on Software

Why Emacs

15 May 2021

In the groups Paul asked why people still use Emacs. Here are my twopence.

Reliably Here

Emacs has History. It has been around for 30+ years and will probably be around when we all retire. There are other choices for development on SW that do not have such a fortunate history.

The Lisp language is not everyones darling but it is powerful and can be used to change anything one could want to change in Emacs. There is a learning curve (actually a more of a cliff), but the investment pays, because Emacs will still be there when the other IDEs are not.

Emacs is easily customised. Well, once you are on top of that cliff.

Emacs’ developers care a lot about backwards-compatibility. This is why the integration for Smallworld keeps on working with little change in the most recent versions of Emacs.

Free Software

The licenses are generally much more easily handled when working on or with Emacs. It’s free, as in freedom.
I better stop talking here because I do software for money most of the time.


For software development Emacs is my personal favourite - except for writing languages where autocomplete is the only viable means to actually get something done.

Emacs’ fantastic text-editing features and navigation are there to help when typing sourcecode. Emacs’ can be extended to do wild stuff like creating tags in your scm, deploy to a jboss, talk to databases, talk to a class-browser :blink:, run builds remotely via ssh or putty, and on and on. I use plugins such as ag to “grep” your sources, org-mode to keep track of things and yasnippet for templates.

All this makes me so heavily invested in Emacs that using it for SW development is a natural step.