Helm is an Emacs framework for incremental completions and narrowing selections. It helps to rapidly complete file names, buffer names, or any other Emacs interactions requiring selecting an item from a list of possible choices. Helm is a fork of anything.el, which was originally written by Tamas Patrovic and can be considered to be its successor. Helm cleans the legacy code that is leaner, modular, and unchained from constraints of backward compatibility.
Helm wiki | FAQ
Table of Contents
- Getting Started
- Helm Applications
- Recommended Helm extensions
- Other emacs extensions recommended with helm
- External programs recommended with helm
- Known issues
- Bugs & Improvements
- Getting help
Helm is an Emacs framework for incremental completions and narrowing
selections. It helps to rapidly complete file names, buffer names, or
any other Emacs interactions requiring selecting an item from a list of
Helm is a fork of
anything.el, which was originally written by Tamas
Patrovic and can be considered to be its successor.
Helm cleans the
legacy code that is leaner, modular, and unchained from constraints of
In addition of its framework where you can build your own
Helm provides preconfigured commands to browse and
search incrementally in files, buffers, bookmarks etc… and much
more. Helm allows displaying different sources in same session. Helm
displays its candidates in a window or a frame, keeping the minibuffer for
user input. Helm provides a full set of actions for each of its
sources, each action apply on a single candidate or a set of marked
Note: You will find many helm extensions providing diverse features sometimes already implemented in
prefer generally the ones that are natively in
Helm support natively most grep implementations as backend (ack, ag, rg),
no need to install 3rd party packages for this, same for managing projects etc…
There are several alternatives to Helm nowaday, they are all providing incremental completion but they lack all the Helm features due to their wrong implementation abusing minibuffer.
Helm requires Emacs-25.1 or later versions.
Helm installs async and popup-el package as dependencies when Helm is installed using MELPA.
Install from Straight
See Install from straight package manager
Quick install from git
See Install Helm from Git
NOTE: Installing helm using git and make is the safest way.
Install from Emacs packaging system
See Install Helm from Melpa
NOTE: This is not the recommended way to install packages.
Installing just the helm-core package
helm-core package is available on MELPA for
third party packages that depend on helm libraries. These packages
should require helm as follows:
Requiring helm builds and runs helm code necessary for multiple regexp and fuzzy matching. See helm wiki for details.
Warning about alternate installation methods
Installation methods that circumvent
helm-config are known to fail
if the careful safeguards are not implemented in the hacks.
For minimal helm configuration, run the start-up script
and then see the file
The full configuration I (the helm maintainer) use is here.
Also see helm customizable variables with the customize interface.
helm-mode will enable helm for many features of emacs
requiring completions, see below how to enable
M-x helm-M-x RET helm- lists helm commands ready for narrowing and selecting.
To bind to
(global-set-key (kbd "M-x") 'helm-M-x)
In any helm session, as soon there is candidates in the helm buffer
C-h m pops an org buffer with detailed documentation about current command and more generalized infos about helm.
Use it with no moderation!
Use these embedded Info screens first before reporting bugs.
M-x helm-mode to enable helm completion for common Emacs
commands. Note that the helm functionality enabled through helm-mode
comes from a generic implementation and does not include all helm
features available through equivalent helm-specific commands.
To make helm-mode start with Emacs init file:
To discover basic helm commands, look at helm menu item in Emacs menu.
Another way to discover helm commands: run the shell script:
./emacs-helm.sh from helm directory and then look in the scratch
emacs-helm.sh accepts emacs command line
emacs-helm.sh -h opens an Info screen with more details.
Note: When helm is installed with “make install” you will have a shell command named helm that you can run from any places i.e. not only the helm directory
Helm contains many features, some of which are easier to follow
visually. Here is a demo of
helm-buffers-list used with
helm-moccur. Demo starts with
Eval: START in the minibuffer.
*Cselects the C buffers.
*Tclin the demo selects TCL buffers, then with
*Cswitches back to C buffers.
- For buffers containing the string “crash”, the demo adds a space,
then the pattern
- Matching buffers are then handed over to
moccurwith its own Helm interface. The demo shows switching to a single file,
kexec.c. Multiple selections can be made with
- Adding characters to the pattern gradually filters (narrows) the
available candidates. By adding
memory, the buffers shown now include those buffers with “crash” and “memory”.
With more pattern matching, candidates are narrowed down from the initial 253 buffers to 12 as shown in the modeline.
Helm Wiki provide additional details.
Helm support by default multi pattern matching, it is the standard way of matching in helm. E.g You can use a pattern like “foo bar” to match a line containing “foo” and “bar” or “bar” and “foo”. Each pattern can be a regexp.
In addition helm support fuzzy matching.
Creating custom helm sources
(helm :sources (helm-build-sync-source "test" :candidates '(foo foa fob bar baz) :fuzzy-match t) :buffer "*helm test*")
The candidates list may be replaced by a function that produces a list. See (helm wiki) for details.
These are popular applications developed using helm completion and narrowing framework. They are available for individual installs through the Emacs package manager. This list is not exhaustive.
helm-mode: turns on helm completions for most standard emacs completions. Helm provides even more optimized helm completions for some commands in helm-mode. Prefer these natively optimized versions over the ones in helm-mode.
helm-find-files: one command that handles all the files related commands (bind to
helm-buffers-list: provides enhanced buffers listing.
helm-browse-project: handles project files and buffers; defaults to current directory; works with
helm-find-files; recommended with helm-ls-git, helm-ls-hg and
helm-ls-svnfor a better handling of version control files. Each time a project under version control is visited it is added to
helm-browse-project-historyand can be visted with
helm-dabbrev: enhanced dabbrev implementation with helm completion; does not use emacs code.
helm-occur: enhanced occur for one or more buffers; launch from
execute-extended-command(bind it to
helm-imenu-in-all-buffers: provide imenus for current or all buffers.
helm-etags-select: enhanced etags with helm-completion; usable everywhere with
helm-apropos: enhanced apropos for functions and variables that
Grep: launch from any helm file commands; supports back-ends
agand custom implementation of
helm-gid: Helm interface for
helm-show-kill-ring: A helm browser for kill ring.
helm-all-mark-rings: A helm browser for mark ring; retrieves last positions in buffers.
helm-filtered-bookmarks: enhanced browser for bookmarks.
helm-list-elisp-packages: enhanced browser for elisp package management.
Recommended Helm extensions
Normally all Helm modules coming from Emacs-helm organisation are safe to use otherwise it is mentioned in their README if they are broken or unmaintained. Here some of them I am using:
Warning Helm development has sparked quite a few extensions, many
of which duplicate features already included in helm. Some of these
packages (about 20 at last count in the MELPA repository) are either
deprecated or unmaintained. Moreover, many remain out-of-sync with
helm core development cycles causing incompatibilities. To avoid
helm problems or unstable emacs, please look for comparable features
within helm and
emacs-helm before installing such
Other emacs extensions recommended with helm
External programs recommended with helm
The Helm project has a current unresolved issue list. Please feel free to fix any of them; send a pull request.
Most issues come from a wrong configuration or a use of Helm modified externally by third party package e.g. Spacemacs. Some other Helm packages that are no more maintained (or badly maintained) and use deprecated Helm code will clash also with recent Helm be aware.
The Helm project maintains a list of contributors.
Bugs & Improvements
The Helm Team welcomes bug reports and suggestions. Note that not all bugs when using Helm are due to Helm. Because of the way Helm interacts with many Emacs features, bugs may be related to Emacs itself.
One way to ascertain that the bugs are helm-related, recreate the
error either by using
Emacs -Q or by running the included package
./emacs-helm.sh located in the helm directory.
Helm comes now with a template for filling bugs, when reporting issues, be sure to fill all sections and to run helm from a minimal install as described above to reproduce your bug.
Helm Wiki and emacs-helm Google group are two readily available locations.
The Helm Team