Making El-Get sync like vim-plug

As my post from last night says, I’m giving Emacs another go. And in an even older post, when I was trying Emacs for the first time, I show my approach to getting my packages syncing like I do in Vim (spoiler alert: It didn’t work very well). My Vim setup will remove unused packages, update what I currently have and then install any that are missing through this simple script and the use of vim-plug.

I’ve been yearning for the same, or at least similar, experience in Emacs. Without good package management and automatic cleaning I just don’t want to use it. The main reason for this is that I use my dotfiles across multiple machines and I can’t be dealing with package hell when I pull my dotfiles at work each morning. I need everything to always represent my declarative list of packages in my dotfiles perfectly.

After a late night Elisp session yesterday, which ended around 1am, I found a very concise approach to manage my packages in a satisfactory way. It’s nowhere near as clean, efficient and parallel as my Vim set up, but it gets the same result. It’s a shame it’s not shiny and perfect, but sometimes good enough is good enough. My synchronisation script for Emacs isn’t as short and sweet, but it does the job.

This will fetch el-get if required, boot Emacs once to perform the sync operation (fetch, update and clean), remove the loaddefs because they get out of sync really easily (so if magit was removed, for example, it would still appear in my tab complete although I couldn’t execute any of the commands, that’s loaddefs being old) and finally launch it again to generate the new loaddefs file ahead of time. The real magic happens in my packages configuration module though.

That little bundle macro is a passthrough to the el-get-bundle macro, but before it passes the forms off to it the name is stored in a list. That list becomes the “required packages” list which we use when performing a cleanup of packages. Basically, when you run el-get-cleanup (which appears to be undocumented? I found it by perusing the source) you can pass it a list of packages not to remove. This list is obtained by intercepting my declarative list of dependencies. Neat, right?

So I’ve done it, I’ve got Emacs packages working the way I needed them to for me to take it seriously. It works just like my Vim + vim-plug setup, albeit not as elegantly. It’s a small sacrifice to make for all the lisp I could ever ask for.

It’s parenthesis time now.