A first run-in with emacs

I have to admit that I had never used emacs — never even installed it really — until yesterday, hoping that the longlines mode would serve as a plausible replacement for nano’s complete and utter refusal to wrap text on the screen without inserting hard line breaks.

That was in turn making me hesitant to use Charm, since the posts I was submitting to this humble site were (as we used to say in the newspaper industry) appearing in ragged right. And links were skewed and twisted around. And paragraph breaks were occassionally in the wrong place.

And that’s just no good. Appearance is important, as much as I hate to admit it, personally. In the end it was taking me as much time to fix things as it was to type and set them up. Two steps forward, one step back.

Anyway, I tried emacs because I am afraid I still suffer post traumatic stress disorder from an early encounter with vi, and found it quite useful. It wasn’t the first thing I tried, but so far it seems to be the winner.

It’s a little bit heavy for 100Mhz — it takes five or six seconds to start up and the memory profile jumps to (gasp!) 7Mb of 12Mb used, but otherwise the results are decent. And that’s the most important thing right now.

I also am interested to see if it can take up some of the slack created that would be created if I move away from Zim. Most of my notes and memoirs :) are stuffed into a rather large desktop wiki in Zim, and I need those available when I reinstall a system, or troubleshoot something I am redoing from months earlier. Ideally, something with a nested document structure would be best, but life is all about learning new things, and so long as the job gets done, I can’t complain about small points of arrangement.

And learning new things is what will have to happen if I intend to keep emacs. I already have the manual bookmarked in elinks, and I managed to get longlines mode working without too much stress, but the general arrangement is a bit alien, and I still have a few minor points that I need to solve before it will feel comfortable.

But otherwise it seems to be fulfilling the main role I needed, which was to allow me to type, but not mangle the results so badly that it created more work in the end. Work smart, not hard. :D

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13 Responses to “A first run-in with emacs”


  1. 1 Nergui 2009/02/19 at 1:21 PM

    Emacs is definitely a highly useful editor, but on a 100Mhz computer you may want to consider something like Zile for most of your non-heavy editing work. It’s basically a tiny Emacs clone with nearly complete keyboard control compatibility (kind of like Elvis is for VIM). Sure, maybe you can’t customize or extend it the way you can with Emacs, but it starts as fast as Nano.

    Personally, I want to use Emacs more, but I have an unhealthy compulsive addiction to the tetris game that comes bundled with it. I try to keep all games like this as far away from my work environment as possible, so until I get around to figuring out how to compile Emacs without the games I think I’ll just stick to VIM. :/

  2. 2 Vanity Vertigo 2009/02/19 at 2:41 PM

    I’m sure nothing I can say will convince you to try vim but it’s the only editor I use. I’m not even one of those crazy vim fanatics. Once you get a hang of the fact that there are different modes then you’ll be fine. I used it for the longest time only knowing to press i to make it like any other editor. >_>

    I eventually discovered how useful the editing mode is. I also hated the whole hjkl for scrolling but now I’m so used to it that I miss it in Firefox (no I don’t want to try vimperiator).

  3. 3 elmariachi 2009/02/19 at 5:12 PM

    well I tried both vim and emacs and vim winned for me. I liked it so much I use vimperator. It’s better to first learn how to touch type though

  4. 4 Timmy Macdonald 2009/02/19 at 8:57 PM

    I don’t want to start a flame war, but all I’m saying is that Vi/Vim is a lot lighter than EMacs…

  5. 5 damaged justice 2009/02/19 at 10:50 PM

    I forced myself to get comfortable with vi when I first started using Unix, and while the early stages may have been painful, I’ve never had cause to regret it. To this day I manage to edit text with it quickly and efficiently, even while using probably less than 5% of its features.

    Admittedly, I may have been prejudiced by reading Steven Levy’s HACKERS in high school and seeing EMACS described as “Eight Megabytes And Constantly Swapping”. Still, a single page cheat sheet has been enough to keep me productive with vi for nearly twenty years.

  6. 6 damaged justice 2009/02/19 at 10:54 PM

    I should also point out when I learned the hkjl movement keys, rather than cursing the idiocy of the alien who came up with this, merely said: “Oh, *that’s* where Nethack got that from…”

  7. 7 Dr Small 2009/02/19 at 11:02 PM

    Kmandla, don’t let past experiences stop you from moving on to something more powerful and better :D Vim is definitely the ultimate editor for it’s commands, keybinds and features.

    Once you learn Vim (and it may only take you a day to get the feel for it) you will never want to turn back because you then know that you hold the ultimate editor in your hands!

    For starting, vimtutor is an excellent guide (although I never heard of it when I started, and did reading from the internet).

  8. 8 lefty.crupps 2009/02/20 at 7:17 AM

    I thought emacs was kinda dead? Like the browser wars and the desktop wars and the rest, I thought the editor wars was settled with Vim the winner long ago. Maybe not!?

    I am a Vim fan, but there is a ton for me to still learn. I just know that I can find Vim on pretty much any machine or live cd, whereas I’ve never even seen emacs on the screen nor had anyone suggest it to me.

    I heard once on the Linux Link Tech Show audiocast (I think it was that one), they were talking about all of the emacs ‘features’ and what it has built into it: “I tried Emacs once, but it wouldn’t let me install Linux.”

  9. 9 wizzard 2009/02/20 at 8:46 AM

    GNU Emacs comes with a printable two-page reference card that covers the most often used keyboard shortcuts. The name of this reference card file is refcard.ps.

  10. 10 Jared 2009/02/23 at 3:25 AM

    I thought emacs was kinda dead? Like the browser wars and the desktop wars and the rest, I thought the editor wars was settled
    with Vim the winner long ago. Maybe not!?

    I like the comparison – in the browser, desktop and editor wars the (unwashed) masses settled on IE, Windows and Vim respectively, but experienced people use Firefox, OSX / Linux and Emacs.

  11. 11 Cristhyano 2011/04/24 at 10:15 PM

    Man, let me know if you find a text editor for console that don’t fuck up lines when writing plain text. Nano is horrible in that.


  1. 1 The time has come « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2009/02/20 at 9:32 AM
  2. 2 Boycott Novell » IRC: #boycottnovell @ FreeNode: February 20th, 2009 - Part 3 Trackback on 2009/02/21 at 8:25 PM

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