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46 Saving Emacs Sessions

Use the desktop library to save the state of Emacs from one session to another. Once you save the Emacs desktop—the buffers, their file names, major modes, buffer positions, and so on—then subsequent Emacs sessions reload the saved desktop. By default, the desktop also tries to save the frame and window configuration. To disable this, set desktop-restore-frames to nil. (See that variable’s documentation for some related options that you can customize to fine-tune this behavior.)

You can save the desktop manually with the command M-x desktop-save. You can also enable automatic saving of the desktop when you exit Emacs, and automatic restoration of the last saved desktop when Emacs starts: use the Customization buffer (see Easy Customization) to set desktop-save-mode to t for future sessions, or add this line in your init file (see Init File):

(desktop-save-mode 1)

When desktop-save-mode is active and the desktop file exists, Emacs auto-saves it every desktop-auto-save-timeout seconds, if that is non-nil and non-zero.

If you turn on desktop-save-mode in your init file, then when Emacs starts, it looks for a saved desktop in the current directory. (More precisely, it looks in the directories specified by desktop-path, and uses the first desktop it finds.) Thus, you can have separate saved desktops in different directories, and the starting directory determines which one Emacs reloads. You can save the current desktop and reload one saved in another directory by typing M-x desktop-change-dir. Typing M-x desktop-revert reverts to the desktop previously reloaded.

Specify the option ‘--no-desktop’ on the command line when you don’t want it to reload any saved desktop. This turns off desktop-save-mode for the current session. Starting Emacs with the ‘--no-init-file’ option also disables desktop reloading, since it bypasses the init file, where desktop-save-mode is usually turned on.

By default, all the buffers in the desktop are restored at one go. However, this may be slow if there are a lot of buffers in the desktop. You can specify the maximum number of buffers to restore immediately with the variable desktop-restore-eager; the remaining buffers are restored lazily, when Emacs is idle.

Type M-x desktop-clear to empty the Emacs desktop. This kills all buffers except for internal ones, and clears the global variables listed in desktop-globals-to-clear. If you want this to preserve certain buffers, customize the variable desktop-clear-preserve-buffers-regexp, whose value is a regular expression matching the names of buffers not to kill.

If you want to save minibuffer history from one session to another, use the savehist library.

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