Emacs – Resolving the “No Usable Browser Found” Error

July 30, 2010

Despite the fact that I spend many hours every day programming in emacs with php-mode enabled I’ve never gotten around to learning all the ins and outs of it. Every now and then I get a slow day where I dig in a bit deeper to learn about a few new features. Today I decided I was finally going to play with the options for reading the PHP Manual inside of emacs and for looking up definitions on different functions. After hitting C-c C-f (php-search-documentation) I was presented with the following error:

No Usable Browser Found

No problem, I thought, I’ll just install lynx and I’m sure I’ll be good to go. A quick apt-get install and I had lynx on that box and after trying in emacs again I was greeted with the same error. Turns out it wasn’t that simple. So a little digging and I found this page which showed me the solution, however it was in Spanish. In his example he used Icecat for the browser, I tried simply substituting the icecat reference for lynx but once again found it wasn’t that simple. So at that point I did some more research and found out I could use w3m, so I installed and set that up based on the guide at and set up the following configuration inside my .emacs file:

(add-to-list 'load-path "~/.elisp/emacs-w3m-1.4.4")
(require 'w3m-load)
(setq browse-url-generic-program (executable-find "w3m")
browse-url-browser-function 'browse-url-generic)

(defvar php-search-url "")
(defvar php-manual-url "")

(defun php-search-documentation ()
  "Search PHP documentation for the word at the point."
  (w3m-browse-url (concat php-search-url (current-word t))))

(defun php-browse-manual ()
  "Bring up manual for PHP."
  (w3m-browse-url php-manual-url))

It’s important to note that I had to put this AFTER I loaded up php-mode in the .emacs file. If you put it before it seems to override the search-url and manual-url and the command executes without an error but no page ever ends up being loaded. With this in place I was able to browse the manual without lifting my hand to pick up the mouse ๐Ÿ˜€

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  1. This is pretty funny. I did exactly as you did, except instead of finding the page you did I found yours. I thought you’d appreciate the irony.

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