A very, very newbie question :)

Jonadab the Unsightly One jonadab at bright.net
Wed Sep 6 13:27:48 CEST 2000

nemir.remove at hotmail.spamenot.com (nemir) wrote:

> >> emacs, or pythonwin) and auto-indention. Syntax
> >> highlighting makes the structure of a program much more
> >> apparent to me.
> <trim stuff recommending emacs cuz I don't know anything
> about emacs>

In brief, to use Emacs really effectively you need to take
the time to learn lisp, but once you do it can literally do
anything.  Basically, it's fifty megabytes or so of pure
functionality.  Emacs is not just a text editor.  It can
surf the web, do ftp, read usenet, match up your parens and
other grouping symbols for you, and brew coffee.  People
joke about using it as an operating system.  Emacs is a
lifestyle choice.

The main advantage of Emacs is that it is extensible.  For
example, I wrote a module for it that looks through the list
I help maintain of over 3000 uses for peanut butter[1],
finds the first use that doesn't have a category tag,
displays this use nicely wrapped in one window with the list
of categories ennumerated in the other window, waits for me
to type in numbers (delimited by carriage returns) for any
categories I want to apply to it, then when I hit TAB
reinserts it (all on one line) into the list and starts the
next uncategorised use.

Now, I could have written that in another language, but then
if I was looking at a use and noticed something I wanted to
change, I'd have to exit and fire up an editor.  This way,
I'm already *in* an editing window, with all the editing
functionality I need already at my fingertips, and I can
just key in my changes and proceed.  (Although because of
the way I rebound the number keys (for inserting the
category tags) if I want to insert a digit I have to escape
it with Ctrl-q.)

Most people don't need that kind of power.  And there's a
price to pay in complexity.  There's a very substantial
learning curve associated with Emacs.  It's worth it if you
do serious heavy-duty text editing.

Of course, for Python I have python-mode, so my Python code
is nicely coloured, and the indentation is mostly handled
for me (although often I have to hit backspace to undent; in
most modes that's done automatically, but with Python
there's no syntax to clue it in; still getting used to

vim is another editor that is powerful but complex.  I can't
really compare it fairly with Emacs because I've never
learned vim.  vim comes from the Unix world (whereas, emacs
is, at least in theory, older than Unix (although Emacs
(that is, Gnu Emacs, the version on which most current
versions (including NTEmacs and, less directly, XEmacs) are
based) is somewhat newer).)

[1] http://users.kconline.com/cgi-bin/cgiwrap/kerrw/pb.pl

- jonadab

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