I was building Emacs on a virtual machine today and realized that I've been building Emacs on various machines for nigh on twenty years. The first machine I built Emacs for was an IBM RT running AIX 2.1. That was a tough build--no one had done it before that I could find. This was before the standardized configure scripts that figured everything out for you. I learned a lot.

Things have gotten considerably easier. I find that building Emacs is easier than trying to find the right thing pre-built and isn't that hard. Here's what you do.

  1. Use the following line to grab the latest source:
    cvs -z3 -d:pserver:anonymous@cvs.sv.gnu.org:/sources/emacs \\\\
        co emacs
    Note that this is the latest snapshot. If you're not adventurous, find a stable release. On the other hand, I've never had any trouble. This is a code base that's on version 22, after all.
  2. This will create a directory called emacs in the current directory. Go into it: cd emacs
  3. Configure the package: ./configure. If you're building on OS X, use ./configure --enable-carbon-app
  4. Do a bootstrap make: make bootstrap
  5. Do a make from the bootstrap: make
  6. Install it: sudo make install

The bootstrap takes a long time to build, the second make is quick. The installation takes some time. When it's done, you've got the latest emacs on your machine.