Status report on Emacs

It has been some time I have not shared some news about my increasing use of Emacs. This post will be just about that. Let me quickly summarize what I do with Emacs on a daily basis:

  • email (mu4e)
  • note taking (org-mode)
  • blogging (org-mode, markdown, html)
  • project management (org-mode)
  • IRC (ERC)
  • code editing (html css, php, js modes + web-mode)
  • file management (dired & deft)
  • document viewing (docview)
  • document authoring (org-mode, olivetti)
  • learning (e)lisp

I don’t get to do all these at once every day, but still the majority of these tasks are performed on Emacs on a daily basis. I’m obviously getting more and more familiar with each tools and the general use of Emacs the more I use them. I would like to highlight a few thoughts about them:

Org-mode is this invention that has gone unnoticed by the IT press and the general public as well. But I think it’s life-changing. Probably as life-changing as using online social networks, but probably for better reasons. As a new or at least recent Dad, I can actually say that Org-mode has saved me time and energy in planning family activities, household chores and baby health tracking. I’m not even getting started on the more traditional project management and note taking uses of Org-mode, because then I’d gladly say that it changes one’s jobs and does reduce sweat and stress. I don’t consider myself a power user of Org-mode or anything like that. I do lists, tables, use tags, states, timestamps, deadlines and schedules mostly. The rest I have not really investigated at the moment. And yet, it already is a powerful tool.

I would not actually say the same of drafting content in Markdown. True, this isn’t a critic of the Emacs Markdown-mode, because it does work just fine. But the markdown format itself turns to be somewhat of a disappointment for me; it looks like I’m not the only one to think so. It will stay at best as a transient format found on the web and in readme or config files.

Email is where things progressed the most. I’m now using mu4e everyday, for pretty much all my mails except for the encrypted ones as well as the ones in relation to calendar and scheduling. For these I use Evolution. I have not had the time to look into the proper use of gpg in Emacs beyond file en- and de-cryption. For calendaring I must say that unless you use standalone, ics calendars or GCal, the available tools (org-caldav) are limited at best, and often downright broken for people relying on the caldav protocols. I hear conflicting reports; for my online calendars at least, it still won’t work. This makes me use mu4e somewhere around 80% of the time now. I guess I’ve beaten my own expectations in that regard. Much to my surprise, reading html messages is a breeze with mu4e, and I am getting used to a text-only environment for emails slowly but surely. On top of that, I’ve decided to contribute just a little of my time to the mu project and it’s fun! People are nice, helpful, and the community small and healthy. It feels like a small town, at least when you’re coming from a large project, even a very friendly one such as LibreOffice.

The rest of the tools I’ve mentioned are used in conjunction or in relation to the primary tools and modes I’ve been discussing, except perhaps for the web site editing which was after all my first reason to use Emacs. To this day, I continue to do so but I don’t do web site on a professional basis anymore.

Where do I go from here? I intend to expand my knowledge of this wonderful editor, especially org-mode and other areas. At the beginning of 2015 I had started to read about elisp and I’m gradually learning about it. It is my first real programming language. A few people I’ve talked to find lisp a weird choice to start with, but I think that anyone who studied literature and humanities as his major fields will intuitively “get” these long lists of brackets. These are not maths -not seemingly at least- these are lists, content inside brackets, functions, new words, variables and arguments. It surely does get complicated at some point, but it can’t possibly be more complicated than a James Joyce’s opus!

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