Table of Contents

Frequently Asked Questions

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1. Common

1.1. Which version of Spacemacs am I running?

The version is displayed on the upper right corner of the loading screen. You may also just type SPC f e v.

1.2. What is the official pronunciation of Spacemacs?

It's space then macs.

1.3. Why do you call this a "distribution", I don't see any "Spacemacs" executable?

Although we could do it we don't package Emacs with Spacemacs. We allow users to choose whatever build of Emacs they want that works with their OS, this is more flexible and it saves us tons of issues. Spacemacs is more than a configuration of Emacs it comes with advanced feature, concepts and tooling. Roughly, think of it as a Linux distribution where we would ask people to install the kernel first and then fetch somehow the actual code to get the distribution. Note that some Linux distributions may start to create packages for Spacemacs, they are unofficial packages, we will never package Emacs with Spacemacs.

1.4. Why are packages installed with package-install automatically deleted by Spacemacs when it boots?

By default Spacemacs will keep only the packages that you use (i.e. the packages belonging to a layer explicitly listed in the variable dotspacemacs-configuration-layers).

To install packages that does not belong to any Spacemacs layers, you can:

  • use the variable dotspacemacs-additional-packages.
  • or create a configuration layer configuring the package and add this layer to dotspacemacs-configuration-layers
  • or set the variable dotspacemacs-install-packages to used-but-keep-unused which will prevent Spacemacs from removing the packages you installed manually.

To create a new configuration layer see the quick start guide for more info.

1.5. Environment variables or PATH are not set properly

If you use Emacs GUI and don't launch if from a terminal then edit the environment variables in the env file. You can open this file with SPC f e e. More information in the Environment variables section of the documentation.

1.6. How to fix package download errors when installing Spacemacs ?

Since 0.105.0 HTTPS protocol is used by default to download packages. If your environment does not allow HTTPS to reach ELPA repositories then you can start Emacs with the --insecure argument for force the usage of HTTP non secured protocol. You can set the variable dotspacemacs-elpa-https to nil in your dotfile to remove the need to start Emacs with --insecure argument.

1.7. How to fix Symbol's value as variable is void errors on startup?

If Emacs reports an error that the symbol closed or - is unbound as a variable, it is probably because you are using HTTPS to download packages, but you shouldn't be. Try deleting your packages (the .emacs.d/elpa folder), and restart Emacs without HTTPS to download the packages again. There are two ways to do this:

  • Run Emacs with the --insecure command line argument: emacs --insecure. You will have to do this again the next time you update your packages.
  • Set the variable dotspacemacs-elpa-https to nil in your dotfile. This has the same effect as --insecure, but is persistent.

1.8. How to fix error: Package 'package-build-' is unavailable?

This may occur due to heavy network traffic. You can fix it by setting the dotspacemacs-elpa-timeout variable to 70 in your dotspacemacs file.

1.9. How to fix Warning (bytecomp) and other compilation warnings?

They are perfectly normal. If you're curious, you can find out why these occur here.

1.10. How to fix (wrong-type-argument arrayp nil) errors on startup?

This is most likely caused by a corrupted package archive. Try deleting your ~/.emacs.d/elpa/archives/ folder and restart Emacs.

1.11. The Spacemacs banner is ugly, what should I do?

Install the default font supported by Spacemacs or choose a fixed width font. More information in the font section of the documentation.

1.12. The powerline separators are ugly, how can I fix them?

Use the property :separator-scale of the variable dotspacemacs-mode-line-theme. See mode-line section of the documentation for more details.

1.13. The powerline separators have no anti-aliasing, what can I do?

Emacs powerline uses XMP images to draw the separators in a graphical environment. You can have anti-aliasing if you use the utf8 separator. Note that by default the utf8 separator is used in a terminal. See the powerline section in the font section of the documentation.

1.14. Why is after-init-hook not executed?

Don't launch Spacemacs with emacs -q -l init.el command. This command will run the hooked functions in after-init-hook before the evaluation of the passed -l init.el file.

1.15. What is the difference between spacemacs-base and spacemacs distributions?

The distribution concept was introduced in 0.104.x. You can now choose between two distributions spacemacs or spacemacs-base. spacemacs-base contains only a minimal set of packages; whereas spacemacs is the full Spacemacs experience.

Set the distribution with dotspacemacs-distribution variable. The default is spacemacs. For more information as to what is included, check out the packages.el file in the respective folders in the +distributions folder of the layers/ directory.

1.16. Should I place my settings in user-init or user-config?

Any variable that layer configuration code will read and act on must be set in user-init, and any variable that Spacemacs explicitly sets but you wish to override must be set in user-config.

Anything that isn't just setting a variable should 99% be in user-config.

Note that at time of writing files supplied as command line arguments to emacs will be read before user-config is executed. (Hence to yield consistent behaviour, mode hooks should be set in user-init.)

1.18. Why is Spacemacs hanging on startup?

This is probably related to Helm using Tramp which tries to figure out some SSH/DNS settings at startup. The root cause is probably your ISP redirecting non-existing addresses to their own servers.

Try using these settings in the user-init function in your .spacemacs configuration:

(setq tramp-ssh-controlmaster-options
      "-o ControlMaster=auto -o ControlPath='tramp.%%C' -o ControlPersist=no")

See issue #3422 and helm issue #1000 for details. If for any reason this code is not working, you can try to put these settings directly in ~/.ssh/config:

Host *
ControlMaster auto
ControlPath ~/.ssh/master -%r@%h:%p
ControlPersist = no

1.19. Why does my color theme not render correctly in terminal mode?

In the terminal version of Emacs, color themes will not render correctly as colors are rendered by the terminal and not by emacs. You will probably have to change your terminal color palette. More explanations can be found on emacs-color-theme-solarized webpage.

1.20. Typing quickly fd takes me out of insert state. What is going on?

This is a feature of Spacemacs, enabling you to easily escape from a lot of situations, like escaping from insert state to normal state.

The sequence of characters used can be customized. See the documentation for more information.

If you don't like this feature, you can deactivate it by adding evil-escape to dotspacemacs-excluded-packages in your init file.

1.21. Why do I get files starting with .#?

These are lockfiles, created by Emacs to prevent editing conflicts which occur when the same file is edited simultaneously by two different programs. To disable this behaviour:

(setq create-lockfiles nil)

1.22. Why do I get '4m' characters inside ansi-term?

Ansi-term only has a subset of capabilities supported by xterm256. Your shell (e.g. fish shell) might ignore $TERMINFO information and require you to set the ~/.terminfo yourself.

tic -o ~/.terminfo $TERMINFO/e/eterm-color.ti

Note that eterm-color.ti may be at a different location, to find out the exact location you may try to use locate:

locate eterm-color.ti

1.23. Why are my font settings not being respected?

The settings of dotspacemacs-default-font (such as size, weight, etc.) will only be applied if the name of the font exists on your system. Check to make sure that this is the case. If Spacemacs can't find the font, there should be a warning to this effect in the *Messages* buffer.

1.24. Why am I getting a message about environment variables on startup?

Spacemacs uses the exec-path-from-shell package to set the executable path when Emacs starts up. This is done by launching a shell and reading the values of variables such as PATH and MANPATH from it. If your shell configuration sets the values of these variables inconsistently, this could be problematic. It is recommended to set such variables in shell configuration files that are sourced unconditionally, such as .profile, .bash_profile or .zshenv, as opposed to files that are sourced only for interactive shells, such as .bashrc or .zshrc. If you are willing to neglect this advice, you may disable the warning, e.g. from dotspacemacs/user-init:

(setq exec-path-from-shell-check-startup-files nil)

You can also disable this feature entirely by adding exec-path-from-shell to the list dotspacemacs-excluded-packages if you prefer setting exec-path yourself.

1.25. I want to learn elisp, where do I start ?

Very quick start: learn X in Y minutes (where X is elisp)

Practical reference with code examples for various situations that you will encounter:, more particularly sections Elisp Programming and Elisp code snippets.

2. How do I

2.1. Install a package not provided by a layer?

Spacemacs provides a variable in the dotspacemacs/layers function in .spacemacs called dotspacemacs-additional-packages. Just add a package name to the list and it will be installed when you reload your configuration with SPC f e R, or at the next Spacemacs launch.

2.2. How to override a layer package?

To replace a package that is installed and configured by a layer, without losing the layer's configuration for that package, add the package to your dotspacemacs-additional-packages with the :location keyword set to the value local:

(package-name :location local)

The package should reside at <layer>/local/<package>/ (this could be a symbolic link to the real package (repo) directory). The package will still get configured (but not loaded) by the layer. To load the package, require it from your dotspacemacs/user-config: (require 'package-name). In this way you can easily switch between the custom version and the version configured by the layer by commenting in/out the line in dotspacemacs-additional-packages (to restore deferred loading also comment out the require form in dotspacemacs/user-config).

You could also fully replace (i.e. overwrite) the layer version of the package by using a Quelpa recipe with the pseudo-fetcher local as described here and here.

2.3. Disable a package completely?

To completely disable a package and effectively uninstalling it even if it is part of your used layers, look for the variable dotspacemacs-excluded-packages in your dotfile and add the package name to it:

(setq-default dotspacemacs-excluded-packages '(package1 package2 ...))

2.4. Disable a package only for a specific major-mode?

This is done by removing the hook added by Spacemacs. For example to remove flycheck support in python buffers, look for the function dotspacemacs/user-config in your dotfile and add the following code:

(remove-hook 'python-mode-hook 'flycheck-mode)

Hint to know the name of the major-mode of the current buffer press: SPC h d v major-mode RET

2.5. Disable company for a specific major-mode?

It may be handy to disable company for a given mode if you plan on configuring auto-complete instead. One easy way to do it is to use the macro spacemacs|disable-company in the function dotspacemacs/user-config of your dotfile. The following snippet disables company for python-mode:

(spacemacs|disable-company python-mode)

2.6. Change special buffer rules?

To change the way spacemacs marks buffers as useless, you can customize spacemacs-useless-buffers-regexp which marks buffers matching the regexp as useless. The variable spacemacs-useful-buffers-regexp marks buffers matching the regexp as useful buffers. Both can be customized the same way.


;; Only mark helm buffers as useless
(setq spacemacs-useless-buffers-regexp '("\\*helm\.\+\\*"))

;; Marking the *Messages* buffer as useful
(push "\\*Messages\\*" spacemacs-useful-buffers-regexp)

2.7. Enable navigation by visual lines?

Add the following snippet to your dotspacemacs/user-config function:


2.8. Disable evilification of a mode?

You can ensure a mode opens in emacs state by using evil-set-initial-state.

(evil-set-initial-state 'magit-status-mode 'emacs)

You can also do this using buffer name regular expressions. E.g. for magit, which has a number of different major modes, you can catch them all with

(push '("magit*" . emacs) evil-buffer-regexps)

This should make all original magit bindings work in the major modes in question. To enable the leader key in this case, you may have to define a binding in the mode's map, e.g. for magit-status-mode,

(with-eval-after-load 'magit
  (define-key magit-status-mode-map
    (kbd dotspacemacs-leader-key) spacemacs-default-map))

2.9. Include underscores and dashes in word motions?

If you want * and # searches to include underscores and dashes as a part of a word, add (setq-default evil-symbol-word-search t) to your dotspacemacs/user-config.

For other motions, you can modify the syntax table of the mode in question by also adding the following.

;; For python
(add-hook 'python-mode-hook #'(lambda () (modify-syntax-entry ?_ "w")))
;; For ruby
(add-hook 'ruby-mode-hook #'(lambda () (modify-syntax-entry ?_ "w")))
;; For Javascript
(add-hook 'js2-mode-hook #'(lambda () (modify-syntax-entry ?_ "w")))
;; For all programming modes
(add-hook 'prog-mode-hook #'(lambda () (modify-syntax-entry ?_ "w")))
;; For all modes
(add-hook 'after-change-major-mode-hook #'(lambda () (modify-syntax-entry ?_ "w")))

For more details, see the FAQ for Evil.

2.10. Setup $PATH?

Some layers require certain tools to be available on your $PATH. This means that your $PATH must contain the installation paths for those tools. For example, if you have installed some tools to ~/.local/bin and want them to be available in Spacemacs, you need to add ~/.local/bin to your $PATH.

Users of bash, zsh, sh and other similar shells should add following line to their .bashrc (.zshrc, .profile or your shell's equivalent). Note that the export part is very important.

export PATH=~/.local/bin:$PATH

Users of fish should add following line to their file (should be in $XDG_CONFIG_HOME or its default value - ~/.config/fish). Note that -x part is very important.

set -x PATH ~/.local/bin $PATH

Users of other shells should consult its documentation on how to setup $PATH variable (with export to environment).

So now, ~/.local/bin should be available in your $PATH. You can verify this by calling echo $PATH. But you also should verify that $PATH is set properly in your environment. To do so call following command in your terminal.

env | grep "PATH"

This is the value that will be used by Emacs. So it must contain ~/.local/bin.

After that you can run Spacemacs and check that it properly gets the value of $PATH by running M-: (getenv "PATH").

Note that having ~/.local/bin in your $PATH also means that it's possible to run terminal and call tools from ~/.local/bin without specifying their full path. Under certain conditions you might want to avoid modifying your $PATH. In that case you have the option of updating the value of exec-path in the dotspacemacs/user-config function of your .spacemacs file.

(add-to-list 'exec-path "~/.local/bin/")

2.11. Change or define an alias for a leader key?

It is possible to change a leader key by binding its keymap to another sequence. For instance, if you want to switch SPC S (spelling) with SPC d (used by dash) to make the former easier to reach, you can use:

(defun dear-leader/swap-keys (key1 key2)
  (let ((map1 (lookup-key spacemacs-default-map key1))
        (map2 (lookup-key spacemacs-default-map key2)))
    (spacemacs/set-leader-keys key1 map2 key2 map1)))
(dear-leader/swap-keys "S" "d")

If you want to define your own alias, like using SPC é (because it's a not used key on your keyboard-layout for instance) for accessing SPC w (windows management), you can use this:

(defun dear-leader/alias-of (key1 key2)
  (let ((map (lookup-key spacemacs-default-map key2)))
    (spacemacs/set-leader-keys key1 map)))
(dear-leader/alias-of "é" "w")

2.12. Restore the sentence delimiter to two spaces?

To restore the sentence delimiter to two spaces, add the following code to the dotspacemacs/user-config function of your .spacemacs:

(setq sentence-end-double-space t)

2.13. Prevent the visual selection overriding my system clipboard?

On some operating systems, there is only one clipboard for both copied and selected texts. This has the consequence that visual selection – which should normally be saved to the PRIMARY clipboard – overrides the SYSTEM clipboard, where normally goes the copied text. This can be corrected by adding the following code to the dotspacemacs/user-config of your .spacemacs:

(fset 'evil-visual-update-x-selection 'ignore)

2.14. Make spell-checking support curly quotes (or any other character)?

To have spell-checking support curly quotes (or any other character), you need to add a new entry to ispell-local-dictionary-alist, by adding for example the following code in the dotspacemacs/user-config of your .spacemacs:

(add-to-list 'ispell-local-dictionary-alist
  (quote ("my_english" "[[:alpha:]]" "[^[:alpha:]]" "['’]" t ("-d" "en_US") nil utf-8)))

You can then add any regular expression you want in the fourth argument (i.e. add a symbol within ['’]) to make it supported. Consult the help of ispell-dictionary-alist for more details about the possibilities.

You finally have to set my_english as your ispell-local-dictionary in order to use the dictionary supporting your newly added characters.

2.15. Use Spacemacs as the $EDITOR for git commits?

Spacemacs can be used as the $EDITOR (or $GIT_EDITOR) for editing git commits messages. To enable this you have to add the following line to your dotspacemacs/user-config:

(global-git-commit-mode t)

2.16. Try Spacemacs without modifying my existing Emacs configuration?

Emacs's ability to use any directory as the home for launching it allows us to try out Spacemacs (or any other Emacs configuration we desire) without having to go through the trouble of backing up our ~/.emacs.d directory and then cloning the new configuration. This can be achieved easily using the following steps:

mkdir ~/spacemacs
git clone ~/spacemacs/.emacs.d
HOME=~/spacemacs emacs

If you're on Fish shell, you will need to modify the last command to: env HOME=$HOME/spacemacs emacs

2.17. Make copy/paste working with the mouse in X11 terminals?

It is possible to disable the mouse support in X11 terminals in order to enable copying/pasting with the mouse. You need to add this line to your dotspacemacs/user-config:

(xterm-mouse-mode -1)

2.18. Use helm-ag to search only in files of a certain type?

It is possible to restrict the scope of helm-ag to search only expressions in some specified file types. There are two ways of doing this, both by appending some expressions to the search input:

  • By using a regexp with -G, for instance -G\.el$ will look for all files ending with .el which are emacs-lisp files.
  • By using a flag like --python which should be self-explaining. The list of available flags could be accessed from terminal with:

    ag --list-file-types

This is possible because helm-ag is treating the search input as command-line arguments of the ag program.

2.19. Modify spacemacs documentation look (space-doc-mode)

You can modify the list of visual enhancements applied by the space-doc-mode:

(setq spacemacs-space-doc-modificators

By default only center-buffer-mode is disabled. Both space-doc-mode and center-buffer-mode can be customized with "Easy Customization Interface".

3. Linux

3.1. Error on deleting a system package

If you see the an error message when either Spacemacs is trying to delete an orphaned package, or when you are trying to a package manually:

Package ‘PACKAGE-NAME’ is a system package, not deleting

it means this package comes with your distribution's package manager and is not installed by Spacemacs. You can suppress this by adding the package to dotspacemacs-additional-packages in your .spacemacs file.

In addition, you also need to add the said package to dotspacemacs-frozen-packages in your .spacemacs, so that you will be able to update your Emacs packages successfully.

4. Windows

4.1. Why do the fonts look crappy on Windows?

You can install GDIPP (simplest) or MacType (more complete) on Windows to get very nice looking fonts. It is also recommended to disable smooth scrolling on Windows.

4.2. Why is there no Spacemacs logo in the startup buffer?

A GUI build of emacs supporting image display is required. You can follow the instructions here. Alternatively you can download binaries of emacs with image support included such as this one.

4.3. Why are all packages unavailable?

Check if your Emacs has HTTPS capabilities by doing M-: and then:


If this returns nil, you need to install the GnuTLS DLL file in the same directory as Emacs. See here for instructions.

4.4. The powerline isn't shown correctly when Spacemacs is used within PuTTY

You can follow this explanation explaining how to correct this.

Author: root

Created: 2024-07-23 Tue 17:37