The switch from xemacs -> emacs

I’ve always felt the root of the emacs vs. vi holy war (which is one of the longest standing holy wars in free software) basically came down to the following key point:

When you first were learning Linux / Unix, did your mentor use vi or emacs?

The answer to that is at least 90% correlation to your preferences. Much like most people share the politics of their parents, most people share the editor preferences of their mentors. Switches don’t tend to happen unless mentors switch as well.

And in that camp, I’m an emacs guy. I learned it in college when I took my first programming class (which was in lisp). Our professor gave us a starting .emacs file, pointed us at the tutorial, and built macros that helped us out in our efforts.

A near decade with XEmacs

Then I graduated from college, and my first mentor at IBM was also an emacs guy, except he was an xemacs guy. It was emacs, but prettier. So I piled on, and was there ever since. Over the years I tried a couple of times to go back to emacs, but their font handling was never as good. I love programming in arial, as it’s just really pleasant on the eyes (this shocks and horrifies people that line up = signs in declarations, but I don’t much care. πŸ™‚ ).

A few years ago, just as emacs was getting reasonable variable width font support, xemacs integrated anti-aliased fonts into their CVS tree, and now I had another reason to stay on xemacs, because now everything looks pretty. Using xemacs was sometimes a pain, as a number of modes didn’t really work right on it. I never had a reasonable html mode working that did indentation like I wanted.

Steve Yegge’s Rant

Last month Steve Yegge had a post entitled Xemacs is Dead, Long Live Xemacs which was basically a call to unify around emacs because it had finally caught up, and it is being very actively maintained. I was skeptical, but decided to try again. Using the Ubuntu packages I lost my anti-aliasing, which meant this was a failed experiment.

But, after some research, I realized that emacs cvs not only has xft support in the tree, but that since March it’s been the default. This is what will be emacs 23. I was already running xemacs out of cvs, so taking the same leap with emacs cvs wasn’t such a big deal.

It’s taken a couple of weeks to tweak my configuration to get me the same, or better, results with emacs as I had with xemacs. Last night I finally understood what I needed to get nxhtml to do my html.erb files correctly (ruby and html bits independently highlighted, and mode switching automatically when moving between code blocks). Minus 1 font issue with planner, I can definitely say I’m fully converted.

I’m also enjoying diving into elisp again. For whatever reason, life seems a bit more stable on emacs than it did on xemacs. And once emacs 23 actually makes it to distros, I won’t even need to have my own binary builds. πŸ™‚

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