Saturday, January 9, 2010

Another look at Emacs

So I said a little while ago, I said I'd switch to jEdit.

It turns out that Emacs has bedeviled me, though, and I've been trying very hard to figure it out. Given my infatuation with LISP in general, it was pretty likely that I'd eventually stumble across the Emacs Extension Guide(pdf).

This appeals to me as perhaps nothing else can. I can develop my programming skills in [a precursor to] my favorite language, while improving the usability of my editor.

The defult usability is still pretty bad in most respects.

  • The arcane shortcuts
  • the insistence on making it ridiculously hard to turn off auto-indent (even in a mode where trying to auto-indent does nothing but raise an error)
  • the requirement that its users know Lisp before using it properly
  • the clumsy initial download (and lack of bundled extensions/modes)

are all obstacles. I'd go so far as to say that if not for these things, Emacs would be the text editor of choice for a majority of computer users rather than just a minority of computer programmers, because underneath that initial crusty façade is raw power unmatched by another editor.

Incidentally, I keep on seeing people complain how "Emacs takes too long to load, so I've switched to Eclipse". I guess I use pretty good hardware, because Emacs never takes more than half a second to open up for me (and I tend to open my editor in the morning then keep it open all day anyway). On the other hand, Eclipse has yet to fully load in under 2 minutes on that very same machine (although, to be fair, the size of my company's codebase might have something to do with that).

In any case, I still don't seem to thirst for the blood of vi users (I'm sure that part comes later), but yeah, I use Emacs.

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