The Magic Of Emacs

Ancient Editor

What is Emacs? Its a powerful, extensible, customizable, self-documenting, real-time display, text editor. Emacs is no ordinary text editor. Its an editor on steroids.
Emacs can be used for IRC, reading / writing emails, reading news, prog coding, writing LaTex documents, editing text and much, much more.

Emacs has a long history it first appeared in 1975, starting life as TECO, a very primitive line editor. Richard Stallman added a macro feature to make it more usable. As usage grew around the MIT lab, people contributed their macros, which were incorporated into TECO and slowly the application grew.

The keys and combinations were, disparate and one night a fellow hacker at the same lab, Guy Steele, began work on standardizing the diverse macro commands into a single set. Steele and Stallman worked on it jointly for a time, then Stallman went on to complete the work on his own and Emacs was born.

The name Emacs comes from "E"diting "MAC"ros.  Emacs as we know it did not really come to life till around 1981-3, after Richard Stallman rewrote much of Emacs following a legal dispute about code included in Emacs. The code was originally donated by James Gosling, a few years earlier. Gosling left to start his own business selling an Emacs clone called Gosling Emacs. Gosling  disputed that he gave permission for his code to be used. To resolve the case, Richard Stallman, pulled the code and rewrote those parts himself.

Emacs usage grew on the strength of its easy customization. A programmer could easily change any part he did not like, till it worked the way he wanted.

We are now in the 21st Century and still using this ancient text editor, a throw back to computings dark beginnings. Why would anyone use Emacs? It doesn't even have WYSIWYG display. Its just a plain dumb text editor. It can't do fancy font formats like bold, italic, underline, etc.

The reason Emacs is still so strong after 35 years, lies in its power and simplicity.

Learning Emacs may seem like a daunting task, but once you lay down a foundation of key strokes, as a starting point, you easily build on that to develop your skill and speed. Key combos become second nature and you find yourself using them in other applications and wishing they worked. Emacs usage gets easier with time. Furthermore, once your up to speed, using Emacs, your productivity sky rockets.

Using Emacs, you edit documents in minutes, that take hours with other methods.
  • Emacs has very powerful search and replace functions
  • Emacs has regular expressions.
  • Emacs has color hilighting for coding.
  • Emacs has Multi-screens.
  • Emacs has mouseless control. Yep. Mouseless. No mouse.
Using only the keyboard, (no mouse) is so fast and powerful, you'll kick yourself for not migrating sooner.

Once your used to the key combos and layout, you can type, edit, cut, copy, paste, search, replace, import, export, save, save as, open, close, and much much more with great alacrity. All from the comfort of your keyboard.

Faster still, remap your keys for speed, and keep the most common used within finger reach, on the home-row. This is absolutely brilliant and blindingly fast. Working your fingers from the home row, you'll wish all apps could work the same way.

The Emacs method of typing, searching, editing, moving, undoing, is just so damn fast. You'll look for ways to make Firefox, Chrome, or other appls work like Emacs.

Crazy but true.

It takes a little effort, but the payback is more than tenfold. There is one provisor. You must be able to touch-type. If you can't... learn. It won't take long. I learnt in a couple of months. If you do a lot of computer keyboard work, you need to touch type. Go learn. There are free tutorials on the web. Google them.

Using Emacs you'll have greater control, greater speed, and greater know-how.

I'm no Emacs expert, but if newbies and non-users break into the Emacs way, and learn to use Emacs, they will not regret it.

Its great!