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Re: Emacs with Cocoa/GNUstep

From: David De La Harpe Golden
Subject: Re: Emacs with Cocoa/GNUstep
Date: Wed, 27 Apr 2011 20:13:51 +0100
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux x86_64; en-US; rv: Gecko/20110402 Icedove/3.1.9

On 27/04/11 01:39, Germán Arias wrote:
Hi, I'm trying to run emacs with GNUstep, but it seems to be totally
broken. So my question is if someone is running emacs with Cocoa and if
it works fine. Because with latest gnustep packages don't work (compile
but can't run). And after the last update in file configure.in, the
class nsmenu.m can't compile. So I can guess there isn't testing in

Probably not a whole lot.... FWIW, I built it successfully several times a few months back, and though it was not really especially useful once built, it was not completely unusable either, it was working enough for me to debug some pasteboard interaction issues without having access to macosx.

I'm not personally up to doing much it about it at the moment, so here are some notes (Stefan: mostly same ones I passed offlist to you at the time) as a braindump, some of the below is probably obsolete:

First and foremost, DO NOT use any debian packages of GNUstep at time of writing, they're obsolete and hopelessly buggy, especially on 64-bit. I wasted basically a weekend's worth of emacs-time that way, I switched to an svn checkout of GNUstep installed to /usr/local/GNUstep and was up and running fairly rapidly.

GNUstep itself is fairly painless to build from source (though n.b. I am used to underdocumented build scripts from hell from work, my perception may be skewed), the most tricky bit was getting building the gnustep-back backend right, so that I could use cairo.


The other build-time issue is that emacs "./configure --with-ns" doesn't seem to discover the ObjC headers properly in the gnustep case - specifying CPPFLAGS "fixed" that, but I suspect TRT would be to have emacs' configure use "gnustep-config --objc-flags" to discover the flags (or maybe just $GNUSTEP_MAKEFILES and the right part of gnustep's Makefiles, but gnustep-config seems interesting 'cos it apparently works much like other blah-config type tools).

I wouldn't say it is _totally_ unusable, but neither is it at all pleasant . There are probably plenty more smaller issues that I'm presently not noticing given the big ones:

0. Make sure the relevant gnustep daemons are running.

I mean the gpbs / gdnc /gdomap daemons. Not really an emacs problem, and documented in the gnustep docs, just something to be aware of.

gpbs is particularly important, as it's the GNUstep PasteBoard Server, and without it, clipboard/primary/secondary just ain't gonna work.


1. frame resizing.

The single most major annoyance (or at least tied with repaint) is that it doesn't handle being resized by the window manager, you have to (set-frame-width/height) from within emacs for it to work. I guess macosx handles resizing differently.

2. repaint

There are nasty repaint issues sometimes too upon partial scrolling, a bit like the ones you used to see on w32 emacs under wine. A page-scroll up and down has thus far largely dispelled them when they occur. Some of the colors seem way off (my yellow-on-black fringes come out cyan-on-white).

3. toolbar/scrollbar.

The toolbar doesn't work, and the scrollbars only work sometimes, but it's not like I use either much. The menu bar is fine.

4. choice of fonts and gui backend:

Wrong choice of font can render it difficult to use too - its metric computation isn't always right I guess, with one font I ended up with something like a 3-pixel high minibuffer.

Remember that GNUstep also has multiple graphics backends with different font behaviours, I used the cairo backend which reputedly has slightly poorer font rendering than art, but OTOH worked.

Remember to try with "openapp Emacs -Q", because your ~/.emacs (which gnustep will see) might be setting a problematic font, mine initially was.

It sometimes makes "interesting" font choices itself, I don't know where it found some sort of comic-sans alike on my system but it did.

5. Non-latin chars.

Doesn't seem to do well here at all.

6. keyboard modifier mapping

One thing that helped a lot was to reconfigure the gnustep-level keyboard modifier mapping so that the keys in ns emacs ultimately wound up similar to x11 emacs with its out-of-box defaults.


I used (with Help on Super_R because I wanted to see what it did, turns out ns emacs treats it as Hyper...):

NSGlobalDomain GSFirstControlKey Control_L
NSGlobalDomain GSSecondControlKey Control_R

NSGlobalDomain GSFirstAlternateKey Alt_L
NSGlobalDomain GSSecondAlternateKey NoSymbol

NSGlobalDomain GSFirstCommandKey Super_L
NSGlobalDomain GSSecondCommandKey NoSymbol

NSGlobalDomain GSFirstHelpKey Help
NSGlobalDomain GSSecondHelpKey Super_R

7. [new since I passed this to Stefan]. No timers/idle???

Timers and idle stuff mostly not running, I think. Emacs processes stuff when there's input i.e. wiggle the mouse to make stuff happen ?!

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