Ever since I started to use Linux and become a free software advocate I read about the vi vs. emacs battle. The neverending debate: which is the better text editor? Interestingly I’ve only tried them for like 5 minutes and in both cases I just went back to nano.
A few months ago I wanted something that I can use for editing markdown and something fast, that I can use everywhere without much install and dependencies. I gave another chance for Emacs. I went back with a different mindset, tried to be more open about it. Instead of just diving in and discovering things by myself I searched for tutorials and help.
If you don’t know Emacs, but want to try it you have to know 3 things:
Emacs is in probably every distro and every operating system. It has a long history, because it is one of the original GNU project by Richard Stallman. So go ahead and search for it in your repository or if you use Windows/OS X, just download it from the official website.
Fans of Emacs like to joke about that Emacs is an OS itself. Emacs is not just for programmers. There are many modes, and large repository of extensions. If you are tired, you can play tetris in it. That’s something right? You can read RSS, browse the web in it or udpate your blog, etc.
Emacs is keyboard shortcut heavy. This is a true geek heaven, and I love it because I am a keyboard maniac. You definitely better to use the keyboard then trying to use the mouse. In the long run, the more you use Emacs, the shortcuts will be natural for you.
First I went through the Emacs tutorial, which is a nice introduction for beginners. I don’t think I’ve ever see or used on in software tutorial as this. It is not your usual Help section, but a step by step explanation of things.
After that I just explored the things I wanted to do. I also started a little notebook and wrote down the useful things I’ve learned.
And of course here is the famous Org mode:
“Org mode is for keeping notes, maintaining TODO lists, planning projects, and authoring documents with a fast and effective plain-text system.”
I recently started to discover it. I also use Emacs as my RSS reader, via the elfeed. At first I had a hard time to add and organize my feeds, but you can do it with org files, so it is much better.
Emacs is also my editor for buku, a command line bookmark manager.
It maybe hard to use at first, but you can learn everything you want to at your own pace.