My love-hate relationship with Emacs

Hi, I’m Emanuel and I have a problem: I love and hate Emacs.

Today instead of offering a solution of a known problem or posting a link to cool stuff, I’m here to ask for hints: I want to hear from other Emacs users what do they use to address my UI problems.

I’ve always been a Vim user (compulsory editor flame war image here) but I wanted to take the red pill and try to embrace Emacs for a while and then take an informed decision. Will I be able to go back? Well it seems I wasn’t and I want to stick with Emacs, the change wasn’t easy: I always kept relapsing to my editor of choice due to impending deadlines, but almost a year ago I decided to take the plunge and I installed only Emacs on my new laptop (I am on OSX, use Emacs with Cocoa installed via homebrew), no other serious editor available.

And I loved it! For a RoR developer, Emacs was a perfectly viable solution, I fell in love with its bindings (after the necessary hiatus to forget dd to delete a line) and my muscle memory reset to the new environment.

But I don’t always write software and I’d love to use Emacs (switching editors is almost more taxing than context switching) to jot down thoughts and write articles, and whenever I do, I feel it goes in the way. When I thought of writing this article I was sure I’d come up with a list of different problems, but in the end I found out my gripes are mainly with the UI and almost anything points to the buffers. My Emacs feels like a one window program, I usually split the screen in 2 or 3 parts, but I’d love to use tabs or multiple windows to arrange my thoughts and get the most of my screen estate. Sure, I could navigate through buffers, but sometimes it feels like throwing everything in a black hole where it’s hard to get something back or at least know what’s there.

And when I need to start some plain text editing, I’d love to find a zero friction way to just open a tab and start jotting down words, like a markdown default mode for empty files (did I mention I don’t want to even start thinking of where I want to save the file beforehand?) something that will make my Notational Velocity setup obsolete.

Maybe there’s no solution (I doubt it) and I’ll have to keep using nv, Emacs and Xcode or there’s a simple one and someone will just RTFM-me, but I’d love to hear what’s your setup and how you addressed similar problems. So, any suggestion is most welcomed, you can find me on Twitter (@onigiri) and no, please, don’t reply with suggestions to switch back to Vim or Sublime and that Textmate is open source now, or Atom, the new kid on the block. It’s not the goal of this article 😉

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