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Using the commandline network utilities from Emacs

How to use Emacs's selection of commandline utilities, including: ifconfig, netstat, arp, traceroute, ping, dig and more
Updated for emacs 28

Unbeknownst to many, Emacs comes with a full suite of wrappers around the common GNU network utilities.

Most of the utilities are just simple wrappers around their command-line equivalents, but in full technicolor; but some – like the nslookup support – also adds full Emacs comint support.

Another useful feature is the built-in ffap support (it means find file at point) and it will try to determine if the point is – if used interactively with the net utils below – on a hostname or IP and default to that.

The net utils library were written with the GNU libraries in mind, so Windows users may find the support a bit lacking. But you can always download the Win32 ports.

Here’s a list of utilities Emacs supports; invoke with M-x. You may have to configure them to your liking, and you can do that by invoking M-x customize-group RET net-utils RET.

ifconfig and ipconfig

Runs ifconfig or ipconfig


Runs the iwconfig tool


Runs the netstat tool


Runs the arp tool


Runs the route tool


Runs the traceroute tool


Runs ping, but on most systems it may run indefinitely; adjust ping-program-options.


Runs nslookup in non-interactive mode.


Runs nslookup in interactive mode in Emacs as an inferior process


Look up the DNS information for an IP or host using host.

run-dig and dig

Invokes the dig in interactive mode as an inferior process


Very simple wrapper around the commandline tool ftp. You are probably better off with TRAMP for all but low-level system administration.

smbclient and smbclient-list-shares

Runs smbclient as an inferior process or list a hosts’ shares.


Runs the finger tool

whois and whois-reverse-lookup

Runs the whois tool but tries to guess the correct WHOIS server. You may have to tweak whois-server-tld and whois-server-list or set whois-guess-server to nil

Further Reading

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