My Emacs Journey 2020

I guess I am not alone when I'll say that COVID-19 made this year go by in an instant. It's time to write a small report on my Emacs usage.

Org-Mode & Magit

Even if some fancy editor would make me consider to stop using Emacs, I'd still use it just for org-mode and magit. Both tools are mentioned over and over on the internet and I can understand why (even if it starts to become boring). Those tools are just that good.

A few months ago I finally started to use org-capture to create entries in my "inbox/notes" file without switching my current context. For some reason this feature didn't appeal to me for a long time and I preferred to do things manually. I still wouldn't consider myself a org power-user, so it might take some more time to dive deeper into other more involved features.

Magit became even better after I had discovered magit-file-dispatch. Calling this function while looking at a file gives you an option menu where you can access functions such as listing all commits this file was changed in. It also offers the possibility to step through different versions of the opened file.


I started to use abo-abo's hydra package to create custom sets of keybindings, which I have previously mentioned in my journey write-up last year. Here a few examples of my current setup:

  • <apps> or <menu> with <f5> as a fallback: Show a hydra with my most common used commands such as "find file", "search in directory" or "switch buffer"
  • <f9>: Open a shell in the current directory
  • <S-f9>: Show a hydra with "project" or "directory" related commands such as "compile project" or "open this directory in a native file manager"
  • <f10>: Open magit
  • <S-f10>: Show a hydra with several magit related features (including magit-file-dispatch)
  • <f12>: Open my org agenda
  • <S-f12>: Show a hydra which offers org-capture, org-babel-tangle and many other org functions

Custom Elisp

I became proficient enough to write my own (very) simple elisp functions. Here are few examples:

  • Open a shell for the current directory. If this directory is inside a git repository, open a shell at the git "root" directory
  • Run a git pull operation for all my repositories in parallel
  • Copy the absolute or relative path of the currently opened file

Most of the time I'll start with a snippet I find on the internet, which I'll adjust to my needs.

Windows Performance

Sadly not much has changed regarding performance on Windows. Some operations might take one or two seconds, which is inconvenient but not too bad. For the most part I get irritated when I'm on a Linux machine as everything just happens instantaneously.

I know that I could try running Emacs in WSL 2, but I couldn't bring myself to go down that rabbit hole.

.NET Development

Chunkyard is a backup software that I develop as a hobby. As a form of personal challenge I decided to write it in Emacs instead of Visual Studio or Visual Studio Code. No code completion, no red error highlighting, no debugging. To pull this off I started to use the compile and recompile functions which run shell commands such as dotnet build. I wouldn't do this in a professional setting, as I still believe that a dedicated IDE offers a better developer experience.

Next Steps

Like last year I don't have any specific topics which I would like to focus on. Most of the improvements of this year happened in tiny steps, which is how I'll approach further improvements as well.

Published: 2020-12-11