Securely Editing Remote Files with a Local XEmacs

I use XEmacs for text editing. Somewhere along the line I discovered a feature called efs, which allows you to edit remote files with a local XEmacs. The benefit is that you can modify remote files without running a remote application over a network. The downside to efs is that it uses insecure ftp. Furthermore, it doesn’t appear that you can force efs to use a secure transfer program.

Fortunately, there is an alternative called tramp. I’ve read about tramp many times, but there was never a simple explanation of how to use it. That’s what I aim to do here.

The following discussion assumes that you have tramp installed on your system. That was the default when I installed XEmacs. Its also probably convenient to setup ssh-agent or the like so you don’t have to type in passwords all the time.

To setup tramp, I added the following lines to my .xemacs/init.el file:

(setq tramp-default-user "myname")
(setq tramp-default-method "ssh")
(require 'tramp)

To open a remote file, I use the following syntax:


If you don’t set tramp-default-user, and tramp-default-method, the fully qualified way to open a remote file is:


Note, the syntax I used above is slightly different than what I found at, which may explain why I had problems with tramp before. The “method” that is mentioned above, is the method that tramp uses to access remote files. See for methods of accessing files, (such as ssh, scp, sshx), other parameters, details on how to obtain and install tramp, and further documentation.


~ by Ryan Lefever on February 23, 2006.

3 Responses to “Securely Editing Remote Files with a Local XEmacs”

  1. thanks.

  2. When copying in source code, don’t use Windows programs that do so-called smart quotes. You have them around the ssh so it doesn’t paste directly to init.el

  3. Brian,

    Thanks for the tip. I have fixed the quotes in the post.

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