Boško Ivanišević
Developer, Theoretical Physicist
Ruby, JavaScript, Elixir, C++ and few more

Easy Emacs


First step

Setting up Emacs for Ruby and Ruby on Rails development is very easy with Emacs starter kit from Github and you will be able to develop Ruby and RoR applications in Emacs in just a few simple steps. Emacs starter kit uses Elpa packaging and is very easy to configure. But let’s start from the beginning.

Clone Emacs starter kit with Git, to your empty .emacs.d directory. Be sure that init.el file is in .emacs.d folder. If you do not use Git (do you realize what you are missing?) you can get archived sources if you press download button on Emacs starter kit page on Github. Unpack archive to the .emacs.d and be sure that init.el is in .emacs.d folder.

Emacs starter kit has some packages that are still not in Elpa but you’ll have to install additional packages required for Ruby and RoR. Let’s do it now:

M-x package-list-packages

New buffer with list of available packages will open and you can select those you want to install. If you plan to use Emacs for Ruby and RoR you’ll definitely need Rinari. It will install all dependent packages.

There are few other that might come in handy like css-mode, javascript or yasnippet but you can always add them later. If you install yasnippet you should probably need yassnippets-rails, but more about that later. Installing packages is very easy. Just place cursor on the package line and press i. When you are finished with selection press x and packages will be installed. At any time you can press h to get quick help for Elpa packaging system. In order to uninstall package you have to press d (and x after that).

Further customization

When you are done with packages installation just restart Emacs and you are ready to continue work in your favorite language - Ruby and framework - Ruby on Rails :) But what if you want to adjust some settings or keep some of those you set according to my previous articles? Luckily that is easy to do, too.

First create sub-directory in .emacs.d directory with your user name on the system you are using. Put your .el files there and Emacs starter kit will load them automatically during Emacs start up. If you have changed color theme and you’ve used theme from color-theme library put color-theme-library.el in this folder and add, for example, line


to any of .el files in this folder. I keep all my additional settings in customization.el file.

I already mentioned yasnippet and yasnippets-rails packages. Simplest way to install yasnippet library is from Elpa system following above mentioned procedure. Unfortunately yasnippets-rails cannot be installed that way so you should clone it from the Github:

git clone git://

Directory yasnippets-rails should be in the directory with your user name under .emacs.d. Add following lines to your customization.el file:

(add-to-list ’load-path\
 (concat dotfiles-dir “/<user-name>/yasnippets-rails”))

(add-hook ‘ruby-mode-hook ; or rails-minor-mode-hook ?
’(lambda ()
 (make-variable-buffer-local ’yas/trigger-key)
 (setq yas/trigger-key [tab])))

(require ’yasnippet)
(add-to-list ’yas/extra-mode-hooks

(setq yas/window-system-popup-function ’yas/x-popup-menu-for-template)
(yas/load-directory (concat dotfiles-dir

 dotfiles-dir “/<user-name>/yasnippets-rails/rails-snippets/”))

(make-variable-buffer-local ’yas/trigger-key)

and you will be ready for using new snippets during development.

Final word

My previous articles were based on Rails reloaded package for RoR development in Emacs. It is good library and if you like fancy GUI things you can still use it. There is a new version on Github.

Still, I would recommend trying Rinari that is a package from Elpa. It doesn’t have any GUI features but once your fingers “learn” all shortcuts your RoR development will be much easier and faster.