Introducing Emacs-fu


  • There’s lots to learn about emacs.
  • I learnt some of it and made a course.
  • It’s coming out 1st May and it’s going to be awesome.
  • Put your email down at the bottom of this post to be the first to hear when it’s ready.

There’s a lot to Emacs

There’s so much I don’t know about it. I’ve been using emacs as my main editor for who knows how many years, so I’m pretty comfortable with it. But I started to get frustrated with a few work habits that seemed embarrassingly clunky, and there was a growing feeling that I was actually doing a lot of things the slow way.

On top of this, I’d been dancing around Lisp ever since reading Paul Graham’s gospel writing on the subject. Never quite learning it properly, but interested enough to read up on it. And of course emacs uses its own flavour of lisp at the core, so the glimmering possibility of being able to shape my editor was definitely alluring. But I hadn’t actually reached the point of, you know, actually writing any lisp.

So here I was, basically frustrated with my work habits and non-ninja-ness.

So I went out and learnt a bunch of stuff

A bunch of screencasts, tutorials, features, shortcuts, customisations. I dug through them, kept track of the bits I found useful, and kept them post-it noted on my laptop until they’d sunk in. I haven’t reached any sort of mastery, but it was definitely an upgrade.

I wrote down the good stuff

I made a course, in fact. An email course, in four parts. An email course is perfect for this because you can become a lot more effective with emacs by learning new habits. An email course, with an email every week, is ideal for that because you get plenty of time to practice and internalise each week’s lesson before moving on to the new stuff. Once the new habits are internalised, you don’t have to think about them and you just automatically do the new, more productive thing.

The course consists of four emails, one per week. Here are the lessons:

  • The Basics – get the fundamentals down for speedy editing
  • Nifty built-ins – extend your repertoire of nifty functions
  • Regexp – get your head around emacs’ very special flavour of regular expressions
  • Customisation – tweak emacs to your liking

The course is at an intermediate level. It starts off with some basics to fill in some gaps, but doesn’t dwell there, moving on to more interesting topics. It’s also not super-advanced. There’s a touch of lisp in the last section, but the focus of that lesson is not on the lisp technicalities, but on getting emacs customised to your liking.

There’s lots of good stuff there. It’s going to be awesome, and it’s coming out 1st May. Pop your email in this box and I’ll let you know when it’s ready.

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