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After I install emacs package on Debian 7 (Wheezy), when I start it up on a GUI terminal, it opens a GUI (GTK-based). I would rather it just run from the terminal.

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Maybe it's aliased - see alias emacs, or maybe you should check for another command name: apropos emacs will give you a pointer. Also, see type emacs. – user13742 May 28 '12 at 20:02
up vote 7 down vote accepted

You can start emacs with the --no-window-system command line option (-nw for short).

$ emacs --no-window-system

Debian also offers a package that has X disabled, emacs-nox. It Conflicts with the normal emacs23 package (the main one, which runs X when available). It removes the need to specify the --no-window-system option.

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You can also do DISPLAY= emacs. With $DISPLAY unset, emacs just uses the terminal. – Alexios May 28 '12 at 21:58
@Alexios good point .. that's one of the strengths of Linux/Unix, so many ways to accomplish tasks. – Levon May 28 '12 at 22:04

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