I picked up emacs for first time in decades last night on ubuntu. It was sweet: opened up in a GUI and I was able to set up CUA mode - but still able to access the CTL-C and CTL-X actions via META-X. Nice.

Now I am trying to achieve the same on mac. But here we end up back with the terminal based version. This is a serious downgrade: e.g. Clipboard c/p does not work properly.

So is there a simple setting I am missing to launch the emacs in its own window and with full gui support?

I did do the brew install thing:

 brew install emacs --HEAD --cocoa --srgb

But this is still the same terminal based version.

So @Mark pointed out the order of the parameters above is incorrect. I had copied from another site. The info he gave DOES now install the Emacs.app.

14:20:36/shared $ls -lrta /Applications/Emacs.app/Contents
total 40
-rw-r--r--  1 steve  wheel      8 Apr  7  2012 PkgInfo
drwxr-xr-x  6 steve  wheel    204 Mar 10 14:07 Resources
-rw-r--r--  1 steve  wheel  14786 Mar 10 14:07 Info.plist
drwxr-xr-x  3 steve  wheel    102 Mar 10 14:08 MacOS
drwxr-xr-x  3 steve  wheel    102 Mar 10 14:08 ..
drwxr-xr-x  6 steve  wheel    204 Mar 10 14:08 .

However I am unable to launch it : probably something v simple.

4:29:21/Contents $open -a Emacs.app /shared/SparkBuild.scala
Unable to find application named 'Emacs.app'
  • Why not emacs?
    – klanomath
    Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 20:29
  • @klanomath Pls explain: does emacs-24.4 have a gui mode? Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 20:55
  • yepp it has (check Marks answer).
    – klanomath
    Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 20:57
  • @klanomath Mark described linking to Emacs.app - but it does not exist in the case of homebrew . Is there supposed to be an Emacs.app for the vanilla gnu version? If so the same question applies - where is it? Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 21:01
  • @javadba as directly linked by klanomoath or via the Emacs for OS X link I give
    – mmmmmm
    Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 21:02

2 Answers 2


The Apple supplied emacs is terminal only/

There are two GUI based emacs Aquamacs which includes much configuration to make more OS X like and emacs for OSX which is just an unconfigured GUI build so is more similar to emacs on other operating systems.

The Homebrew emacs with the cocoa build flag is similar to the latter. However to run in the GUI you need to launch Emacs.app (either from the GUI or using the open command) not just emacs. From the Emacs wiki installation after the brew command is given as

To install using the --cocoa switch, one simply uses:

brew install --cocoa emacs

to get some “pretty” colours add the --srgb switch:

brew install --cocoa --srgb emacs

and finally link it to your Applications folder:

ln -s /usr/local/Cellar/emacs/24.4/Emacs.app /Applications

After installation, using the emacs command in the terminal or shell will run the -nw version of Emacs. If you want to run the Cocoa version using this command, you simply add a line to your .bash_profile.

This gives Emacs.app in your /Applications folder.

  • Even after the brew install there still is no Emacs.app Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 20:44
  • The homebrew install of 24.4 does not have any Emacs.app 13:56:54/shared $ll /usr/local/Cellar/emacs/24.4/ COPYING INSTALL_RECEIPT.json bin/ libexec/ var/ ChangeLog README homebrew.mxcl.emacs.plist share/ Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 20:57
  • I would look at the whole emacs wiki section as they give a different build command --cocoa before emacs
    – mmmmmm
    Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 21:00

Get Aquamacs from aquamacs.org:

Aquamacs is a user-friendly build of the powerful Emacs text editor. Aquamacs integrates with the Mac and offers the same comforts that any application on the Mac provides. Yet, it comes with all the ergonomy and extensibility you've come to expect from GNU Emacs.

We support the standard Mac user interface that you've come to love. For instance, in addition to traditional Emacs shortcuts like C-x C-f (open a new file), Aquamacs understands Command-O. Aquamacs behaves like a modern application on Mac (or Windows) when it comes to selecting, copying, pasting texts within Aquamacs or in between applications. Aquamacs offers nice, smooth fonts. Asian input methods work. It's easy to install and runs out-of-the box with no configuration. And all is built on GNU Emacs, so you can use your favorite Emacs packages!

  • I had read aquamacs is for mac users wanting emacs. I am the other side: linux/vi users stuck on mac. But ok can't hurt to try. BTW: I am just confused here - is there some way to launch the brew and/or default emacs on yosemite in gui mode? Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 20:40
  • The default emacs is terminal-only, don't know about brew. But Aquamacs behaves like the Ubuntu GUI version, you won't notice much difference.
    – nohillside
    Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 20:42
  • upvoted. I will leave the question open bit longer but given the two answers we are probably close to done. thx! Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 20:43
  • I installed aquamacs. The Menu bar does not work for keyboard navigation: MUST use a mouse. That is likely a showstopper. Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 20:58
  • Learn the keyboard commands :-) Even with Aquamacs I use the menu bar close to never, it's just not convenient.
    – nohillside
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 6:49

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .