Is Emacs Really Hard to Learn/Use?

J. Pablo Fernández has another one of those posts that drive me crazy.
His thesis is that Emacs is hurting Clojure because it's hard to
learn and use or something. It's a silly, even risible, argument.
His complaint is almost exactly the same as Ray Dillinger's that I
wrote about
almost four years ago.

Fernández says that Clojure n00bs are forced by the community to use
Emacs and that learning Emacs and Clojure at the same time is too
hard. Of course, no one is forced to use any editor in particular and
lots of Clojure folks are not Emacs users. It's hard to see how Emacs
can have much effect on Clojure uptake one way or the other.

“But,” as Arlo Guthrie famously said, “that's not what I came to tell
you about.” Rather, I'd like to address the notion that Emacs is hard
to learn and use. To be sure, every long term Emacs user has
experienced the joy of learning some new Emacs feature even after
years of use but that's not the same thing as being hard to use.
Anyone who's willing to spend an hour or two with the tutorial can
obtain a reasonable facility with Emacs.

There's still a lot to learn, of course, but you can do basic editing
and if you leave the menus on, you can take advantage of many of the
advanced features as well. After a month or two of everyday use you'll
be well on your way to journeyman status. That, at least, was my
experience. Really, folks, it's just not that hard to learn.

Even more ridiculous is the idea that Emacs is hard to use. What
exactly is hard? Once you learn the common keystrokes, you can edit
quickly and easily from the keyboard. No messing with mice or menus,
just typing.

It's fun to joke about the weird shape of the Emacs learning curve but
it's still a joke. My suspicion is that most of the people whining
about how hard Emacs is to learn and use haven't bothered to put in
the minimal effort required to become effective users.

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  • Yes !!!!!!!! This really burns me the whole hard to use thing.

    First, they mean, hard to learn, not hard to use, second, most newbies - and as a teacher I see A LOT of them - typically do everything with the mouse and have no real clue w/r to even where files are stored.

    From that point of view Emacs is no different from any other editor that has its own window and no harder to learn.

    The only really valid point is that many people think, out of the box, it isn't as pretty.
    I'll give the critics that one.,

  • For Racket I love that you can start with Dr. Racket and move to Emacs when you are ready, or never. Options are great. Perception is everything and if you get people to come and stay on the course it is more likely that they will come back maybe again with different/better set of clubs.

  • Paul V

    Emacs is very difficult due to: 1) absolutely anti-human key-bindings (for example, ^C^C^Cu) 2) ELisp. But with Spacemacs Emacs becomes human-friendly and more ergonomic.

  • Abhinav Sharma

    Well, I do feel that it's a bit of an investment so if one really wants to understanding computing to it's bone - it's Emacs through and through.

    But, for only clojure perhaps something like Nightcode, CounterClockwise, LightTable or Cursive might make more sense to ease the learning curve :)