How Package.el Works with Use Package
I suppose the below could be framed simply as a complaint that
use-package does not update
I've recently moved from Straight to package.el for package management (long story), and have been reading-up on how package.el actually works, I took some notes and figured I'd share. I'm surprised that so few configs I see on GitHub take into account the subtleties of how package.el works, particularly in how it interacts with Use Package.
Unsurprisingly, all of this is well documented in
(info "(elisp) Startup Summary") and
(info "(emacs) Packages") so I'm not writing anything
groundbreaking here, just summarizing available information.
Emacs "activates" all installed packages before reading the
user-init-file unless you've set
package-enable-at-startup to nil
in the early init file. I'm sure this activation does many things but the most
important (to me) is that it creates autoloads for all your packages. That way
you can bind a key to a package's command, or run it via
without actually loading the package first.
If you want to restrict exactly which installed packages are activated at
startup you can customize the
package-load-list, but you have to do it
before your packages are activated.
When you interactively install a package (via
or via the Package Menu) Emacs adds that package to
package-selected-packages in your custom-file, which is
supposed to be the canonical list of packages you'd like installed.
package.el includes commands for installing all your "selected" packages,
and removing any installed package that is not "selected".
Use Package does not update
package-selected-packages, nor does
it have the ability to delete installed packages. This means every package
you've ever installed via Use Package's
:ensure function is
activated when Emacs starts up, even if you've removed all traces of it from
your init file. And to remove the packages from your system you'll have to
manually compare what's installed against what's in your init file.
If you've disabled
package-enable-at-startup in your early init
file and use Straight
(or something similar) to install packages, you won't have this
problem as Straight is designed to never load anything not declared in your
init file, regardless of if it is installed or not.
What I learned…
If you're using an alternative to package.el such as Straight, don't forget to
(setq package-enable-at-startup nil) in your early init file.
If you're using Use Package with package.el, and you want to manage your
packages via your init file and not via interactive customization,
you should really consider manually maintaining
somewhere in your init file, and abstaining from Use Package's
feature. Think of Use Package strictly as a way to configure packages, not
installing them. This will allow you to take advantage of package.el's package
The following is everything you need to get your packages installed and configured using package.el + Use Package:
(require 'package) ;; (package-initialize) is unnecessary since I have not disabled ;; package-enable-at-startup in early-init. ;; Add MELPA to package sources (optional) (add-to-list 'package-archives '("melpa" . "https://melpa.org/packages/") t) ;; Prefer GNU over MELPA (optional) (setq package-archive-priorities '(("gnu" . 20)("melpa" . 10))) (setq package-selected-packages '(use-package vertico orderless)) ;; Install packages with (package-install-selected-packages) ;; Remove packages with (package-autoremove) ;; If you want to automate that, maybe add them to your 'emacs-startup-hook'? (eval-when-compile (require 'use-package)) (use-package orderless :demand :custom (completion-styles '(orderless)) (completion-category-defaults nil) (completion-category-overrides '((file (styles . (partial-completion)))))) (use-package vertico :init (vertico-mode))
To install a new package, simply add it your package-selected-packages list
Hope this is useful to someone.
Discussion on r/emacs.