git clone 'git://github.com/skeeto/elfeed.git'

Elfeed Emacs Web Feed Reader

Elfeed is an extensible web feed reader for Emacs, supporting both Atom and RSS. It requires Emacs 24.3 and is available for download from MELPA or el-get. Elfeed was inspired by notmuch.

For a longer overview,

The database format is stable, but there may still be an update someday that requires migration.

Getting Started

Elfeed is broken into a multiple source files, so if you manually install it you will need to add the Elfeed package directory to your load-path. If installed via package.el or el-get, this will be done automatically.

It is recommended that you make a global binding for elfeed.

(global-set-key (kbd "C-x w") 'elfeed)

Running the interactive function elfeed will pop up the *elfeed-search* buffer, which will display feed items.

This buffer will be empty until you add your feeds to the elfeed-feeds list and initiate an update with M-x elfeed-update (or G in the Elfeed buffer). This will populate the Elfeed database with entries.

;; Somewhere in your .emacs file
(setq elfeed-feeds

Another option for providing a feel list is with an OPML file. Running M-x elfeed-load-opml will fill elfeed-feeds with feeds listed in an OPML file. When elfeed-load-opml is called interactively, it will automatically save the feedlist to your customization file, so you will only need to do this once.

If there are a lot of feeds, the initial update will take noticeably longer than normal operation because of the large amount of information being written the database. Future updates will only need to write new or changed data. If updating feeds slows down Emacs too much for you, reduce the value of url-queue-parallel-processes (the number of feeds to process at one time).

Elfeed uses Emacs' url-queue package to manage feed fetching. Unfortunately it has a very short default value, so if you're getting any “Queue timeout exceeded” errors, increase url-queue-timeout.

~~~el (setf url-queue-timeout 30) ~~~

From the search buffer there are a number of ways to interact with entries. Entries are selected by placing the point over an entry. Multiple entries are selected at once by using an active region.


Elfeed maintains a list of arbitrary tags – symbols attached to an entry. The tag unread is treated specially by default, with unread entries appearing in bold.


Tags can automatically be applied to entries discovered in specific feeds through extra syntax in elfeed-feeds. Normally this is a list of strings, but an item can also be a list, providing set of “autotags” for a feed's entries.

(setq elfeed-feeds
      '(("http://nullprogram.com/feed/" blog emacs)
        "http://www.50ply.com/atom.xml"  ; no autotagging
        ("http://nedroid.com/feed/" webcomic)))

Filter Syntax

To make tags useful, the Elfeed entry listing buffer can be filtered by tags. Use elfeed-search-set-filter (or s) to update the filter.

Any component of the search string beginning with a + or a - is treated like a tag. + means the tag is required, - means the tag must not be present.

A component beginning with a @ indicates an age. Entries older than this age are filtered out. The age description accepts plain English, but cannot have spaces, so use dashes. For example, "@2-years-old" or "@3-days-ago". The database is date-oriented, so filters that include an age restriction are significantly more efficient.

A component beginning with a ! is treated as an “inverse” regular expression. This means that any entry matching this regular expression will be filtered out. The regular expression begins after the ! character. You can read this as “entry not matching foo”.

All other components are treated as a regular expression, which means only entries matching this will be shown.

Here are some example filters.

Only show unread entries of the last six months. This is the default filter.

Only show entries about Linux or Linus from the last year.

Only show previously-read entries tagged as youtube.

Only show unread entries not having emacs or xemacs in the title or link.

Default Search Filter

You can set your default search filter by changing the default value of elfeed-search-filter. It only changes buffer-locally when you're adjusting the filter within Elfeed. For example, some users prefer to have a space on the end for easier quick searching.

(setq-default elfeed-search-filter "@1-week-ago +unread ")

Tag Hooks

The last example assumes you've tagged posts with youtube. You probably want to do this sort of thing automatically, either through the “autotags” feature mentioned above, or with the elfeed-new-entry-hook. Functions in this hook are called with new entries, allowing them to be manipulated, such as adding tags.

;; Mark all YouTube entries
(add-hook 'elfeed-new-entry-hook
          (elfeed-make-tagger :feed-url "youtube\\.com"
                              :add '(video youtube)))

Avoiding tagging old entries as unread:

;; Entries older than 2 weeks are marked as read
(add-hook 'elfeed-new-entry-hook
          (elfeed-make-tagger :before "2 weeks ago"
                              :remove 'unread))

Or building your own subset feeds:

(add-hook 'elfeed-new-entry-hook
          (elfeed-make-tagger :feed-url "example\\.com"
                              :entry-title '(not "something interesting")
                              :add 'junk
                              :remove 'unread))

Web Interface

Elfeed includes a demonstration/toy web interface for remote network access. It's a single-page web application that follows the database live as new entries arrive. It's packaged separately as elfeed-web. To fire it up, run M-x elfeed-web-start and visit http://localhost:8080/elfeed/ (check your httpd-port) with a browser. See the elfeed-web.el header for endpoint documentation if you'd like to access the Elfeed database through the web API.

It's rough and unfinished – no keyboard shortcuts, read-only, no authentication, and a narrow entry viewer. This is basically Elfeed's “mobile” interface. Patches welcome.

Platform Support

I personally only use Elfeed on Linux, but it's occasionally tested on Windows. Unfortunately the Windows port of Emacs is a bit too unstable for parallel feed downloads, not to mention the tiny, hard-coded, 512 open descriptor limitation, so it limits itself to one feed at a time on this platform.

The GNU-provided W32 build of Emacs doesn't include any of the libraries needed to actually view entries within Emacs, but you can still see the entry listing and visit entries in your browser. For full support, you'll either have to track down and install the missing DLLs, or use a build that includes it.

Database Management

The database should keep itself under control without any manual intervention, but steps can be taken to minimize the database size if desired. The simplest option is to run the elfeed-db-compact command, which will pack the loose-file content database into a single compressed file. This function works well in kill-emacs-hook.

Going further, a function could be added to elfeed-new-entry-hook to strip unwanted/unneeded content from select entries before being stored in the database. For example, for YouTube videos only the entry link is of interest and the regularly-changing entry content could be tossed to save time and storage.

Status and Roadmap

Elfeed is to the point where it can serve 100% of my own web feed needs. My personal selection of about 150 feeds has been acting as my test case as I optimize and add features.

Some things I still might want to add:


As far as I know, outside of Elfeed there does not exist an extensible, text-file configured, power-user web feed client that can handle a reasonable number of feeds. The existing clients I've tried are missing some important capability that limits its usefulness to me.