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XEmacs / README.packages

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The XEmacs Packages Quick Start Guide

This text is intended to help you get started installing a new XEmacs
and its packages from start.  For details see the 'Startup Paths' and
'Packages' sections of the XEmacs info manual.

Real Real Quickstart FAQ

Q. Do I need to have the packages to compile XEmacs?
A. If you want to compile with MULE, you need the mule-base package installed.
   Otherwise, no package is required before compilation.

Q. I really liked the old way that packages were bundled and do not
   want to mess with packages at all.
A. You can grab all the packages at once like you used to with old
   XEmacs versions, skip to the 'Sumo Tarball' section below.

A note of caution

The XEmacs package system is still in its infancy. Please expect a few 
minor hurdles on the way. Also neither the interface nor the structure is 
set in stone. The XEmacs maintainers reserve the right to sacrifice
backwards compatibility as quirks are worked out over the coming

Some Package Theory

In order to reduce the size and increase the maintainability of XEmacs,
the majority of the Elisp packages that came with previous releases
have been unbundled. They have been replaced by the package system.
Each elisp add-on (or groups of them when they are small) now comes
in its own tarball that contains a small search hierarchy.

You select just the ones you need. Install them by untarring them into 
the right place. On startup XEmacs will find them, set up the load
path correctly, install autoloads, etc, etc.

Package hierarchies

On Startup XEmacs looks for packages in so called package hierarchies.
These can be specified by the 'package-path' parameter to the
'configure' script. However by default there are three system wide

     Local and 3rd party packages go here.

     Only searched by MULE-enabled XEmacsen.

     Normal packages go here.

Where to get the packages

Packages are available from ftp://ftp.xemacs.org/pub/xemacs/packages
and its mirror.

How to install the packages

1. All at once, using the 'Sumo Tarball'.
2. By hand.
3. Automatically, using the package tools from XEmacs.

The Sumo Tarball

Those with little time, cheap connections and plenty of disk space can
install all packages at once using the sumo tarballs.
Download the file


For an XEmacs compiled with Mule you also need


N.B. They are called 'Sumo Tarballs' for good reason. They are
currently about 15MB and 2.3MB (gzipped) respectively.

Install them by

cd $prefix/lib/xemacs ; gunzip -c <tarballname> | tar xf -

As the Sumo tarballs are not regenerated as often as the individual
packages, it is recommended that you use the automatic package tools
afterwards to pick up any recent updates.

Installing by Hand

Fetch the packages from the ftp site, CDROM whatever. The filenames
have the form name-<version>-pkg.tar.gz and are gzipped tar files. For
a fresh install it is sufficient to untar the file at the top of the
package hierarchy. For example if we are installing the 'xemacs-base'
package in version 1.27:

mkdir $prefix/lib/xemacs/xemacs-packages # if it does not exist yet
cd $prefix/lib/xemacs/xemacs-packages
gunzip -c ...../xemacs-base-1.27-pkg.tar.gz | tar xf -

For MULE related packages, it is best to untar in the mule-packages
hierarchy, i.e. for the mule-base package, version 1.25

mkdir $prefix/lib/xemacs/mule-packages # if it does not exist yet
cd $prefix/lib/xemacs/mule-packages
gunzip -c ...../mule-base-1.25-pkg.tar.gz | tar xf -

Installing automatically

XEmacs comes with some tools to make the periodic updating and
installing easier. It will notice if new packages or versions are
available and will fetch them from the ftp site.

Unfortunately this requires that a few packages are already in place. 
You will have to install them by hand as above or use a SUMO tarball. 
This requirement will hopefully go away in the future. The packages
you need are:

   efs          - To fetch the files from the ftp site or mirrors.
   xemacs-base  - Needed by efs.

and optionally:

   mailcrypt    - If you have PGP installed and want to verify the
                  signature of the index file.
   mule-base    - Needed if you want to compile XEmacs with MULE.

After installing these by hand, you can start XEmacs. (It is a good
idea to use 'xemacs -vanilla' here as your startup files might need
things now moved to packages.)

 - First you need to specify an FTP site to use.
      Use Options->Manage Packages->Add Download Site
       or M-x customize-variable RET package-get-remote RET

   Alternatively, if you already have the packages on a local disk
   then you can specify this directly using 'M-x
   pui-add-install-directory'. Please make sure you also have a
   corresponding copy of the package index there.

 - Invoke Options->Manage Packages->List & Install
      or M-x pui-list-packages RET
   XEmacs will now first try to fetch a new version of the package
   index from the FTP site. Depending on whether you are using
   'mailcrypt/PGP', you will get some question about keys to fetch or
   whether to use the index without verifying the signature. If the
   new index was different from the one already on disk, XEmacs will
   offer you to overwrite the old index.

-  XEmacs will show you a buffer named "*Packages*" with an overview
   of available and installed packages, including a short description.
   In this buffer you can select which packages you want using the
   mouse or using RET.

-  When you are finished choosing packages, invoke
   'Packages->Install/Remove Select' from the menu or type 'x' to
   begin installing packages.
After Installation

New packages can only be used by XEmacs after a restart.

Note to MULE users

Unlike all other packages the mule-base package is used at build/dump 
time. This means that you need this available before compiling XEmacs
with MULE. Also it is a good idea to keep packages that are
MULE-only separate by putting them in the mule-packages hierarchy.

Which Packages to install?

This is difficult to say. When in doubt install a package. If you
administrate a big site it might be a good idea to just install
everything. A good minimal set of packages for XEmacs-latin1 would be

xemacs-base, xemacs-devel, c-support, cc-mode, debug, dired, efs,
edit-utils, fsf-compat, mail-lib, net-utils, os-utils, prog-modes,
text-modes, time

Unfortunately the package system currently provides neither
dependencies nor conflicts. This will be a future enhancement. The
above set includes most packages that are used by others.

See also '.../etc/PACKAGES' for further descriptions of the individual
packages (currently outdated).

Upgrading/Removing Packages

As the exact files and their locations contained in a package may
change it is recommend to remove a package first before installing a
new version. In order to facilitate removal each package contains an
pgkinfo/MANIFEST.pkgname file which list all the files belong to the
package. M-x package-admin-delete-binary-package RET can be used to
remove a package using this file.

Note that the interactive package tools included with XEmacs already do
this for you.

User Package directories

In addition to the system wide packages, each user can have his own
packages installed in "~/.xemacs" (Note that this will most likely
change to "~/.xemacs/packages" in the near future). If you want to
install packages there using the interactive tools, you need to set
'pui-package-install-dest-dir' to "~/xemacs"

Site lisp/Site start

The site-packages hierarchy replaces the old 'site-lisp' directory.
XEmacs no longer looks into a 'site-lisp' directly by default.
A good place to put 'site-start.el' would be in