Notes on emacs

Programming new editing commands was so convenient that even the secretaries in [the] office started learning how to use it. They used a manual someone had written which showed how to extend Emacs, but didn’t say it was a programming. So the secretaries, who believed they couldn’t do programming, weren’t scared off.1

A couple of years ago I fell into the emacs rabbit hole.

I’ve always enjoyed exploring text editors and I had been writing in markdown for quite some time until I stumbled upon Kieran Healy’s excellent Plain Person’s Guide to Plain Text Social Science . He has plenty of advice of how social scientists can benefit from plain text for both writing and making statistical analysis reproducable. He only mentions emacs briefly, but exploring this editor first lead me to spacemacs.

After a year of messing around with the very accessible spacemacs (and simultaneously learning vi keybindings – a challenging combination), I moved on to vanilla emacs and started building my own configuration.

And that, in brief, is how a non-programmer such as myself fell in love with the user-empowering philosophy of free software.


  1. Richard Stallman, My Lisp Experiences and the Development of GNU Emacs, https://www.gnu.org/gnu/rms-lisp.html. ↩︎