41.2 Interactive Inferior Shell
To run a subshell interactively, putting its typescript in an Emacs
buffer, use M-x shell. This creates (or reuses) a buffer named
‘*shell*’ and runs a subshell with input coming from and output going
to that buffer. That is to say, any “terminal output” from the subshell
goes into the buffer, advancing point, and any “terminal input” for
the subshell comes from text in the buffer. To give input to the subshell,
go to the end of the buffer and type the input, terminated by <RET>.
Emacs does not wait for the subshell to do anything. You can switch
windows or buffers and edit them while the shell is waiting, or while it is
running a command. Output from the subshell waits until Emacs has time to
process it; this happens whenever Emacs is waiting for keyboard input or
for time to elapse.
Input lines, once you submit them, are displayed using the face
comint-highlight-input, and prompts are displayed using the
comint-highlight-prompt. This makes it easier to see
previous input lines in the buffer. See Faces.
To make multiple subshells, you can invoke M-x shell with a
prefix argument (e.g. C-u M-x shell), which will read a buffer
name and create (or reuse) a subshell in that buffer. You can also
rename the ‘*shell*’ buffer using M-x rename-uniquely, then
create a new ‘*shell*’ buffer using plain M-x shell. All the
subshells in different buffers run independently and in parallel.
The file name used to load the subshell is the value of the variable
explicit-shell-file-name, if that is non-
the environment variable ESHELL is used, or the environment
variable SHELL if there is no ESHELL. If the file name
specified is relative, the directories in the list
searched; this list is initialized based on the environment variable
PATH when Emacs is started. Your .emacs file can override
either or both of these default initializations.
Emacs sends the new shell the contents of the file
~/.emacs_shellname as input, if it exists, where
shellname is the name of the file that the shell was loaded
from. For example, if you use bash, the file sent to it is
To specify a coding system for the shell, you can use the command
C-x <RET> c immediately before M-x shell. You can also
specify a coding system after starting the shell by using C-x
<RET> p in the shell buffer. See Specify Coding.
Unless the environment variable EMACS is already defined,
Emacs defines it in the subshell, with value
t. A shell script
can check this variable to determine whether it has been run from an