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32. GNU Emacs

Contents:
Emacs: The Other Editor
Emacs Features: A Laundry List
Customizations and How to Avoid Them
Backup and Auto-Save Files
Putting Emacs in Overwrite Mode
Command Completion
Mike's Favorite Time Savers
Rational Searches
Unset PWD Before Using Emacs
Inserting Binary Characters into Files
Using Word Abbreviation Mode
Getting Around Emacs Flow Control Problems
An Absurd Amusement

32.1 Emacs: The Other Editor

The "other" interactive editor that's commonly used is Emacs. Emacs actually refers to a family of editors; versions of Emacs run under almost any operating system available. However, the most important (and most commonly used) version of Emacs is "GNU Emacs," developed by the Free Software Foundation.

emacs
GNU Emacs is popular because it's the most powerful editor in the Emacs family; it is also available for free, under the terms of the FSF's General Public License. (You can also get it from the Power Tools disc.) Although there are certainly religious differences between Emacs users and vi users, most people agree that Emacs provides a much more powerful and richer working environment.

What's so good about Emacs, aside from the fact that it's free? There are any number of individual features that I could mention. (I'll give a list of favorite features in article 32.2.) In a word, though, the best feature of Emacs is the extent to which it interacts with other UNIX features. For example, it has a built-in email (1.33) system so you can send and receive mail without leaving the editor. It has tools for "editing" (deleting, copying, renaming) files, for running a UNIX shell within Emacs, and so on. The C shell has a rather awkward command history mechanism; the Korn shell has something more elaborate. But imagine being able to recall and edit your commands as easily as you edit a letter! That's far beyond the abilities of any shell, but it's simple when you run a shell inside your editor.

In this book, we can't give anywhere near as much attention to Emacs as we can to vi (30.1), but we will point out some of its best features and a few tricks that will help you get the most out of it.

- ML, BR, DC from O'Reilly & Associates' Learning GNU Emacs


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