This page is about Emacs filesets. Filesets are available in Emacs 21 and later – see the Emacs manual, node Filesets: Filesets.


A fileset is a persistent specification of a set of files. All filesets together form the value of user option ‘filesets-data’. A single fileset is a list of the fileset name (a string), the fileset specification, and optional indications that modify the fileset behavior.

At its simplest, a single fileset spec is an explicit list of file names headed by the keyword `:files’. For example: (:files "dired+.el" "c:/my/dir/buff-menu+.el"). You can use both relative and absolute file names. Thus, you might have a ‘fileset-data’ value such as this, which includes a single fileset named “set1”: (("set1" (:files "dired+.el" "c:/my/dir/buff-menu+.el"))).

You can use other keywords, besides :files. The other types of fileset are :tree, :pattern, and :ingroup (oh, there is also :file for a single file). The types are mutually exclusive: if you use more than one, the first type in the order just mentioned takes precedence.

Check the doc for more information – I’ll just mention type :tree and :pattern here briefly. In addition, you can use other keywords to modify the specification and behavior of a fileset – again, see the doc.

A fileset of type :tree uses an intensive, rather than an extensive, specification of the files in the set. You provide a base directory name and a regexp pattern to be matched against files under the directory. Example: ("set2" (:tree "~/my/dir" "^ici.+\\.el$")) includes all files under "~/my/dir that start with ici and have suffix el. Keyword :pattern is like :tree, but it specifies only files in the given directory, not also files in its subdirectories.

To use filesets, you need to require the filesets library (see next), and then you need to evaluate the sexp (filesets-init). That will make available a Filesets menu (see next for placing that menu). To create and modify filesets, you typically use Customize: ‘M-x customize-option filesets-data’.

Filesets Library

The version of the filesets library, filesets.el, included in Emacs (1.8.4) is a bit iffy. You can obtain a more recent version (2.2) from the author’s Web page:

The Info doc for filesets, Filesets, is quite poor, unfortunately. Better is the doc at

I (DrewAdams) have had trouble trying to use the more recent version with GnuEmacs, especially wrt byte-compiling. For now, I just use the version included with Emacs (1.8.4).

Regardless of which version you use, there is a bug in the definition of ‘filesets-get-filelist’. I’ve made a bug fix available as library filesets+.el. That library will load filesets.el for you, so all you have to do is load filesets+.el. In addition, I recommend that you customize the following two options, to put the Filesets menu on the File menu just before item Open File… (otherwise, it appears as a separate menu-bar menu):

I reported the bug and fix to Emacs development on 2008-09-13 [1], so hopefully it will be corrected in Emacs 23. ;-)

Icicles and Filesets

If you use Icicles, you can retrieve the files in a fileset as completion candidates or open Dired on (only) them. This gives you Icicles file-name completion for fileset files. You can also combine filesets of different kinds and combine filesets with other files to form a persistent Icicles set that you can later use for completion. For example, this could be a saved Icicles set that combines a :tree fileset with an explicit :files fileset and with two additional files:

((:fileset "set1" (:tree "~/my/dir" "^ici.+\\.el$"))
 (:fileset "set2" (:files "dired+.el" "c:/my/dir/buff-menu+.el"))

When you retrieve that during file-name completion, all of the file names specified become completion candidates (which you can filter with your input, and so on).

Do not use library filesets+.el with Icicles. Icicles already includes the same bug fix.

Dired and Filesets

DiredPlus (library dired+.el), like Icicles, lets you open Dired on the files in a fileset (and no others). Choose Dired Fileset… in the Dir menu-bar menu.

CategoryFiles CategoryDirectories Lisp:filesets+.el