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Emacs Package Management

From: Stephen Eilert
Subject: Emacs Package Management
Date: Fri, 1 Aug 2008 18:27:24 -0300

Disclaimer: I have no idea if I am flogging a dead horse. If so, please disregard.

Compared to most people here, I am a pretty young Emacs user, barely a year and a half since I've "converted". However, my .emacs is already growing huge.

Part of this is due to Ruby on Rails development. I had to gather quite a lot of scripts to do what I want (rails-mode, nxhtml-mode, rinari [for find-file-in-project], color-theme, rdebug) and so on. This setup *almost* works, as some of the scripts do not play well with each other.

Since there appears to be work under way to get some IDE-like features into Emacs, I suppose some kind of "packaging system" wouldbe helpful. I have tried ELPA (http://tromey.com/elpa/) and loved its simplicity. It's an order of magnitude more convenient than seaching the web for a package, finding the appropriate download site, getting the latest revision, studying the README to figure out how to install it, copying it to .emacs.d and adding to .emacs... I am sure everyone here has done that, countless times.

With a slightly improved system, we could have dependencies. This could make easier to solve the aforementioned problem of gathering multiple, independent packages from different sources. 

Also, some packages have built-in bug reporting, but not all of them do. Some of them are maintained in the Emacs Wiki, some are not maintained at all, some have changed places more than once. Getting a package system inside Emacs *could* allow for simpler updating and a simpler way to notify bugs. I am aware of emacsbug, but it does require the ability to send e-mails from inside Emacs and is not aware of packages (obviously).

Has this already been tried before? My searches point to XEmacs, but I haven't installed it to see what its package manager looks like. 

Does anyone see a major flaw in a system like that? Or is it a matter of "show me the code and I'll comment"? ELPA could be the starting point.


programmer, n:
A red eyed, mumbling mammal capable of conversing with inanimate monsters.

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