‘browse-url’ (originally written by DenisHowe) allows you to click on a URL in the buffer and have Emacs start a browser (usually Netscape) to browse that URL (see also BrowseAproposURL). ‘browse-url’ normally tries to use an existing browser process instead of creating a new one. Whether this will work or not depends on the browser used.

In order to select the browser used by ‘browse-url’, customize the option (‘M-x customize-option’) ‘browse-url-browser-function’ and follow the prompts. Emacs 20.7 value menu lists 10 supported browsers.

If your browser is not among the browsers supported, choose the entry “Specified by ‘Browse Url Generic Program’” and customize the option ‘browse-url-generic-program’. Using a generic browser offers no remote control – for every URL you click a new process will be started.

without customize

Here is a suggestion without customize. (On my system ‘gnus-button-url’ is undefined, so I guess it is not necessary. – AlexSchroeder)

 From: GrahamGough
 Subject: Re: browse-url and replacing netscape nav with opera?
 Newsgroups: comp.emacs
 Date: 23 May 2001 14:02:57 +0100

I have the following; not sure if they’re all necessary, but they work

    (setq gnus-button-url 'browse-url-generic
          browse-url-generic-program "opera"
          browse-url-browser-function gnus-button-url)

For help on getting a persistent browser (that doesn’t die when emacs is exited), see PersistentProcesses.

Browsing the URL of the current buffer

The command ‘browse-url-of-buffer’ gets a browser to render the URL associated with the file in the current buffer. This is great when editing web-related pages. For example, when you are editing an HTML file, you can have it rendered in your favourite browser by typing ‘C-c C-v’. This is especially nice if you are using a browser within Emacs like w3 or w3m; then you can have your source in the top window of an Emacs frame, and the output in the bottom frame, and simply regenerate whenever you like without ever having to leave the source!

However, if you’re doing any non-trivial web stuff (such as CGI scripts for example), you’ll need to tell Emacs how to map the file name to a URL. Otherwise, Emacs will map /var/www/cgi/files/ to file://var/www/cgi/files/, while you might want You can achieve this mapping by adding an entry to the variable ‘browse-url-filename-alist’. So you could add an entry like this this:

    (add-to-list 'browse-url-filename-alist
                 '("/var/www/cgi/files/" . ""))

Now ‘C-c C-v’ will do the right thing.

This example assumes that ‘browse-url-filename-alist’ has already been defined as a list. For the more typical case in which you’re defining the variable for the first time in your .emacs, you can do something like this instead (from the variable description):

    (setq browse-url-filename-alist
          '(("/webmaster@webserver:/home/www/html/" .
            ("^/\(ftp@\|anonymous@\)?\([^:]+\):/*" . "ftp://\2/")
            ("^/\([^:@]+@\)?\([^:]+\):/*" . "ftp://\1\2/")
            ("^/+" . "file:/")))

Set browser according to the GConf configuration system

From time to time I test new browsers and don’t want to adjust browse-url-generic-program everytime I switch. Under Gnome or Unity I normally do this with the tool gnome-default-applications-properties. This tool sets the browser via the GConf configuration system with the key /desktop/gnome/applications/browser/exec. To get this value and to set it automatically I use the following code:

    (setq browse-url-generic-program
          (substring (shell-command-to-string "gconftool-2 -g /desktop/gnome/applications/browser/exec") 0 -1)
          browse-url-browser-function 'browse-url-generic)


Different Browsers Depending On Environment

Here is another solution. I normally use a shell script to start the web browser of my choice. Without X, it just starts w3m; with X, it starts xterm and runs w3m.

In order to fix it, you must run w3m as a shell command in order to capture the output. Here is how:

In your ~/.emacs:

    (if window-system
        (setq browse-url-browser-function 'browse-url-generic
              browse-url-generic-program "web-browser")
      (setq browse-url-browser-function 'my-browse))
    (defun my-browse (url &rest ignore)
      "Browse URL using w3m."
      (interactive "sURL: ")
      (shell-command (concat "w3m " url))
      (pop-to-buffer "*Shell Command Output*")
      (setq truncate-lines t))

In your ~/bin/web-browser (a shell script):

    #! /bin/bash
    if [ -z "$1" ]; then
    if [ -z "$DISPLAY" ]; then
        w3m $URL
        xterm -name web-browser -bg "#304020" -fg "navajo white" -e w3m $URL

Note that now you can define `web-browser %s &’ as an external browser in w3m, such that – in X – you can spawn more windows.

Note also that if you want to run w3m interactively when it runs within Emacs (in the example given that happens only when calling ‘browse-url’ within Emacs on the console), then you need emacs-w3m.

Support for various browsers

Mozilla, new tab

You can put the call to ‘mozilla-remote’ into the shell script above, of course, but you could also define a new function in Emacs. Here is from a posting, slightly edited:

From: JesperHarder Subject: Re: browse-url-mozilla in new tab Newsgroups: gnu.emacs.gnus Date: Sat, 28 Sep 2002 22:12:43 +0200

So here’s a function which does it. Set ‘browse-url-browser-function’ to ‘my-browse-url-mozilla-new-tab’.

    (defun my-browse-url-mozilla-new-tab (url &optional new-window)
      ;; new-window ignored
      "Open URL in a new tab in Mozilla."
      (interactive (browse-url-interactive-arg "URL: "))
          (string= "" 
                    (concat "mozilla -remote 'openURL(" url ",new-tab)'")))
        (message "Starting Mozilla...")
        (start-process (concat "mozilla " url) nil "mozilla" url)
        (message "Starting Mozilla...done")))

This code works fine with Phoenix too.


That’s how I use Firefox 2.0 with GNU Emacs 22. It uses only one window and opens new links in new tabs.

    (setq browse-url-browser-function 'browse-url-firefox
          browse-url-new-window-flag  t
          browse-url-firefox-new-window-is-tab t)

I think it is a bug in Firefox 0.9: The above code won’t work. Here’s a workaround:

    (defun my-browse-url-firefox-new-tab (url &optional new-window)
      "Open URL in a new tab in Firefox."
      (interactive (browse-url-interactive-arg "URL: "))
      (let ((cmd (shell-command-to-string
		  (concat "~/src/firefox/mozilla-xremote-client -a any 'openURL("
			  url ",new-tab)'"))))
	(unless (string= "" cmd)
	  (message "Starting Firefox...")
	  (start-process (concat "firefox " url) nil "~/src/firefox/firefox" url)
	  (message "Starting Firefox...done"))))

The old command with the-remote flag resulted in Error: No running window found when I ran it on command line. Using ‘mozilla-xremote-client’ instead did the trick.

They have changed the command-line options in firefox 0.9. instead of the old

    firefox -remote 'openURL(, new-tab)'

you need to do

    firefox -a firefox -remote 'openURL(, new-tab)'

Presumably you need the ‘-a firefox’ bit for all -remote stuff.

JuhapekkaTolvanen : This works for me:

    (defun my-browse-url-firefox-new-tab (url &optional new-window)
      "Open URL in a new tab in Mozilla."
      (interactive (browse-url-interactive-arg "URL: "))
          (string= ""
                    (concat "mozilla-firefox -a firefox -remote 'openURL(" url ",new-tab)'")))
        (message "Starting Mozilla Firefox...")))
    (setq browse-url-browser-function 'my-browse-url-firefox-new-tab)

I think, it does not start Firefox, if it is not already on.

In Firefox 1.5, the easiest way is probably to open “Preferences → Tabs” in Firefox and select the “A tab in the most recent window” option for the “Open links from other applications” preference, and then do the following in .emacs

    (setq browse-url-generic-program (executable-find "firefox")
          browse-url-browser-function 'browse-url-generic)

Firefox 36+

Changed again! In firefox/iceweasel 36 -remote is gone entirely.

  (defun browse-url-firefox (url &optional new-window)
    "Ask the Firefox WWW browser to load URL.
  Default to the URL around or before point.  The strings in
  variable `browse-url-firefox-arguments' are also passed to
  When called interactively, if variable
  `browse-url-new-window-flag' is non-nil, load the document in a
  new Firefox window, otherwise use a random existing one.  A
  non-nil interactive prefix argument reverses the effect of
  If `browse-url-firefox-new-window-is-tab' is non-nil, then
  whenever a document would otherwise be loaded in a new window, it
  is loaded in a new tab in an existing window instead.
  When called non-interactively, optional second argument
  NEW-WINDOW is used instead of `browse-url-new-window-flag'."
    (interactive (browse-url-interactive-arg "URL: "))
    (setq url (browse-url-encode-url url))
    (let* ((process-environment (browse-url-process-environment))
           (window-args (if (browse-url-maybe-new-window new-window)
                            (if browse-url-firefox-new-window-is-tab
           (ff-args (append browse-url-firefox-arguments window-args (list url)))
           (process-name (concat "firefox " url))
           (process (apply 'start-process process-name nil
                           browse-url-firefox-program ff-args) )) ))


There’s ‘browse-url-galeon’. Note that the “new galeon window” functionality is broken in emacs 21.2. Is fixed in the current emacs CVS 21.3.50 though.

JuhapekkaTolvanen : This worked fine, when I still used Galeon:

    (setq browse-url-browser-function 'browse-url-generic
          browse-url-generic-program "galeon"
          browse-url-generic-args '("-n"))


    (setq browse-url-browser-function 'browse-url-epiphany)
    (setq browse-url-epiphany-new-window-is-tab t)          ; for tab instead of new window.

This doesn’t seem to be available yet on Debian etch. However, the instructions above for galeon work with epiphany if you just change the name of the program

     (setq browse-url-browser-function 'browse-url-generic
           browse-url-generic-program "epiphany"
           browse-url-generic-args '("--new-tab"))


On arch linux, the following command will allow emacs to use the chromium-browser PKGBUILD:

    (setq browse-url-browser-function 'browse-url-generic
          browse-url-generic-program "chromium-browser")


This works fine with KDE 3.4 and emacs 21.4:

    (defun my-browse-url-in-konqueror-new-tab (url &rest ARGS)
      "Open URL in a new Konqueror tab"
       (interactive (browse-url-interactive-arg "URL: "))
      (call-process "sh" nil t nil "-c" (concat " " url)))
    (setq browse-url-browser-function 'my-browse-url-in-konqueror-new-tab)

“” being the following shell script:

    # Usage: konqnewtab
    pid=`dcop | grep konqueror | sed 's/konqueror-//' | tail -n 1`
    # find the most recently used konqueror window
    # use head -n 1 to find the konqueror window opened first
    if [ "$pid" != "" ]
        then  dcop konqueror-"$pid" konqueror-mainwindow#1 newTab "$1"
    else konqueror "$1" >/dev/null 2>&1 &


The code above for Mozilla works with Seamonkey too…

    (defun my-browse-url-seamonkey-new-tab (url &optional new-window)
      ;; new-window ignored                                                         
      "Open URL in a new tab in Seamonkey."
      (interactive (browse-url-interactive-arg "URL: "))
          (string= ""
                    (concat "seamonkey -remote 'openURL(" url ",new-tab)'")))
        (message "Starting Seamonkey...")
        (start-process (concat "seamonkey " url) nil "seamonkey" url)
        (message "Starting Seamonkey...done")))
    (setq browse-url-browser-function 'my-browse-url-seamonkey-new-tab)


From opera -h:

    Usage: opera [options] url
    -newwindow                     open url in new window
    -newpage                       open url in new page (tab)
    -backgroundpage                open url in background page (tab)

The netscapesque -remote openURL options are also supported.


Setting browse-url-generic-program to Midori just works fine :

    (setq browse-url-browser-function 'browse-url-generic
          browse-url-generic-program "midori")

Links gui mode

Also Known As links -g set links in browse-url-generic-program set -g in browse-url-generic-args

Xwidget Webkit

If you try the Emacs Xwidget branch you can do:

  (setq browse-url-browser-function 'xwidget-webkit-browse-url)

Then a webkit browser will show up inside an Emacs buffer.


Add the following to .emacs:

   (setq browse-url-browser-function 'browse-url-generic
         browse-url-generic-program "/path/to/conkeror")

Add the following to .conkerorrc:

    url_remoting_fn = load_url_in_new_buffer;


Add the following to .emacs:

    (setq browse-url-browser-function 'browse-url-generic
          browse-url-generic-program "icecat")

Microsoft Edge (Windows 10)

Add the following to .emacs

    (defun browse-url-edge (url &optional new-window)
        (concat "start microsoft-edge:" url)))

and set the browser function

    (setq browse-url-browser-function 'browse-url-edge)

Feeling Lucky?

Let Google figure out the most appropriate web site for the stuff in your region:

(defun browse-lucky (start end)
  (interactive "r")
  (let ((q (buffer-substring-no-properties start end)))
    (browse-url (concat ""
			(url-hexify-string q)))))


"Bug" in browse-url-default-windows-browser

The function browse-url-default-windows-browser strips anchors from URLs to local files. For instance, if typing

    M-x browse-url-default-windows-browser file:///C:/index.html#test

where C:/index.html is an existing file, #test will be removed from the final URL.

Update: Further investigation reveals that the problem is related to w32-shell-execute. Executing

    (w32-shell-execute "open" "file:///C:/index.html#test")

opens file:///C:/index.html, without the anchor. w32-shell-execute is defined in C source code … does this mean the problem is intractable?

Your should report your problem to the Emacs user list help-gnu-emacs.

My guess is that the URL needs to quoted before opened, but I haven’t checked it anywhere.

--- browse-url.el	02 Mar 2009 17:54:39 -0500	1.77
+++ browse-url.el	02 Mar 2009 17:54:46 -0500	
@@ -831,7 +831,7 @@
       (if dos-windows-version
 	  (shell-command (concat "start " (shell-quote-argument url)))
 	(error "Browsing URLs is not supported on this system"))
-    (w32-shell-execute "open" url)))
+    (w32-shell-execute "open"(shell-quote-argument url))))
 (defun browse-url-default-macosx-browser (url &optional new-window)
   (interactive (browse-url-interactive-arg "URL: "))

Note that you should use the command ‘M-x browse-url’, but customize ‘browse-url-browser-function’ as ‘browse-url-default-windows-browser’. See the Browse-URL section of the Emacs manual. – AaronHawley

The problem is not one of quoting, since (shell-quote-argument "file:///C:/index.html#test") returns "\"file:///C:/index.html#test\"". Rather, it seems to be the case that file:///C:/index.html#test is a nonstandard URI; RFC 1630 and RFC 1738 don’t specify a #target (i.e., an anchor) for file URIs. (External URIs work!) Most browsers will happily parse such URIs anyway, but with Window’s ShellExecute the nonstandard URI is converted to a standard one before reaching the browser, and so the #target is stripped off.

In other words, however useful #targets in file URIs are, Windows is “right” in removing them. 😟

The solution: call the browser directly instead, e.g., use browse-url-firefox instead of browse-url-default-windows-browser. Add

    (setq browse-url-browser-function 'browse-url-firefox
          browse-url-new-window-flag t
          browse-url-firefox-new-window-is-tab t)

to .emacs and use the function browse-url (thanks, AaronHawley).

Defining a new URL type?

I’d like to define a handler for a new URL type, but the info pages for URL mode is, um, completely missing. Does anybody have any pointers?

Thanks, JamesFelixBlack

More control over opening in emacs vs. opening in external

I want C-u to always open in emacs (e.g. emacs-w3m) and C-u C-u to always open in external (e.g. Safari).

Is there a way?

→ Have a look here: I have this in my .emacs:

(require 'w3m-load)
(require 'w3m)
 (setq browse-url-browser-function 'browse-url-generic
       browse-url-generic-program "/usr/bin/conkeror")

(defun choose-browser (url &rest args)
  (interactive "sURL: ")
  (if (y-or-n-p "Use external browser? ")
      (browse-url-generic url)
    (w3m-browse-url url)))

(setq browse-url-browser-function 'choose-browser)
(global-set-key "\C-xm" 'browse-url-at-point)

hth Memnon

More integrated way of invoking the default browser under Mac OSX in Emacs 23

The simplest, most integrated way is to use the system utility ‘open’, which uses the system’s default browser:

(setq browse-url-browser-function (quote browse-url-generic))
(setq browse-url-generic-program "open")

The default ‘open’ loads the URL according to default browser behavior. In instances where you want to force a new browser window, you can execute applescript from elisp (only in Emacs >23):

(defun browse-url-default-macosx-browser (url &optional new-window)
  (interactive (browse-url-interactive-arg "URL: "))
  (if (and new-window (>= emacs-major-version 23))
       (format (concat "tell application \"Safari\" to make document with properties {URL:\"%s\"}\n"
		       "tell application \"Safari\" to activate") url))
    (start-process (concat "open " url) nil "open" url)))

On the other hand, if you want the browser to reuse an existing tab if it has one already showing the URL, the applescript is somewhat more complicated. Instructions are here.

Is there a package which makes URLs clickable?

I’m looking for a minor mode or similar which I can turn on in any buffer and it makes all URLs in the buffer clickable and of course keeps the URLs updated when the buffer text is edited. Is there such a package?

Sounds like you want goto-address-mode (see GotoAddress). Other alternatives: Hyperbole does this automatically and much more, nXhtml has mlinks.el (HTML-style links only), and org-mode has support for URL links but that’s a major mode. There’s also BrowseUrl. The commentary suggests adding the following to your .emacs.

(global-set-key [S-mouse-2] 'browse-url-at-mouse)

Choose browser when using Org-mode's org-open-at-point (C-c C-o)

If you want to be able to easily choose between different browsers (with w3m as the default) you can advise ‘org-open-at-point’ with the following code (note, it uses choose-browser from above):

(defadvice org-open-at-point (around org-open-at-point-choose-browser activate)
  (let ((browse-url-browser-function
         (cond ((equal (ad-get-arg 0) '(4))
               ((equal (ad-get-arg 0) '(16))
                (lambda (url &optional new)
                  (w3m-browse-url url t)))

Defaults to w3m: C-c C-o Defaults to external browser: C-u C-c C-o Choose w3m or external browser: C-u C-u C-c C-o


Private Browsing

Ask whether URL should open in a new window in private browsing mode (with Firefox). Unconditionally open some URLs in private browsing mode:

(defun my-browse-url-maybe-privately (url &optional new-window)
  "Ask whether URL should be browsed in a private browsing window."
  (interactive "sURL: ")
  (if (y-or-n-p "Private Browsing? ")
      (my-browse-url-firefox-privately url)
    (browse-url-default-browser url new-window)))

(defun my-browse-url-firefox-privately (url &optional new-window)
  "Make firefox open URL in private-browsing window."
  (interactive (browse-url-interactive-arg "URL: "))
  (let ((process-environment (browse-url-process-environment)))
    (apply 'start-process
           (concat "firefox " url)
           (list "-private-window" url))))

(setq browse-url-browser-function
      '(("^https?://t\\.co" . my-browse-url-firefox-privately)
        ("^https?://instagram\\.com" . my-browse-url-firefox-privately)
        ("." . my-browse-url-maybe-privately)))

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