Returning to emacs

  2015-09-04


Yes I know, I would be better off talking about religion, politics, war or any other less sensitive subject to developers all over the world.

A short background.

I have been for many years (around 10 if I count right) a Vi user, but it wasn’t always like that. Like most devs my age, I began by using Turbo* (C in my case) editor, which most likely had a name, but I never bothered to learn it.

During my period bumping with programming first steps, that was the paragon of editing, I would even bash against those puny VB users that had their click driven editor (I know I was foolish, that editor was quite nice).

Anyway, I went through most common dev phases, minimalist, super IDE, middle ground and, of course, editor war whenever possible.

But my first contact with a “big” editor, was Emacs (oh shock), introduced by Chipaca. I really enjoyed that Emacs at first sight, the problem with it: it was heavily customized and that presented a very big ramp up from regular editors. De-noob-izing yourself in editor matters is a very hard task, you need to tell your brain to learn a whole new set of automatic things none of which is especially intuitive. So there I was, alone with my borrowed Emacs config instinctively hitting things like Ctrl-s, Ctrl-z and a myriad of other common shortcuts that only created very confusing output in the minibuffer.

Time passed and I could not get decent proficiency in Emacs and so I yielded.

After my devastating failure (these things do terrible dents in a young programmers ego… which are easily and quickly fixed by the fact that we are egocentric bastards) I decided to try the other side, what I considered, the dark side. Don’t get me wrong, I liked vi, I used it for years and, as a sysadmin in a country with slow internet, it made my life easier many times.

What I cannot put my head around is the modes, I understand them, there are after all, a more elegant weapon for a resource-less age, but I cannot put my automatic movements around them. I am a visual person, I prefer my PlayStation to net-hack and I really cannot be invited to a role game because I start yelling at everyone that they are crazy for using their imaginations instead of a video card. Emacs provides me with the visual abstraction I feel comfortable with, I am again re-learning stuff, but its not really that much, fingers are getting used to most things and the keyboard will have to change to fit the rest.

Overall I am really happy, I still go back to vi for certain things, especially when doing remote stuff, but I feel the speed and productivity coming.

A big help is that I find customizing Emacs slightly simpler, I do short snippets in elisp that I understand (and despise at the same time, omg what an ugly language, all these parentheses) and do stuff, little by little, I get it where I want. A special thanks is in order this time to Katherine Cox-Buday that had the patience to help me set up again my Emacs, especially the golang part (go-mode was a big plus for changing sides again) and as a consulting reference during the first ramp-up.

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