Run Emacs in WSL2

Posted by Welcome to Rui Ying's page on Saturday, December 12, 2020

Emacs in Windows

Following are multiple ways to run emacs in Windows.

  • Emacs for windows
  • WSYS2 (pacman -S Emacs)
  • WSL/WSL2 emacs

The first one should be the easiest way to install and run, yet it’s not so good to use. For example, I’m struggling with environmental variable. Firstly, There’re C:\Users\usrname\app\roaming and C:\Users\usrname confusing me of which one should be $HOME, especially when I use university-distributed pc and don’t have root permission to modify System variable. Secondly and similarly, when I use python, which python should I use, anaconda? The .exe file from python website? or the automatic answer, python in the windows store? The third one, I can’t use tramp-mode easily as in other OS. The last one, when I open emacs by pressing their shortcut, the default path through entring C-x C-f is not ~ that I want. Certainly you can define an exact path in the property, but emmm, it’s just so hard to use.

WSYS2 is good to use as well, they provide unix-like environment and you can use pacman like in arch-linux. But I met an issue that I can’t download package after downloading python-pip, which means I can’t use python like in unix (I don’t know why either).

Finally, we have the last option: downloading Ubuntu/Debian/CentOS in windows store and use X-server (e.g. MobaXterm, VcXsrv, X410, Xming) to visualise GUI instead of runing in WSL terminal.

#add following code to your shell configuration file

#WSL1
echo export DISPLAY=0:0

#WSL2
export DISPLAY="$(/sbin/ip route | awk '/default/ { print $3 }'):0

However, honestly I didn’t find it significantly faster than in WSYS2 (it’s pretty faster in WSL2 than WSL1), but I can use it very conveniently. Of course, “relatively complex” things always exist. For instance I need to install emacs 27.1 by compling source codes, because in the apt the dafult emacs version is 26.1. Also, if you use high DPI screen as me, you need to open compatibility and change DPI setting in shortcut property. Lastly, the CJK font and input method for emacs seems to be another brain-blowing thing…

There’re also other alternative ways like Docker, a pure virtual machine (VMware) but I haven’t try them.