The perfect Emacs setup


It looks like [G]VΛLOG from here, but I can’t get the rotation right.

Is the first letter supposed to be J, G, or something else? Is the second supposed to be V, N, or something else?


Oh, that?

That’s known a a “logo”

No, what really gets APL programmers excited is the ability to write in a style that looks like this

and output reasonable, useful code.

Recall from the wikipedia article on APL

Its central datatype is the multidimensional array.

Just as most people prefer

sum= 2 + 2

to Cobol’s


it follows that if you like programming in multidimensional arrays, a more elaborate symbol set might well be preferable to the standard keyboard layout.


Keith Emerson’s emacs?


Notepad++ was a pretty decent substitute for nedit when I had to work on windows.


I had mostly been using vim. I spent a month working with Emacs, got to start appreciating it, but then started getting frustrated with how many features still had major shortcomings in their implementations, after decades of development. For example, I’d often heard Emacs praised as being useful for handling email, so I started trying to figure out how to use a few of the half-dozen email clients for Emacs, and found all were difficult to configure, difficult to use, and incomplete.

(One of the most popular approaches was to use mutt through a shell within Emacs, which took a bunch of extra steps to configure, was still glitchy, and which left me wondering what the point of it was anyway, since I could just open another window in tmux and lauch mutt.)

Ultimately, I was thrown back to my earlier position on Emacs: that it was the most impressive of a generation of applications for full-screen text-only mode, before graphical user interfaces became ubiquitous. vim still fills a niche, if you need to do some quick editing through SSH on a headless server. For that matter, nano will work as well. But even though Emacs continues to be developed, it really represents a solution to a problem to which better solutions were found decades ago.

But really, I tend to use Geany mostly, and Notepad++ on Windows, which have plenty of features like syntax highlighting and matching brackets and so forth, but also use all the same GUI standards that all the other applications I use all day use.


You have no idea how little I care.


Uh, it’s just M-x butterfly.


This makes text versus graphics sound like different eras, rather than simply different kinds of UI. I think the ubiquity of GUIs is more based upon consumer fetishism than practicality. My early computer use went from Amiga-> Windows 3.1-95 -> MacOS 8-10.6. What these years of experience have taught me (ironically, perhaps) is that the whole desktop metaphor is clumsy, and that mousing around GUIs is a horribly inefficient waste of time. Even the best graphics programs I use (Adobe) can be quickly navigated using only the keyboard. Recently I switched from MacOS to GNU/Linux as my daily work environment due to inconsistencies in how Apple tries giving the graphics system precedence over the Mach/BSD subsystem. This has had me switching from BBedit to slowly learning both VIM and EMACS (heresy, I know) with no complaints.


Part of what I’m getting at about Emacs is that it’s not just a text editor; it was always a deliberate effort at a unified workspace. So it incorporates a windowing system, and a shell, and a file manager, and an email/Usenet client, and a calendaring system, and a diff mode, as well as hooks for the GNU CC toolchain, and its own documentation system, and its own internal LISP compiler, and I’m not even done listing the basic features of a default Emacs installation. Emacs does the job of hundreds of other applications. The saying was that you’d log into Emacs and do all your work through Emacs. This wasn’t a joke – that’s actually how people used it, and really how it was intended to be used.

There are two major difficulties with Emacs.

First, you’re unlikely to know about many of its features unless you’ve read the manual thoroughly AND checked the installation directory to see what other modules come with the default installation that the manual doesn’t mention, or, more likely, someone else told you about them. The features are difficult to discover.

Second, the keyboard commands are difficult, and many are prosaic. That’s the point of the joke about the photo, and part of the joke about “M-x butterfly” – many features of Emacs are only available if you type it in by name, and some of the commands you type in are longer than that. You can reassign keys, but eventually, you’ll run out of keys.

(By the way, actually try “M-x butterfly”.)

It doesn’t actually require a graphical interface to implement drop-down and cascading menus, of course, and a lot of text-only applications do that – midnight commander, for instance – but they still lack the flexibility of scale that GUIs have.


What do you mean by “flexibility of scale”?


It’s easier to resize windows in a GUI.


Ah, you meant literally! Not scale of deployment? Isn’t that what your Display PostScript is for? >;]P


Yeah and that crosses into the does 200% more than I would ever care to do. Mostly I am wanting to make a quick change a .conf file or some other such text file and nano manages that quite nicely and I don’t have to remember the difference between insert at beginning or end, etc.


That’s why there’s xemacs! :stuck_out_tongue:

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