Spacemacs

There's been a lot of buzz lately regarding Spacemacs. Probably the best way of describing it is as an Emacs environment that brings together VIM key bindings, an attractive UI, and a powerful customization capability. Sebastian Wiesner has a nice post on Why Spacemacs that describes the system and explains its advantages.

The first thing you notice is how beautiful the UI is, especially the mode line. The beauty is more than skin deep, though, because the UI, as Wiesner says, puts the user first. That starts with the VIM bindings, which given their composability, makes them very efficient and arguably superior to the standard Emacs bindings. Wiesner discounts the importance of those bindings but unless you're coming from VIM, the modal editing experience, let alone relearning the key bindings, is going to be a high hurdle that most probably won't want to deal with.

To me, the most interesting part of Spacemacs is its concept of layers. The idea is that instead of configuring individual packages, groups of functionality are enabled and configured as a whole. A layer may involve several packages so you can think of them as capabilities that can be configured without having to worry about the details. Sometimes, you need to worry about the details and want to tweak a layer's behavior to suit your needs—it's Emacs, after all–and the layer functionality provides this fine control when you need it. Of course, you can define your own layers in addition to the ones that come predefined with Spacemacs.

I come from decades of VIM use but when I started using Emacs, I didn't feel the need to drag VIM along with me. I never, even in the beginning, used Vile or Evil, and I've been perfectly happy with the standard Emacs bindings. Still, if you miss modal editing and the VIM bindings you should definitely check out Spacemacs. Wiesner's post is a good place to start

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  • Nagora

    Yeah, I don't really get the whole VIM thing. I use it when I have to but modal editing is the worst idea in the history of editing and just about tolerable when I first encountered it 35 years ago when it was merely antiquated. Now there's just no excuse except that it's what a person is used to; and that's not an excuse for anyone else.

    • VIM users have an interesting cognitive model for computer interaction that they rarely share beyond espousing it's utility. It is very fun to compare and contrast their mental models for activities in VIM vs our personal configurations of Emacs. Always take that opportunity for conversation and discussion.