Miscellaneous Emacs adventures

I recently found out there’s an Emacs command M-x woman that’s a pun on “w/o man”, i.e. a way to read online help without using the usual man command.

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I tried to edit a 1.2 GB text file with Emacs the other day. I got an error saying that Emacs has a 500 MB file size limit on 32-bit systems. This was on a 32-bit Windows XP machine, so the warning was reasonable. I appreciated that it promptly said it could not open the file.

I tried again on my 64-bit Windows 7 machine and got the same message; I believe I’m running a 32-bit version of Emacs on my 64-bit PC.

I also tried opening the file with Emacs on a 64-bit Red Hat Enterprise Linux box with 16 GB of memory. This time I did not get a file size message. Instead, Emacs crashed.

The file opened quickly on Windows, even my 32-bit XP box, using Notepad++.

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When I set up Emacs on Windows, I created an “Open with Emacs” context menu following the instructions here. That has worked well except for two problems.

  1. Every file is opened in a new instance of Emacs.
  2. It stopped working on one of my computers for reasons unknown.

I’ve been meaning to solve the first problem, and when the second happened I decided it was time. According to the Emacs documentation,

The recommended way to associate files is to associate them with
emacsclientw.exe. In order for this to work when Emacs is not yet started, you will also need to set the environment variable ALTERNATE_EDITOR to runemacs.exe. To open files in a running instance of Emacs, you will need to add the following to your init file: (server-start)

I had to tinker with that a little to make it work. I know I had to add the path to my Emacs bin directory to my PATH environment variable but I don’t remember what else I did.

The key thing to note is that you should associate files with emacsclientw.exe rather than with runemacs.exe. I used the instructions in this article to remove the association with the latter. Thanks to Mark for pointing out the article.

(The Windows “Open with” feature remains a mystery. The article above explains how to remove a program from the “Open with” list, and the directions worked for removing runemacs.exe. But they did not work for removing other programs. I’m also unclear how you add something to the “Open with” list. If you right-click on a file and select “Open with -> Choose program …” the program you select may appear in the “Open with” list next time. Or not. This did add emacsclientw.exe to the list.)

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One thought on “Miscellaneous Emacs adventures

  1. Vignette #2 is embarrassing. I’ve also seen Emacs crash on loading a large file. It hasn’t been consistent, however.

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