Editing Files as Root with Emacs

I’ve been using Emacs for over two decades and am still surprised by what it can do. While trying to figure out how to edit remote files over sftp I came across documentation for editing files as root using “sudo”.

This feature is part of TRAMP-mode which stands for “Transparent Remote (file) Access, Multiple Protocol” and has been part of Emacs for a very long time. The syntax is very simple – open a file with the prefix /sudo:: and TRAMP will use sudo to fork off a shell

For example, editing a file named:


will allow you to read, edit and write out the /etc/fstab file from the comfort of your Emacs window and without having to switch to a terminal, run sudo, and start up an editor.

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