is usually not advisable.
After loadup.el reads site-load.el, it finds the
documentation strings for primitive and preloaded functions (and
variables) in the file etc/DOC where they are stored, by
Snarf-documentation (see Accessing Documentation).
You can specify other Lisp expressions to execute just before dumping by putting them in a library named site-init.el. This file is executed after the documentation strings are found.
If you want to preload function or variable definitions, there are three ways you can do this and make their documentation strings accessible when you subsequently run Emacs:
byte-compile-dynamic-docstringsas a local variable in each of these files, and load them with either site-load.el or site-init.el. (This method has the drawback that the documentation strings take up space in Emacs all the time.)
It is not advisable to put anything in site-load.el or
site-init.el that would alter any of the features that users
expect in an ordinary unmodified Emacs. If you feel you must override
normal features for your site, do it with default.el, so that
users can override your changes if they wish. See Summary: Sequence of Actions at Startup.
Note that if either site-load.el or site-init.el changes
load-path, the changes will be lost after dumping.
See Library Search. To make a permanent change to
load-path, use the --enable-locallisppath option
In a package that can be preloaded, it is sometimes necessary (or
useful) to delay certain evaluations until Emacs subsequently starts
up. The vast majority of such cases relate to the values of
customizable variables. For example,
tutorial-directory is a
variable defined in startup.el, which is preloaded. The default
value is set based on
data-directory. The variable needs to
access the value of
data-directory when Emacs starts, not when
it is dumped, because the Emacs executable has probably been installed
in a different location since it was dumped.
This function delays the initialization of symbol to the next
Emacs start. You normally use this function by specifying it as the
:initialize property of a customizable variable. (The argument
value is unused, and is provided only for compatibility with the
form Custom expects.)
In the unlikely event that you need a more general functionality than
custom-initialize-delay provides, you can use
before-init-hook (see Summary: Sequence of Actions at Startup).
This function dumps the current state of Emacs into a dump
file to-file, using the
pdump method. Normally, the
dump file is called emacs-name.dmp, where
emacs-name is the name of the Emacs executable file. The
optional argument track-referrers, if non-
nil, causes the
portable dumper to keep additional information to help track
down the provenance of object types that are not yet supported by the
Although the portable dumper code can run on many platforms, the dump files that it produces are not portable—they can be loaded only by the Emacs executable that dumped them.
If you want to use this function in an Emacs that was already dumped, you must run Emacs with the ‘-batch’ option.
This function dumps the current state of Emacs into an executable file
to-file, using the
unexec method. It takes symbols from
from-file (this is normally the executable file temacs).
This function cannot be used in an Emacs that was already dumped.
This function is deprecated, and by default Emacs is built without
unexec support so this function is not available.
If the current Emacs session restored its state from a dump
file, this function returns information about the dump file and the
time it took to restore the Emacs state. The value is an alist
((dumped-with-pdumper . t) (load-time . time) (dump-file-name . file)),
where file is the name of the dump file, and time is the
time in seconds it took to restore the state from the dump file.
If the current session was not restored from a dump file, the
value is nil.