emacs Configuration

If you use emacs as your editor, you may want to amend your configuration with some or all of the snippets below to add syntax highlighting for the various file types commonly used in the Salish Sea MEOPAR project, and to improve your emacs editing experience in other ways.

The snippets go in your $HOME/.emacs file and some of them assume that you also have a $HOME/elisp/ directory to contain downloaded mode files, etc. If you don’t already have one or both of those, go ahead and create them with:

touch $HOME/.emacs
mkdir $HOME/elisp

.emacs Snippets

You can use as many or as few of these as you wish by adding them to your $HOME/.emacs file. You will need to restart emacs for the changes to take effect.

Enable syntax highlighting whenever possible:

;; enable syntax highlighting
(global-font-lock-mode 1)

Disable display of the splash screen when emacs starts:

;; don't display the splash screen
(setq inhibit-startup-message t)

Display line and column numbers in the mode line:

;; show line and column numbers in mode line
(line-number-mode 1)
(column-number-mode 1)

Force the use of spaces instead of tab characters:

;; force emacs to always use spaces instead of tab characters
(setq-default indent-tabs-mode nil)

Set the default tab width to 4 spaces. (Many modes override this setting.):

;; set default tab width to 4 spaces
(setq default-tab-width 4)
(setq tab-width 4)

Show trailing whitespace characters in red. Trailing whitespace (i.e. spaces, tabs, etc. at the ends of lines or empty lines at the ends of files) is a terrible thing that should be eliminated with extreme prejudice. This setting makes it stick out like a sore thumb. The M-x delete-trailing-whitespace command deletes all trailing whitespace characters from a buffer. Please commit whitespace deletions separately from other file modifications to make reviewing and merging easier.

;; default to showing trailing whitespace
(setq-default show-trailing-whitespace t)

Automatically use f90-mode for files whose names end with .F90, .h90, or that start with namelist. These patterns are applied in addition to the file name patterns that normally trigger f90-mode.

;; use f90-mode for .F90, .h90, and namelist files
(add-to-list 'auto-mode-alist '("\\.F90\\'" . f90-mode))
(add-to-list 'auto-mode-alist '("\\.h90\\'" . f90-mode))
(add-to-list 'auto-mode-alist '("namelist*" . f90-mode))

Additional Editing Modes

These instructions are for installing an configuring editing modes that are not part of the emacs distribution. Modes provide syntax highlighting, command shortcuts, and other features to help you edit files of various types.

To use 3rd party modes that are in your $HOME/elisp/ directory you need to add the following to your $HOME/.emacs file:

;; add my personal elisp repository to the load-path
(add-to-list 'load-path "~/elisp")

The general procedure to install a 3rd party mode is:

  • Download the EmacsLisp file (file extension .el) into your $HOME/elisp/ directory

  • Add the appropriate configuration statements listed below to your $HOME/.emacs file

  • Restart emacs for the changes to take effect

You can view the help for a mode when it is active with the emacs command C-h m.


This is useful for working on Salish Sea NEMO run description files.

Download yaml-mode.el from https://raw.githubusercontent.com/yoshiki/yaml-mode/master/yaml-mode.el into your $HOME/elisp/ directory:

cd $HOME/elisp/
wget https://raw.githubusercontent.com/yoshiki/yaml-mode/master/yaml-mode.el

Configure emacs to use yaml-mode automatically whenever you visit a file with the extension .yaml or .yml:

;; YAML mode
;; https://raw.githubusercontent.com/yoshiki/yaml-mode/master/yaml-mode.el
(require 'yaml-mode)
(add-to-list 'auto-mode-alist '("\\.yaml$" . yaml-mode))
(add-to-list 'auto-mode-alist '("\\.yml$" . yaml-mode))

ReStructuredText Mode

This is useful for working on the Salish Sea MEOPAR project documentation files.

Download rst.el from https://docutils.sourceforge.io/tools/editors/emacs/rst.el into your $HOME/elisp/ directory:

cd $HOME/elisp/
wget https://docutils.sourceforge.io/tools/editors/emacs/rst.el

Configure emacs to use rst-mode automatically whenever you visit a file with the extension .rst:

;; add reStructuredText mode
;; https://docutils.sourceforge.io/tools/editors/emacs/rst.el
(require 'rst)
(setq auto-mode-alist
      (append '(("\\.rst$" . rst-mode)) auto-mode-alist))

Python Mode

emacs includes a Python editing mode, but these instructions are for installing a more comprehensive python-mode that is maintained by the Python community.

Download python-mode.el from https://gitlab.com/python-mode-devs/python-mode/raw/master/python-mode.el and move it into your $HOME/elisp/ directory.

Configure emacs to use python-mode automatically whenever you visit a file with the extension .py:

;; add better Python mode
;; https://gitlab.com/python-mode-devs/python-mode/raw/master/python-mode.el
(setq auto-mode-alist
      (cons '("\\.py$" . python-mode)
(setq interpeter-mode-alist
      (cons '("python" . python-mode)
(autoload 'python-mode "python-mode" "Python editing mode." t)

Python Source Code Checking via Flake8

These settings enable on-the-fly static analysis of Python code using the flake8 tool. flake8 uses a collection of Python packages to check Python code for syntax error and adherence to the PEP8 coding style guide. The snippet below configures emacs flymake mode to run flake8 in the background whenever you pause in your typing for a few seconds, and whenever a Python file is loaded or saved. Lines that have messages from flake8 associated with them are colourfully highlighted and the messages should appear in the minibuffer region at the bottom of the screen when you hover your cursor over the highlighting. The flymake-cursor mode displays messages from flake8 for the line that the cursor is on in the minibuffer - useful for ssh sessions when mouse integration with emacs is not available.

Install flake8 into your local Python environment:

$ python3 -m pip install --user flake8

and, if you have not already done so, add $HOME/.local/bin to your PATH (see Edit or Create .bash_profile). The additions to your PATH should be such that $HOME/.local/bin comes after $HOME/anaconda/bin.

Download flymake-cursor.el from https://www.emacswiki.org/emacs/download/flymake-cursor.el into your $HOME/elisp/ directory:

cd $HOME/elisp/
wget http://www.emacswiki.org/emacs/download/flymake-cursor.el

Configure emacs to run flake8 via flymake on Python files, and to enable flymake-cursor:

;; connect flymake for Python buffers to Flake8
(when (load "flymake" t)
  (defun flymake-flake8-init ()
    (let* ((temp-file (flymake-init-create-temp-buffer-copy
           (local-file (file-relative-name
                        (file-name-directory buffer-file-name))))
      (list "flake8" (list local-file))))
  (add-to-list 'flymake-allowed-file-name-masks
               '("\\.py\\'" flymake-flake8-init))
(add-hook 'find-file-hook 'flymake-find-file-hook)
;; display flymake messages for cursor line in minibuffer
(require 'flymake-cursor)

Code Folding for Python

Allows you to collapse and expand (aka fold) function definitions in Python code by hooking into emacs outline-mode.

Defaults to collapsing all definitions when a Python file is loaded. See the comments at the top of python-outline.el for how to change that default. C-q toggles folding of the function the cursor is in. C-c C-a toggles folding of all functions.

Copy python-outline.el from /home/dlatorne/elisp/ into your $HOME/elisp/ directory:

cd $HOME/elisp/
cp /home/dlatorne/elisp/python-outline.el

Configure emacs to enable python-outline mode:

;; add Python-outline mode
(require 'python-outline)
(setq auto-mode-alist (append '(("\\.py" . python-outline)) auto-mode-alist))

Mercurial Mode

Allows you to work with Mercurial from within emacs.

Download mercurial.el from http://hg.intevation.org/mercurial/file/tip/contrib/mercurial.el into your $HOME/elisp/ directory:

cd $HOME/elisp/
wget http://hg.intevation.org/mercurial/file/tip/contrib/mercurial.el

Configure emacs to always load Mercurial mode:

;; always load mercurial support
;; http://hg.intevation.org/mercurial/file/tip/contrib/mercurial.el
(load-file "~/elisp/mercurial.elc")