Re-revisiting emacs

by Robert Daeley

Following up on my article last week, Again with the emacs, and prompted by a commenter in that post, I downloaded Aquamacs, an 'Emacs distribution with customizations and an enhanced Mac user experience', according to the developer. The 33 MB dmg file gives you a 124 MB app bundle to drag to your hard drive. This already seems excessive for a text editor -- but of course, Emacs Is Not Really A Text Editor.

(Author spends a few seconds trying to make something out of the EINRATE acronym.)

Here's a developer screenshot of Aquamacs Emacs running on Tiger to get you acquainted.

Upon launching the app, it in turn launched Help Viewer to let me know what was new in this release. Coincidentally, Aquamacs 0.9.6 has just been released in the past couple of days. Closing Help, I switched over to the Aquamacs scratch window -- like regular Emacs, a starting point.

The first thing I noticed was in the menubar -- there are two sets of shortcuts available for frequently used commands, a Mac-friendly version and an Emacs-friendly version. Copy, for example, has Command-C and H-c. Or Close Current Buffer: Command-w and H-w. Not all commands are done this way, but seemingly most of the biggies are.

In the short Aquamacs session I had today, while not earth-shatteringly illuminating (no vi defections here), it made me feel a lot more comfy about the Emacs experience. If, like me, you are a combo Mac and Unix guy, though perhaps starting on the Mac side of things, Aquamacs might well be a good stepping stone into a powerful new editing experience. And there is a ton of power to be had.

However, the point of my trying out Aquamacs wasn't so much attempting to find comfiness, nor really as a stepping stone. I decided to give it another try because I recalled a technological tenet of mine, that it is better to have many tools at your disposal than only one. Even if you are not highly proficient in all of them, knowing them all at least cursorily makes you a better programmer, administrator, or even user.

Much like the futility of the OS wars begins to grate on you after a while, the Editor Wars -- while fun -- do every programmer who ignores the other side a disservice.

And by the way, Emacs devotees will be happy to know I wrote everything after the first paragraph of this article in Aquamacs. :)


Whoops. Old habits die hard.


2005-09-29 22:23:35
why aquaemacs?
not trying to troll, but I don't get what's better about it than using 'emacs' from inside terminal. I use eshell a lot and pop in and out of mounts that way and use bookmarks extensively.

I've had a lot of issues getting syntax highlight to work for some file types (and especially mixed code, eg js + css inside of php or jsp; yeah, I tried htmldeluxe and tried modding some other .el's, but couldn't pull it off).

anyway: why 'aqua' emacs?

2005-09-29 22:28:49
why aquaemacs?
Hi, there. A legitimate question.

As I said in the article, it's possible that for someone who is Mac and Unix literate (or even just Mac literate who is trying to become more Unix literate) might find the dual nature of Aquamacs helpful. For myself, when I next decide to play with emacs, I will be launching a terminal window and running through the tutorial.

2005-10-01 00:59:10
Try TextMate
The next time that you feel like trying a new editor take a look at TextMate ( I can tell a ton of good things about it, but it is better you take a look yourself.