Restoring the window configuration in Emacs

Last time I explained how I customised Magit to kill its buffers upon quitting magit-status. My solution uses magit-restore-window-configuration, which does exactly what the name suggests. Wouldn’t it be great if a similar handy trick could be applied to any Emacs functionality?


  • I’d like to run some modes in a window that takes up the whole frame
  • I’d like to quit them with the previous window configuration completely restored

Two modes that I use daily would definitely become more pleasant: ibuffer-mode and org-agenda-mode. Fortunately, the Emacs community has already devised everything I need.

First, I have to save the current window configuration.

(defvar mu-saved-window-configuration nil)

(defun mu-push-window-configuration ()
  "Save current window configuration."
  (push (current-window-configuration) mu-saved-window-configuration))

I can now create a command to open the desired mode.

(defun mu-ibuffer-open ()
  "Open Ibuffer after storing current window configuration."

A buffer can be visited in a single window per frame with fullframe.

(with-eval-after-load 'ibuffer
    (fullframe ibuffer mu-pop-window-configuration))

The first argument to fullframe indicates that I want the function ibuffer to be executed in a single window of the current frame. The second argument is the command1 invoked when quitting Ibuffer, which will have to restore the previous window configuration.

(defun mu-restore-window-configuration (config)
  "Kill current buffer and restore window configuration in CONFIG."
  (set-window-configuration config))

(defun mu-pop-window-configuration ()
  "Restore previous window configuration and clear current window."
  (let ((config (pop mu-saved-window-configuration)))
    (if config
        (mu-restore-window-configuration config)
      (if (> (length (window-list)) 1)

These little functions are just my personal take on the awesome gems I discovered in John Wiegley’s Emacs configuration.

Nothing can stop me now from applying the same pattern to any mode I want. Once again, Emacs shows a degree of customizability second to none.

  1. The symbol of a command, to be precise.