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Simple thoughts

Emacs - the Beginning

This could be part of an ongoing series about emacs and my thoughts, it is very unstructured and might be rambling

The Beginning

Are you a programmer? Do you use some sort of all purpose utility text editor? If you answered yes and then replied with Notepad or Visual Studio or XCode then you should take another look. I once upon a time used Notepad2 or Textmate depending on platform as my general use text editor. Both are excellent text editors but I found a need for one that could run in a console and for one that was cross platform without a lot of hassle. Two stalwarts stood out among the crowd, two venerable old men in the land of text editors, vi/vim and emacs. I chose emacs for probably silly reasons but once down the road it stuck.

The Start

The first time you pick up emacs for whatever platform (and it is available for all platforms), it will be an alien experience. The VERY first thing you need to do is remap your caps lock to Control key, trust me on this. Sharpkeys (Windows) and Remap4Macbook (OSX) are your friends. The first thing you need to understand is almost all commands start with either control or meta (alt), c-x c-s saves, c-x c-f opens a file and esc esc leaves the minibar at the bottom. This is all I knew at the beginning and it was terrible, after a few days I put it away and went back to my environments.

Time Passes

Time passed and I read more and great developers all seemed to use vi or emacs, it also seemed pertinent that a text editor decades old would still be good decades from now. Plus the UI is simplicity in itself and emacs in particular can be a reader, calendar, organizer and directory manager all in one. I read all this and knew I had to try it, so I forced myself into it and it was painful. Be aware that this is painful and you must go through hell to get to something awesome. Google is your friend on when trying to do something with emacs, I still have the cheat sheet and my .emacs file is mostly stolen from other posts.

Ultimately the thing that made me switch was org mode and more on that later, but once I spent a few months on it I realized my fingers could fly while doing things and macros were almost unthinking in doing some quick code cleanup. While writing python code it worked extremely well and things seemed to flow out of my fingers onto the keyboard.

More Later