I am a text editor window shopper extraordinaire. With as much time as I spend either hacking config files or writing text, having a good editor in my toolbelt is a must. I’ll download pretty much any new one that has any promise, just to give it a shot. Sometimes, against my better judgment.
Yesterday, I downloaded Carbon Emacs to give it a looksee. A 39.1 MB dmg file. I didn’t get around to checking it out until today, when I realized it expands to a 184.9 MB Emacs.app bundle. Got it copied to my Applications folder and started it up.
Once again, like every other time I think to try out Emacs, I hit random keys, perused the help file, realized I didn’t feel like going through the learning curve just to edit text, and gave up. This time, however, I stuck around long enough to play Tetris for a while. Did you know you can play Tetris in your text editor? You can if it’s Emacs. Check under the ‘Tools’ menu, at the bottom — you’ll find like 10 games to play.
So I trashed Emacs.app. Feeling better. What’s the old saying? ‘Emacs is a nice operating system. The only thing it lacks is a good editor.’ The ‘nice’ part is arguable, too. ;) However, this is no commentary on Carbon Emacs itself — it seems a well-enough-done port.
I’m rather astounded by the size of the app bundle, but there is a lot more going on inside than just a text editor. And that’s rather the problem.
So why do I do this to myself?
(By the way, this is strictly a commentary on what works for me — I’m not about to get embroiled in an editor war with somebody else’s heartfelt favoritism.)
Here’s a bit of nostalgia for you, by way of explanation. On my old Apple ][+ back in the day, there were a handful of programs I spent the vast majority of my time in, not counting my BASIC programming: Microsoft’s Flight Simulator, Decathlon, and a word processor — the name of which escapes me at the moment, but imagine a terminal window program, all keyboard-command driven (no mice, of course), with simple formatting tools. All geared toward one goal: writing text, saving it on floppy disks (that were floppy), and printing it on our dot-matrix. I wrote school papers, fiction, all kinds of stuff in that program. Loved it.
Were there challenges? Sure, of course. But here’s what it had that trumped everything else:
Green characters on a black background. And nothing else.
This love of austere simplicity in my editors has followed me over the decades since, and even if I got distracted for a while by Word back in the early 90s (the destructive path of one macro virus took care of that little anomaly), it has never truly disappeared. In fact, when I was first learning unix along with my first Internet exposure back in 1994, I began lusting after the terminal window.
And now, here I am, in the enviable position (particularly from the point of view of myself in the distant past) of running a crazily powerful multimedia-based, unix-like operating system that is virtually constantly on the net, but which also contains (behind all the glitz) those lovely green characters on a black background.
So that, in a round-about way, is why I occasionally start up Emacs, despite remaining true to vi. I guess I want to like the behemoth, because I have a soft spot in my heart for terminal-based editors. Plus I have a text editor addiction. But it is with all my best affection that I give Emacs a miss one more time.