Major mode for Racket language.

emacs, emacs-lisp, racket, racket-mode


Racket mode for GNU Emacs

Build Status MELPA

This provides a major mode to edit Racket source files, as well as a major mode for a Racket REPL. The edit/run experience is similar to DrRacket.

  • Focus on Racket.

    • Mode line and menu say Racket.
    • Omit stuff for various current and historical Schemes that's not applicable to Racket.
  • Use DrRacket concepts where applicable.

    • A simple and obvious way to "run" a file.
    • Allow interaction in the REPL, but the effect is wiped on the next run.
    • A simple way to run unit tests (to run the test submodule).
  • More thorough syntax highlighting ("font-lock"):

    • All Racket keywords, built-ins, self-evals, and so on.
    • All variations of define for functions and variables.
  • Correct indentation of Racket forms, including for/fold and for*/fold.

  • Compatible with Emacs 24.3+ and Racket 6.0+.

  • More.


  • If you've used other Lisps and Schemes before, you might prefer Geiser, which is very sophisticated.

  • Although I dogfood this -- use it constantly to code Racket -- it is beta quality. My total experience writing Emacs modes consists of writing this mode.

  • Pull requests from smarter/wiser people are welcome.

  • Please report issues here, including the output from M-x racket-bug-report.


The recommended way to use racket-mode is to install the package from MELPA. M-x package-install, racket-mode.

TIP: To use MELPA add the following to your ~/.emacs or ~/.emacs.d/init.el:

(require 'package)
(add-to-list 'package-archives
             '("melpa" . "http://melpa.org/packages/")

Minimal Racket

If you have installed the minimal Racket distribution (for example by using the homebrew recipe): racket-mode needs some additional packages (like errortrace and macro-debugger). A simple way to get all these packages is to install the drracket package:

$ raco pkg install drracket


Be aware that Emacs package updates don't necessarily fully update Emacs' state. An example symptom is an "invalid function" error message. You might need to restart Emacs. In some cases, you might even need to:

  1. Uninstall racket-mode
  2. Exit and restart Emacs
  3. Install racket-mode

If you still experience a problem, please M-x racket-bug-report and submit an issue.


To start, there are only two variables you might need to set:

  • racket-racket-program is the name or pathname of the Racket executable. This defaults to Racket.exe on Windows else racket.

  • racket-raco-program is the name or pathname of the Raco executable. This defaults to Raco.exe on Windows else raco.

On Windows or Linux, these defaults will probably work for you.

On OS X, downloading Racket doesn't add its bin directory to your PATH. Even after you add it, GUI Emacs doesn't automatically use your path (unless you use the handy exec-path-from-shell package). Therefore you may want to set both of these to be full pathames like /usr/racket/bin/racket and /usr/racket/bin/raco.

You can setq these directly in your Emacs init file (~/.emacs or ~/.emacs.d/init.el), or, use M-x Customize, as you prefer.

Key bindings

To customize things like key bindings, you can use racket-mode-hook in your Emacs init file. For example, although F5 and C-c C-k are bound to the racket-run command, let's say you wanted C-c r to be an additional binding:

(add-hook 'racket-mode-hook
          (lambda ()
            (define-key racket-mode-map (kbd "C-c r") 'racket-run)))

Unicode input method

An optional Emacs input method, racket-unicode, lets you easily type various Unicode symbols that might be useful when writing Racket code.

To automatically enable the racket-unicode input method in racket-mode and racket-repl-mode buffers, put the following code in your Emacs init file:

(add-hook 'racket-mode-hook      #'racket-unicode-input-method-enable)
(add-hook 'racket-repl-mode-hook #'racket-unicode-input-method-enable)

For more information, see the documentation: C-h f racket-unicode-input-method-enable.


The usual M-x complete-symbol -- bound by default to C-M-i -- works, drawing on all symbols in the current Racket namespace.

Tip: When you first visit a .rkt file, or edit it to change its requires, you may need to racket-run it to make the symbols available. Otherwise, you may get "stale" symbols, or just those from racket/base.

To have TAB do completion as well as indent, add the following to your Emacs init file:

(setq tab-always-indent 'complete)

This changes the behavior of Emacs' standard indent-for-tab-command, to which TAB is bound by default in the racket-mode edit and REPL modes.

Font-lock (syntax highlighting)

Font-lock (as Emacs calls syntax highlighting) can be controlled using font-lock-maximum-decoration, which defaults to t (maximum). You can set it to a number, where 0 is the lowest level. You can even supply an association list to specify different values for different major modes.

Historically you might choose a lower level for speed. These days you might do so because you prefer a simpler appearance.

Racket-mode supports four, increasing levels of font-lock:

0: Just strings, comments, and #lang.

1: #:keywords and self-evaluating literals like numbers, 'symbols, '|symbols with spaces|, regular expressions.

2: Identifiers in define-like and let-like forms.

3: Identifiers provided by racket, typed/racket, racket/syntax, and syntax/parse. (This level effectively treats Racket as a language, instead of a language for making languages.)


You may want to add keybindings to paredit-mode-map:

  • Bind { and } to paredit-open-curly and paredit-close-curly, respectively.

  • Bind whatever keys you prefer for paredit-wrap-square and paredit-wrap-curly.


To use the default configuration that smartparens provides for Lisp modes generally and for racket-mode specifically, add to your Emacs init file:

(require 'smartparens-config)


By default racket-mode sets eldoc-documentation-function to nil -- no eldoc-mode support. You may set it to racket-eldoc-function in a racket-mode-hook if you really want to use eldoc-mode with Racket. But it is not a very satisfying experience because Racket is not a very "eldoc-friendly" language. Although racket-mode attempts to discover argument lists, contracts, or types this doesn't work in many common cases:

  • Many Racket functions are defined in #%kernel. There's no easy way to determine their argument lists. Most are not provided with a contract.

  • Many of the interesting Racket forms are syntax (macros) not functions. There's no easy way to determine their "argument lists".

A more satisfying experience is to use racket-describe or racket-doc.


Within Emacs, use the usual help functions.

  • Type C-h m to get help about the modes in effect for the current buffer, including a list of key bindings and commands.

  • To see help about a specific command, for example racket-run, type C-h f and then racket-run.

Here on GitHub you can browse the Reference.


Pull requests are welcome! See CONTRIBUTING.md.


I started this project accidentally, while trying to figure out a font-lock issue with Quack under Emacs 24.2.

Knowing nothing about how to make a mode in Emacs, I tried to isolate the problem by making a simple major mode, then adding things until it broke. It didn't break and I ended up with this.

I took various .emacs.d hacks that I'd previously made to use with Quack, and rolled them into this mode.

Also, I'd recently spent time adding Racket fontification to the Pygments project, and wanted richer font-lock.

Also, I had experienced issues with enter! not always reloading modules in recent versions of Racket, and came up with a DrRacket-like alternative, run!.

Finally, I remembered that when I was new to Racket and Emacs, I got confused by the Scheme menu. It has options that work with various Schemes over the years, but which are N/A for Racket. I would stare it and wonder, "Um, how do I just 'run my program'??". I figured a fresh focus on Racket might be helpful, especially for other folks transitioning from using DrRacket.

Update, Jan 2014: After I had used this for a long time, putting up with its quirks, someone put it on MELPA. That nudged me to take another look, learn more about Elisp and Emacs modes, and improve it. Although I still feel like an amateur, it has probably improved from alpha to beta quality.

Please see the Acknowledgments.