[H-GEN] Emacs [was: Re: test]

Greg Black gjb at humbug.org.au
Sun May 12 07:51:08 EDT 2002

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Sandra Milne wrote:

| I know I probably shouldn't listen to what people say about emacs, but I 
| hear it's not very easy to use. "Bloatware" is another term I hear often 
| when people are talking about emacs. No I'm not starting a flamewar, but 
| I'd be interested in hearing from somebody who uses emacs just how 
| easy/difficult it is to learn, and whether it's worth the disk space.

Jason has already given an excellent answer to this, but I'd
like to add a few more thoughts.

Generally, the people who think of emacs as bloated haven't
looked very hard at it or compared it with the real bloatware
out there.  I have four copies of emacs running on the machine
I'm typing this on: two have only been running for a few days,
one was started on 11 April and the one I'm using to write this
message with was started on 14 January.  Between the four of
them, they are using less memory than the single netscape I'm
running (which has only been going since Thursday and could
never hope to run for five months without crashing).  The emacs
processes are also dwarfed by the window manager (fvwm), by the
Tcl/Tk-based calendar program I use, and (of course) by the X
server.  Of them all, the only one I would really miss is emacs.

As for ease of learning and use, it's easy to learn to use for
all the basic tasks by working with its in-built tutorial.  My
children and my wife (none of whom have the slightest interest
in computers) found emacs easy to learn and the kids used it for
years to do their homework and their university assignments (at
least until they left home, at which point I was no longer
responsible for their computing needs).  My wife still uses it
every day and has no problems with it.

Neither my kids nor my wife use (or even suspect the existence
of) the vast majority of its features; and, although I'm a long
time user, tester and porter of emacs, I certainly use only a
fraction of its capabilities.

The thing is, it does not suit everybody -- as is to be expected
from any complex piece of software.  Lots of people love vi and
the various vi work-alikes; other people love emacs; and other
people love other tools.  The fact that some people choose to
say they loathe a program simply means that it doesn't suit
them, and that's to be expected -- we're not all the same and
it's reasonable for us to have different likes and dislikes with
our software.  It's generally a good thing that there is a
range of excellent utilities out there that we can choose from.

I happen to like the initial look and feel of emacs; and I love
many of the packages that people have written for it that make
my work (and play) easier and more productive.  And, for those
occasions when it doesn't do exactly what I want, I can knock
out a few lines of lisp and have the pleasure of seeing it do
something new.  (I'm no lisp programmer, but my lisp is good
enough for me to write small extensions to emacs.)

And, as many Humbug members know, I also use ed and vi to do
quite a bit of my editing -- and both of them are very different
from emacs.  However, for all my programming work and for most
of my longer writing, emacs is by far the tool of choice for
me.  It will never be that for everybody, but it has a large and
loyal following and is continually being improved.


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