emacs

For years I used Gedit as a text editor. I didn’t need one to do anything other than write, save, cut, copy, paste, and give me word counts. Usually, for long things, I would use LibreOffice, but Gedit served all of my note taking, idea sketching, and song writing needs.

Then it wasn’t sufficient anymore.

Over time I needed (or at least wanted) my text editor to do more. Text wrapping, working in split screens, and even just highlighting the beginning and ends of parentheticals. So, I switched to emacs.

Why emacs?

Well, I knew a lot of people who used emacs. That’s about it. Having friends use it means having a convenient support staff.

What I don’t like about emacs.

Key bindings are those things like how Ctrl-c copies selected text. Emacs uses wacky key bindings. I have some post-it notes with my favorite key bindings on them. Since emacs uses different key bindings than everything else, you have to code switch every time you move between, say, a web browser and emacs. Yes, I know you can set up extensions so all the typing you do into a browser is actually managed through emacs, I just don’t know how to do that yet.

The most annoying thing about emacs is that if you select text and start typing it looks like:

This is an example.

to…

Of when you try to replace text. This is an example.

Annoying, right?

This is EVEN MORE ANNOYING when you have to copy and delete a large swath of text. After you copy it (alt-w), it deselects the text and you have to find it all again.

Some neat things I like to do in emacs

Here are some of my favorite / most used commands in emacs.

Save and close

  • crtl-x ctrl-s, save
  • ctrl-x ctrl-c, save and quit

Copy, paste, and other basics

  • alt-w, copy selected text
  • ctrl-w, cut selected text
  • ctrl-y, paste text

Misc

  • ctrl-x h, select all
  • ctrl-x u, undo
  • ctrl-s, search
  • ctrl-g, cancel the command you’ve already started entering

That last one is the most important command in emacs. So important, I bolded it.

flyspell

Flyspell. Seriously. I can’t get over it. Maybe just because it’s new. Flyspell has changed my life. It’s a live spell checker, which was the greatest failure of emacs for most of my time using it.

alt-x flyspell-mode

This turns on flyspell.

alt-x flyspell-buffer

This runs spell check on the buffer (i.e. all the previous text you’ve entered).

I am using flyspell RIGHT NOW.

Frequent frustrations

Here are a few mistakes I make semi-frequently:

  • ctrl-v, this takes you to the bottom of the document (buffer) or something.

Actually, that’s the only one I could come up with right now in relation to key bindings.

Anyway, that’s my brief guide to emacs. There are more commands I use, but they come up infrequently enough that I need to look it up each time.

I love emacs–or maybe I should say I love using an extensible text editor that can, a far as I can tell, do anything given the right combination of keystrokes and sheer willpower.