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About the developer

jimeh
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Description

Somewhat hacky script to automate building of Emac.app on macOS.

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build-emacs-for-macos

My personal hacked together script for building a completely self-contained Emacs.app application on macOS, from any git branch, tag, or ref. With support for native-compilation.

Use this script at your own risk.

Why?

  • To use new features available from master or branches, which have not made it into a official stable release yet.
  • Homebrew builds of Emacs are not self-contained applications, making it very difficult when doing HEAD builds and you need to rollback to a earlier version.
  • Both Homebrew HEAD builds, and nightly builds from emacsformacosx.com are built from the
    master
    branch. This script allows you to choose any branch, tag, or git ref you want.

Status

As of writing (2021-04-25) it works for me on my machine. Your luck may vary.

I have successfully built:

  • emacs-27.1
    release git tag
  • master
    branch (Emacs 28.x)
  • feature/native-comp
    branch (Emacs 28.x)

For reference, my machine is:

  • 13-inch MacBook Pro (2020), 10th-gen 2.3 GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7 (4c/8t)
  • macOS Big Sur 11.2.3 (20D91)
  • Xcode 12.4 (12D4e)

Limitations

The build produced does have some limitations:

  • It is not a universal application. The CPU architecture of the built application will be that of the machine it was built on.
  • The minimum required macOS version of the built application will be the same as that of the machine it was built on.
  • The application is not signed, so running it on machines other than the one that built the application will yield warnings. If you want to make a signed Emacs.app, google is you friend for finding signing instructions.

Binary Builds

Nightly and stable binary builds produced with this build script are available from jimeh/emacs-builds.

Requirements

  • Xcode
  • Homebrew
  • All Homebrew formula listed in the
    Brewfile
    , which can all easily be installed by running:
    brew bundle
    
  • Ruby 2.3.0 or later is needed to execute the build script itself. macOS comes with Ruby, check your version with
    ruby --version
    . If it's too old, you can install a newer version with:
    brew install ruby
    

Usage

Usage: ./build-emacs-for-macos [options] 

Branch, tag, and SHA are from the emacs-mirror/emacs/emacs Github repo, available here: https://github.com/emacs-mirror/emacs

Options: -j, --parallel COUNT Compile using COUNT parallel processes (detected: 8) --git-sha SHA Override detected git SHA of specified branch allowing builds of old commits --[no-]xwidgets Enable/disable XWidgets if supported (default: enabled) --[no-]native-comp Enable/disable native-comp (default: enabled if supported) --[no-]native-march Enable/disable -march=native CFLAG(default: disabled) --[no-]native-full-aot Enable/disable NATIVE_FULL_AOT / Ahead of Time compilation (default: disabled) --[no-]rsvg Enable/disable SVG image support via librsvg (default: enabled) --no-titlebar Apply no-titlebar patch (default: disabled) --no-frame-refocus Apply no-frame-refocus patch (default: disabled) --[no-]github-auth Make authenticated GitHub API requests if GITHUB_TOKEN environment variable is set.(default: enabled) --work-dir DIR Specify a working directory where tarballs, sources, and builds will be stored and worked with -o, --output DIR Output directory for finished builds (default: /builds) --build-name NAME Override generated build name --dist-include x,y,z List of extra files to copy from Emacs source into build folder/archive (default: COPYING) --[no-]archive Enable/disable creating *.tbz archive (default: enabled) --[no-]archive-keep Enable/disable keeping source folder for archive (default: disabled) --plan FILE Follow given plan file, instead of using given git ref/sha

Resulting applications are saved to the

builds
directory in a bzip2 compressed tarball.

If you don't want the build process to eat all your CPU cores, pass in a

-j
value of how many CPU cores you want it to use.

Re-building the same Git SHA again can yield weird results unless you first trash the corresponding directory from the

sources
directory.

Examples

To download a tarball of the

master
branch (Emacs 28.x with native-compilation as of writing) and build Emacs.app from it:
./build-emacs-for-macos

To build the stable

emacs-27.1
release git tag run:
./build-emacs-for-macos emacs-27.1

All sources as downloaded as tarballs from the emacs-mirror GitHub repository. Hence to get a list of tags/branches available to install, simply check said repository.

Use Emacs.app as
emacs
CLI Tool

Builds come with a custom

emacs
shell script launcher for use from the command line, located next to
emacsclient
in
Emacs.app/Contents/MacOS/bin
.

The custom

emacs
script makes sure to use the main
Emacs.app/Contents/MacOS/Emacs
executable from the correct path, ensuring it finds all the relevant dependencies within the Emacs.app bundle, regardless of it it's exposed via
PATH
or symlinked to from elsewhere.

To use it, simply add

Emacs.app/Contents/MacOS/bin
to your
PATH
. For example, if you place Emacs.app in
/Applications
:
if [ -d "/Applications/Emacs.app/Contents/MacOS/bin" ]; then
  export PATH="/Applications/Emacs.app/Contents/MacOS/bin:$PATH"
  alias emacs="emacs -nw" # Always launch "emacs" in terminal mode.
fi

If you want

emacs
in your terminal to launch a GUI instance of Emacs, don't use the alias from the above example.

Native-Comp

Note: On 2021-04-25 the

feature/native-comp
branch was merged into
master
.

The build script will automatically detect if the source tree being built supports native-compilation, and enable it if available. You can override the auto-detection logic to force enable or force disable native-compilation by passing

--native-comp
or
--no-native-comp
respectfully.

By default

NATIVE_FULL_AOT
is disabled which ensures a fast build by native compiling as few elisp source files as possible to build Emacs itself. Any remaining elisp files will be dynamically compiled in the background the first time they are used.

To enable native full Ahead-of-Time compilation, pass in the

--native-full-aot
option, which will native-compile all of Emacs' elisp at built-time. On my machine it takes around 10 minutes to build Emacs.app with
NATIVE_FULL_AOT
disabled, and around 20-25 minutes with it enabled.

Configuration

Native-Lisp Cache Directory

By default natively compiled

*.eln
files will be cached in
~/.emacs.d/eln-cache/
. If you want to customize that, simply set a new path as the first element of the
native-comp-eln-load-path
variable. The path string must end with a
/
.

Below is an example which stores all compiled

*.eln
files in
cache/eln-cache
within your Emacs configuration directory:
(when (boundp 'native-comp-eln-load-path)
  (setcar native-comp-eln-load-path
          (expand-file-name "cache/eln-cache/" user-emacs-directory)))

Compilation Warnings

By default any warnings encountered during async native compilation will pop up a warnings buffer. As this tends to happen rather frequently with a lot of packages, it can get annoying. You can disable showing these warnings by setting

native-comp-async-report-warnings-errors
to
nil
:
(setq native-comp-async-report-warnings-errors nil)

Issues

Please see all issues with the

native-comp
label. It's a good idea if you read through them so you're familiar with the types of issues and or behavior you can expect.

Known Good Commits/Builds

A list of known "good" commits which produce working builds is tracked in: #6 Known good commits for native-comp

Credits

  • I've borrowed some ideas from David Caldwell's excellent build-emacs project, which produces all builds for emacsformacosx.com.
  • Patches applied are pulled from emacs-plus, which is an excellent Homebrew formula with lots of options not available elsewhere.
  • The following sources were extremely useful in figuring out how get get the
    feature/native-comp
    branch building on macOS:
    • https://gist.github.com/mikroskeem/0a5c909c1880408adf732ceba6d3f9ab#1-gcc-with-libgccjit-enabled
    • https://github.com/shshkn/emacs.d/blob/master/docs/nativecomp.md
    • https://gist.github.com/AllenDang/f019593e65572a8e0aefc96058a2d23e

Internals

The script downloads the source code as a gzipped tar archive from the GitHub mirror repository, as it makes it very easy to get a tarball of any given git reference.

It then runs

./configure
with a various options, including copying various dynamic libraries into the application itself. So the built application should in theory run on a macOS install that does not have Homebrew, or does not have the relevant Homebrew formulas installed.

Code quality of the script itself, is well, non-existent. The build script started life a super-quick hack back in 2013, and now it's even more of a dirty hack. I might clean it up and add unit tests if I end up relying on this script for a prolonged period of time. For now I plan to use it at least until native-comp lands in a stable Emacs release for macOS.

License

CC0 1.0 Universal

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