Learning Emacs

2 minute read

So, I’ve started using emacs in my daily development and writing process, after a couple of years using vim exclusively. Why did i do it? Mostly curiosity, as i’ve heard of this great behemoth that does everything under the sun, and you can also use it for writing. And lot’s of people i look up to in the IT world are using it, so what the heck, i decided to give it a try.

If you ever heard of emacs having a steep learning curve, those claims are 100% correct, and this SO question shows it truthfully.

So, starting with emacs you will get a screen with an emacs logo, some instructions and no way of doing anything you are used to doing, like opening files, saving them, or exiting the editor. That is also true when you are learning vim, so if you are a sadist there is a funny game to play with junior developer, open up vim/emacs for someone who hasn’t used them, and tell them to exit it, hours of fun guaranteed.

Back to serious world. The best thing that will help you learn emacs, is emacs itself, open it, type C-h t (hold down control, press h, let control go, press t). And it will open up the tutorial for you. Be sure to read the whole tutorial first. Then let it sit in your head, and after a day or two, reread the tutorial. Then do what everyone has done when switching editors, stick to it for a week or two, it will be painful, and you always have the safety net of your favourite editor/IDE if you fail to bend emacs to suit your style. Yes, that is correct, emacs is there to bend to your needs, not the other way around. But customizing it is something you should wait with, until you learn to use the editor properly.

If you absolutely need a stater kit of some kind, you can try with emacs prelude:

which comes bundled in with almost all plugins that a normal IDE has, be sure to read the readme, because some of the default keybindings are changed.

Also, emacs has a lot of online resources for you to learn from/copy elisp code and customize it as much as you want/need. Here are some of them:

Planet Emacsen - An aggregation of emacs related blogs and topics, from all around the world Emacs Wiki - A place to learn anything and everything about emacs, a very big and scary place, use the search Sacha Chua’s Emacs category - A blog with lots of interesting reads on it, the link will get directly to the emacs archive