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25.9.7 Standard File Names

Sometimes, an Emacs Lisp program needs to specify a standard file name for a particular use—typically, to hold configuration data specified by the current user. Usually, such files should be located in the directory specified by user-emacs-directory, which is typically ~/.config/emacs/ or ~/.emacs.d/ by default (see How Emacs Finds Your Init File in The GNU Emacs Manual). For example, abbrev definitions are stored by default in ~/.config/emacs/abbrev_defs or ~/.emacs.d/abbrev_defs. The easiest way to specify such a file name is to use the function locate-user-emacs-file.

function locate-user-emacs-file base-name \&optional old-name

This function returns an absolute file name for an Emacs-specific configuration or data file. The argument base-name should be a relative file name. The return value is the absolute name of a file in the directory specified by user-emacs-directory; if that directory does not exist, this function creates it.

If the optional argument old-name is non-nil, it specifies a file in the user’s home directory, ~/old-name. If such a file exists, the return value is the absolute name of that file, instead of the file specified by base-name. This argument is intended to be used by Emacs packages to provide backward compatibility. For instance, prior to the introduction of user-emacs-directory, the abbrev file was located in ~/.abbrev_defs. Here is the definition of abbrev-file-name:

(defcustom abbrev-file-name
(locate-user-emacs-file "abbrev_defs" ".abbrev_defs")
"Default name of file from which to read abbrevs."

:type 'file)

A lower-level function for standardizing file names, which locate-user-emacs-file uses as a subroutine, is convert-standard-filename.

function convert-standard-filename filename

This function returns a file name based on filename, which fits the conventions of the current operating system.

On GNU and other POSIX-like systems, this simply returns filename. On other operating systems, it may enforce system-specific file name conventions; for example, on MS-DOS this function performs a variety of changes to enforce MS-DOS file name limitations, including converting any leading ‘.’ to ‘_’ and truncating to three characters after the ‘.’.

The recommended way to use this function is to specify a name which fits the conventions of GNU and Unix systems, and pass it to convert-standard-filename.