Obviously, we only need a single tag referring to the init file. Currently, there are several questions using (which is a fine name), and one using (which is less fine, but it might be referring to "initialization" instead of init file, it's hard to say).

Other perfectly valid names for this tag would be , or .

Do we have a preference either way?

  • There's also the possibility of using .emacs, but I'd assume many would find that weird. Of course it could be made a synonym.
    – paprika
    Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 14:27
  • 2
    @paprika What's weird about .emacs (unless you only know .emacs.d/init.el)? Now dotemacs, that's a really weird name. Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 18:40
  • @Gilles: I guess the usage of the term dotemacs came from the renaming of the hidden .emacs files to make them accessible on the web. Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 10:33

5 Answers 5


The tag should be init-file. That is how Emacs itself refers to it, in (emacs) Init File.

That node explains what it is, and the fact that it can be ~/.emacs, ~/.emacs.el, or ~/.emacs.d/init.el.

(And for older Emacs versions the last of these is not a possibility. But it is still called the "init file", and the manual node is still Init File.)


I strongly dislike the name . Is that pronounced dote-max? Names made of several words should have a separator between the words: (like on Stack Overflow). It's strange to write it that way rather than .

While has Emacs tradition for it, newer users might only know .emacs.d/init.el. Furthermore, .emacs has a risk of being used as a generic tag (“well, my question is about Emacs, so I'll use the tag that looks like ‘emacs’)”.

The manual section about the topic is called “The Emacs Initialization File”, or “Init File” for short.

So I favor or (or to include the system initialization files?), with and as synonyms.

Thinking about it some more, I fear that or will be abused as “I want to put something in my .emacs to solve my problem”. That's an argument against having a tag that means “user initialization file”. Questions that are genuinely about `.emacs (like What should/shouldn't I do when keeping .emacs and .emacs.d in version control? or "Symbol's value as a variable is void: defun" when reloading .emacs?) can use the more general tag .

  • initialization could still refer to the actual init process as mentioned above. [tag:init-file(s)] could work. Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 18:42
  • @JonathanLeech-Pepin Do we need to distinguish between the concepts? Are we looking for a tag specifically about the user init file or one that also covers the system init files? Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 18:46
  • 2
    I don't mean user vs system init files as such. Questions about changing initial minibuffer message/*scratch* buffer mode, or about how initialization occurs (emacs vs emacs -q vs emacs --batch for example) are only indirectly about the init-file as opposed to about how emacs initializes itself. Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 18:47
  • I'm not sure a tag specifically about "initialization" would see a lot of usage not also tagged "init-file", but I definitely see a distinction. When we setup these synonyms, maybe it's worth leaving "initialization" alone.
    – Malabarba
    Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 19:57
  • For some reason I was under the impression that actual dots were not allowed in tag names. I updated the question to improve that.
    – Malabarba
    Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 20:07
  • @JonathanLeech-Pepin Thinking about it some more, I think initialization is a superset of init-files which is a superset .emacs, and I'm not convinced that we really need the narrower tags. Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 20:34
  • @Malabarba I do see a distinction between initialization and init-files and .emacs, but I'm not convinced that it needs to be reflected in the tags. Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 20:35

I like init-file, it's generic and it's clear of what is referring to.


Since this site is not only for GNU Emacs, using ".emacs" or "dotemacs" is simply inappropriate since XEmacs only supports it for compatibility purposes.

I definitely vote for the use of init-file in preference to all the others. But I also agree with Gilles that there's a risk this will end up being abused since most questions are likely to be about configuration of Emacs, and hence relate to what to write in the init file.


I would prefer to the others.

It reflects both the ~/.emacs,~/.emacs.el as well as the folder ~/.emacs.d/init.el approach while and feel less precise for this purpose.

could however be used to point to init related questions (e.g. How to change default minibuffer message?). This can be solved either in Customize or through initialization file changes, yet deals specifically with emacs initialization.


Following the other answers I have to revise my opinion.

or (to avoid ambiguity for ) or seem best to me. Even though .emacs is deprecated for .emacs.d\init.el (or at least the latter is preferred) it is still part of the name for the init-file so could be applicable.

Other options still feel potentially ambiguous to me.

  • regardless of what we do for the init file, initialization related questions should (in the least) be tagged "initialization" not init, to avoid confusion with init files.
    – Malabarba
    Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 20:01
  • For some reason I was under the impression that actual dots were not allowed in tag names. I updated the question to improve that.
    – Malabarba
    Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 20:08

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