Oldies but Goodies Updated—Part 2

This is the second of my two-part post on packages that I find especially useful in my day to day work. I’ve discussed all these packages before but it’s worthwhile bringing them all together as suggestions that others might want to try out.

I used guide-key for some time until Kaushal Modi recommended I try out which-key as a replacement. This package is the ultimate in ease-of-use. Just install it and forget it. If you pause in the middle of a key sequence, which-key will pop up a buffer of the possible completions and what they do. You don’t have to specify what sequences you want it to work for; just pause and it will tell you what it knows. You can adjust things like the font and colors and the amount of time you have to pause but I did none of that and it works perfectly for me. Mostly, it stays out of the way but when I want to call a seldom-used command and can’t remember the whole sequence, it pops up a buffer that displays the possible completions.

I’ve written about mu4e so many times that I’ll just give the results of a blog search for reference. If, like me, you’re the type who wants to bring as many of your tasks as possible into Emacs or if you just want to have the convenience of Emacs editing for writing your emails, mu/mu4e is an outstanding solution. One of the things I love the most is that I no longer worry about storing away saved emails in a particular folder. There’s only one folder for that and I locate old emails in it with the extremely powerful search provided by mu.

There are other popular solutions—the notmuch suite seems to be a favorite—that do much the same but I’ve settled on mu4e and have been very happy. It’s still under active development so I don’t see myself changing systems. The only downside is that configuring mbsync can be tricky—especially for macOS—but I provide detailed instructions for that in one of those blog posts I mentioned above.

Once I got mu4e installed and working, I brought the last remaining assimilable task into Emacs: my RSS reader. For that, I used the wonderful elfeed package. It’s easy to use, and puts all its results in a database that is easy to search. For an excellent introduction to the post, see Mike Zamansky’s 3 videos on Elfeed, especially the first.

As part of getting mu4e working, I needed an easy and secure way of providing the passwords for my SMTP servers. The way to do that is with authinfo and the associated ~/.authinfo file. I just put the services and associated passwords in the .authinfo file and encrypt it. When Emacs starts up (about once every week or two for me) it will ask me for the password to decrypt .authinfo and will just cache the results. The documentation says that there’s some time limit before the cache expires, but for me, at least, I’ve never had it ask me for the .authinfo password except at Emacs startup.

You can put any of your passwords in the .authinfo file and retrieve them with auth-source-user-and-password. I do that, for instance, for my WordPress password for Irreal. It’s very handy.

Finally, there’s winner-mode. I’ve been using it for a long time and don’t know why I didn’t mention it in my first “Oldies but Goodies” post. It’s built into Emacs so all you have to do is enable it with

(winner-mode 1)

Thereafter, you can recover a previous window configuration by simply typing Ctrl+c repeatedly until you’re back to the desired configuration. It’s just perfect for those times when you have a complicated window configuration showing and then need to, say, call help or some other function that changes the window configuration. With winner-mode you can make your call and then reestablish the old configuration easily. Actually, you can scroll the window configurations in either direction by using Ctrl+c to move to newer configurations but I never do that.

I hope that you’ll find some of these packages useful and start using them yourself. They make my workflow much more frictionless and make my editing easier and more fun.

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