Emacs and Composability

Posted on May 10, 2016
Updated on July 20, 2022
Tagged as #emacs

It’s not a secret that I enjoy using Emacs. And people often ask me why it’s Emacs and not Vi(m). The top issue for me is the modal editing thing. Somehow I just don’t get it. I understand that some people are able to fully utilize this feature, but I can’t say that about myself. In any case, recently I was reading an article on Irreal about Vim being not that hard to learn compared to Emacs and found a link to another interesting article about composability of Vim.

I totally agree that composability is a great feature that unfortunately wasn’t widely adopted. It’s very powerful in use and great in terms of learnability and consistency. Just as Mike Kozlowski has stated. I don’t want to repeat his article, instead just go ahead and read it.

What I want to do is to defend Emacs (and some other editors). I really think that it was very smart move to place the stake on the ability to extend the editor. And Emacs is a great example of such editor. Just take a look at evil. Whenever I think about it, I am amazed. It doesn’t mean that I want to use it, it just shows that extensibility matters and its limits are very loose.

Let’s return to composability in Emacs. One might argue that Emacs comes with built-in composability, but let’s be honest even if it’s not true - it’s still easy to implement vim-like composability even in Emacs. It’s just a matter of effort.

To follow Mike Kozlowski’s trend, I admit that Emacs is not perfect. Some people don’t like Emacs Lisp, and out-of-box experience is far from being ideal. In order to perfect Emacs The Editor you have to invest a lot of time in writing configurations. You also have to use dozens of third-party packages and also configure them appropriately. But it gives you freedom. And in case you don’t like writing configs, just take a look at these great projects - Purcell’s emacs.d, Prelude and of course, Spacemacs. You have plenty of options. And composability is one of them.