The command

emacs -nw foo -f org-mode

opens the file foo in emacs in org-mode.

Now, suppose that the filename foo is the output of a script. How could I pipe to my command?

So, I'm trying to get something like

echo foo | emacs -nw {GET OUTPUT HERE} -f org-mode

to work. Is this possible?

EDIT: This question has been voted to close, but the answer referenced doesn't work and wasn't tested by the user who voted to close.

  • Possible duplicate of Pass the output of previous command to next as an argument
    – muru
    Jul 11, 2019 at 2:55
  • @muru I read the question and answer you've referenced and don't understand how it helps me with my question. Jul 11, 2019 at 3:00
  • @muru I looked at this and can't figure out how it solves my problem. Maybe you can help? Jul 11, 2019 at 7:03
  • echo foo | xargs -I {} emacs -nw {} -f org-mode, or as alnx suggested, emacs -nw "$(echo foo)" -f org-mode.
    – muru
    Jul 11, 2019 at 7:05
  • @muru echo foo | xargs -I {} emacs -nw {} -f org-mode returns an error for me. Does it work on your machine? Jul 11, 2019 at 7:41

2 Answers 2


How about simply using a subshell (as suggested in the comments):

emacs -nw $(<COMMAND GOES HERE>) -f org-mode

For example

emacs -nw $(echo foo) -f org-mode

Will open "foo" in org-mode

  • This would require that I already know the command. It would be nice to be able to pipe in from an arbitrary command with the same line of code. Jul 11, 2019 at 3:06
  • @BrianFitzpatrick I don't understand what you're saying there. You can use arbitrary commands in command substitution.
    – muru
    Jul 11, 2019 at 7:08
  • For instance, say I want my environment variable to be $EDITOR=emacs -nw {my file} -f org-mode. I can't use $EDITOR=emacs -nw $(??) -f org-mode. Jul 11, 2019 at 8:17

Use a read to get the filename from the pipe and then pass it as a variable to your command.

For example, using a shell function (probably not the best name for it, maybe you can think of something better):

emacspipe () {
    local filename
    read filename
    emacs -nw "$filename" -f org-mode

Then you can use:

$ echo foo | emacspipe

But using command substitution $(...) like the other answer suggests is definitely a more appropriate way to accomplish the same. If you have a command you can pipe to something, you can just as easily run it in a $(...) block and pass the resulting filename as an argument to the script or function starting emacs...

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