My Emacs Journey 2019

Let me start my saying that yes, I still use Emacs. What a surprise. In fact, Emacs is one of my most used tools besides other stables such as a browser. What has changed though, is how I am using some aspects of this little editor.

What Has Not Changed

I still believe, that Emacs is not the "right" tool for everything. I'm still jumping into Notepad++ if I want to do a very quick edit on a Windows machine. I'm also not thinking about moving tasks such as e-mail into Emacs.

Terrific Task Management

Org-mode is great. It has replaced all other note taking or calendar management software that I was using. Everything (well, 90%) lives in org-mode. I have one "big" (300 lines-ish) file which contains everything I'd like to remember or would like to do.

Underwhelming Windows Performance

My Windows machines run a native version of Emacs, which is… just ok. Some actions take a few seconds, which just feels sluggish, but that's something that I have to live with for now.

One of my biggest pain points was setting up spell checking on Windows. It might sound too simple, but it took me several attempts before I pulled it off. Thanks WSL.

Literate Dotfiles

Most of my config files and custom scripts live in an org file inside a git repository. Using a simple shortcut, I can create "real" config files based on this org file. I have mentioned this process in a previous post.


Emacs keybindings can feel clunky and some people even feel pain after using them for too long. Based on several resources (such as this one), I have created a whole set of custom keybindings which are based on sequences instead of chords. Instead of pressing "Control + x" and "Control + f" (C-x C-f) I can now press "Apps" and "f" to search for a file. It took me some time to get used to some of these bindings, but I think it was worth the effort. And if I ever end up in a situation where I have to use a keyboard without an "Apps" key, I can still fallback to the "normal" keybindings.

Strong Stables

I'd like to make a quick shout out to some fantastic packages which I use everyday:

  • elfeed (my RSS reader)
  • ivy, counsel, swiper (improved search and navigation)
  • magit (hands down, the best git client I have ever used)
  • neotree (a tree based file viewer)

The Journey Continues

Even though the learning curve started out steep, I'm glad that I picked up Emacs. For now, I don't have any specific goals on how this journey should continue. Instead, I'll just have to see where things take me.

Published: 2019-12-20