And with my handheld portable all-purpose lightweight doohickey I fuse thoughts and try not to be too picky. —Buck65
I’m personally offended that you enjoy the software you work with ;)—al3x
Update: Full 60-minute screencast now available at PeepCode!
A few weeks ago I decided to try out Emacs. I wasn’t especially dissatisfied with TextMate but felt that I had neglected to educate myself about a major part of computer science history. Somewhat like a DJ who has never heard Grandmaster Flash (who purportedly invented much of the hardware used to create music with multiple turntables). I felt that I needed to try out one of the classic text editors still used by many today.
My history with text editors over the last 10 years goes something like:
- vim (for about 6 months)
I’ve assembled a short screencast of my initial impressions:
The Good Stuff
Here’s a short list of what I’m enjoying about it so far:
- Efficiently keyboard driven. No need to use the mouse at all.
- Window splits for viewing multiple files (and shells) at once.
- Powerful editing.
- The ease with which one can work with dozens of files without getting confused.
- Super customizable.
- Easy to keep settings, snippets, plugins, etc. synchronized between desktop and laptop with Git.
- Quality plugins from the community.
- The aha moment when parts of code make more sense given the fact that Emacs was used by Matz, Ryan Davis, Nathan Weizenbaum, etc. to author them.
- That unidentifiable elitist feeling you get from using a tool that’s too difficult or awkward for most people.
The Awkward Bits
- No GUI for preferences.
- Mac OS X integration is just barely good enough to get by. For example, I can’t get “Hide Others” to work except by using the mouse.
- It’s assumed that you’ll do most work from within Emacs itself rather than piping text to it.
- Crashes when trying to switch color themes. This may be a problem with the color theme plugin I’m using.
- It’s difficult to think about content and files instead of icons and buttons.
Installing, learning, and configuring Emacs is unfortunately not easy. I’m working on a PeepCode screencast with Phil Hagelberg that I hope to finish within the next few weeks. In the meantime, here are some resources I used to get started on Mac OS X:
- yasnippet.el—TextMate-style tab trigger snippets with mirroring, defaults, etc.
- textmate.el—Provides tremendously useful keyboard shortcuts for TextMate switchers. I’ve modified it to work with my setup.
- magit—Git integration.
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