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.
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.
Of when you try to replace text. This is an example.
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
- 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. 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.
This turns on flyspell.
This runs spell check on the buffer (i.e. all the previous text you’ve entered).
I am using flyspell RIGHT NOW.
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.