Emacs vs. Vim

Steven Harms has1 a nice take on the Emacs/Vi holy wars. His idea is that the two sides are actually talking about different things. As we've discussed many times here, Emacs is about the ultimate customizable work environment. It provides a modern day Lisp machine where everything is under your control. Emacs users are famously loath to leave Emacs and move as much functionality as possible into it.

Vi(m), on the other hand, is proudly simply an editor. They consciously eschew the Emacs “do any- and everything” philosophy. Their philosophy is do one thing and do it well. That one thing is, of course, editing.

Thus, when the two sides meet in battle they are really talking about different things: Emacs users about a customizable work environment and Vi(m) users about an editor. It's no wonder they can never agree. Of course, a lot of it is probably just the geeks' love of arguing about who's tool is better but Harms' take makes it sound so much more high minded.


1 Actually, had. After I wrote this I noticed that his post is from 2005. It's no less on point for that, however.

This entry was posted in General and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.
  • Phil

    I always figured that most people (on both sides) do see it that way? Hence the standard joke that Emacs is a nice OS but it lacks a good editor.

    But then I've never gone to 'war' about this -- it's always been obvious that both are awesome. I'm happy to tell someone why I love Emacs, and if I encountered a programmer using Windows notepad I'd have to have words with them, but I'm not going to get into an argument with a Vim user.

    The fact is that nobody using Emacs or Vim has made a bad choice.

    • jcs

      I agree completely. I used (v)im for longer than I've used Emacs and have nothing but respect for it. Like you, I never enlisted.