Emacs to The Rescue

Emacs, one of the oldest and most commonly used free software

applications, provides a highly customizable, programmable text editor.

Thousands of developers swear that this is the tool that makes them


Emacs has two main drawbacks, although some may consider them


* Emacs requires a lot of keystrokes to run its many commands. The

editor was created long before the mouse found widespread

acceptance, and Emacs provides keyboard commands for every

action. Furthermore, Emacs supports a dazzling array of commands.

* Emacs uses a confusing text selection policy. Since it lacks

conventional support for Ctrl-X, Ctrl-C, and Ctrl-V as cut, copy,

and paste respectively, you have to be very careful when copying

and pasting between Emacs and other desktop applications.

Despite all these drawbacks, Emacs offers an incredible number of

features that makes learning this quirky editor worthwhile for

thousands of users. Hundreds, if not thousands, of add-ons exist for

reading email and news, working with source code revision control

systems, comparing files, merging differences, managing disk

directories, and much more. Emacs supports both text and graphic modes

with the same commands, which proves very useful if you need to log on

to multiple computers. There's a version of Emacs that runs on Windows

to go along with versions for Linux, Unix, and a plethora of other

operating systems.

Learning Emacs isn't that hard either, as it comes with a built in

tutorial. If you're a newcomer, I'd suggest starting with the graphical

version and just using the menu commands until you feel comfortable

with the text editor. Once you start learning the keyboard commands,

though, you will discover the power of this editor.

Two main versions of Emacs are available. Emacs (http://www.emacs.org)

is the official version. If the main site is down, then you can try

another GNU site, such as http://www.gnu.org/directory/emacs.html. An

alternative version, called XEmacs, is available at


Most Linux distributions include Emacs, so you may already have this

editor available on your system. You can find information on the

Windows versions at http://www.gnusoftware.com/Emacs.

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