Elisp: provide, require, features

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

The purpose of emacs “features” is for emacs to know if a package is already loaded.

A global variable. Its value is a list of elisp symbols, each symbol represent a emacs “feature” that's been loaded. [see Elisp: Lisp Symbol]
A elisp package usually has (provide 'symbol_name) at the end. When this code is evaluated, emacs will add the symbol name to the features list.
When the code (require 'symbol_name) is called, emacs checks if that symbol name is already in the features list. If not, load it. (emacs will guess a file name based on the symbol name. Or, the require function may specify a file name in the 2nd argument.)

For example, Alt+x describe-variable, then type features. You'll see something like this:

emacs features 2020-12-07 gXj4f
emacs features 2020-12-07

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