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Re: Failing to see the allure of Emacs

From: Jeff Clough
Subject: Re: Failing to see the allure of Emacs
Date: Tue, 04 May 2010 15:42:58 -0000
User-agent: Gnus/5.13 (Gnus v5.13) Emacs/23.1 (gnu/linux)

Daniel <> writes:

> I started learning emacs 48 hours ago.  The motivation for this was to
> be able to do programming and general computing tasks through just
> emacs.  I've seen the wizards who are just doing all kinds of crazy
> stuff--quickly.  I am not sure what the benefit is now, though, after
> going through the tutorial.

Falling in love with Emacs, so to speak, likely isn't something that
happens in 48 hours.  I'm not saying there's any particular onus on your
part to spend more time with it if you're not seeing a pay-off, but the
value makes itself clear the more you do with it and the longer you're
in it.

> Yes, I can edit text files and python files and java files no
> problem.  And I have no doubt that I'll get faster. But I thought that
> I would never have to leave the emacs terminal window.

There are still things I leave Emacs for, such as surfing the web.  My
usage patterns for using things like Facebook, YouTube and a few forums
make this much easier to do in a mouse and dedicated browser that Just
Works.  That said, 90% of my time is spent typing at an Emacs window.

> So much of daily computing for anyone consists of pdfs, word, excel
> documents, gmail, itunes, file browsing, etc.  So I still have to
> switch to the gui to do these things.  If I've still got to leave the
> emacs environment to do general computing tasks, what is the
> productivity gain here?  There are plugins, I know, but I haven't
> explored those.

Emacs does PDFs out of the box, has text layout (though not WYSIWYG)
tools, spreadsheet packages, can browse your directories, move, copy and
rename files and can read mail and news.  A week or so ago I got fed up
with Rhythmbox (think iTunes for Linux only it's crap) and wrote my own
in Emacs Lisp.  Now I listen to my mp3s in Emacs.

> I've always been someone who reads the shortcuts built into something
> like BBEdit or TextWrangler, Notepad ++, or Eclipse, so I am not sure
> how much more productive I'll be.

Probably very, since if you're someone who can easily learn such things,
not only can you take advantage of the bindings that already exist, but
you can bind arbitrary commands to whatever keys you like, switch around
existing bindings and likely never have to touch your mouse while in

> Also, I'm a bit confused with regards to using dired to navigate files
> vs just the bash shell, which I'm more familiar with.

Type M-x shell from within Emacs and you still can.  Only now the shell
is tied to a buffer and you can use all of your happy Emacs commands on
what you type and the output you get.

> But again, did I expect too much out of emacs?  So far I find it to be
> about as good as BBEdit . It's a text editor but no more.  I expected
> emacs to be the one program that ruled them all.

When anyone first starts using Emacs it has very little utility over
what you'd expect from Notepad or any other bare-bones text editor.
Once you start using it and learning the basic commands (moving around,
manipulating the kill ring, dancing with buffers, etc.) it graduates to
the level of something like BBEdit, or the editor in your favorite IDE.

But then you start looking at the different packages that come with it
and see that now you can browse your directories and still use things
like search-forward to jump right to a file in a long list.  Or that
org-mode lets you take notes and keep track of tasks in a way that
really helps.

And if you pick up a little Lisp along the way, you might find yourself
adding a new binding or creating an entirely new command while you're
working and not have to leave Emacs in order to use it.

It's not for everyone, takes a while to experience the big pay off and a
longer while for people to say "How did I ever live without it?"  You
just have to decide if it's worth spending that much time on.


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