Why I always come back to emacs

Post from October 1st, 2015

There’s this discussion I always have with my friend about text editors, IDEs and productivity.

He is a really big lover of JetBrains’ IntelliJ IDEA, and don’t get me wrong, I think it is a really great IDE, but it still doesn’t feel to me the same way that it feels to him.

I keep using IntelliJ IDEA from time to time, for bigger or smaller periods, but still, I cannot say: This is my IDE, my home.

It’s simply impossible to me to think about all the overhead it introduces to my development flow.

An IDE is a tool that helps you to be more productive within a range of other toolsets and automate your process during your development time. Isn’t then emacs an IDE?

Of course it requires some configuration, maybe more, maybe less, depending on what you want to do. But the same is appliable to a “formal” IDE like IntelliJ.

Why do you say that Nick? I can download IntelliJ and start coding in Python or Java right away! I don’t need to configure anything

Of course, because the IDE already has been configured for that matter.

But try to code in Haskell using IntelliJ, I did it some days ago, and trust me, it is not a pleasurable experience. I lost like an entire hour trying to fix the interoperation between IntelliJ and Haskell’s toolset (cabal, ghc-mod, …).

In fact, I can download an emacs ditribution and start coding X language right away. Yes, yes, I know, I don’t have the interoperation between the IDE and the toolsets (or yes? See: emacs prelude), but once you configure it, it’s simply done forever!.

“But, Nick, if you configure it in IntelliJ it’s done forever too!”

Yes, you may be right, but there’s also the time factor. I lost one hour of work simply searching for how to make IntelliJ understand my project dependencies, and I ended up doing an awful symbolic link from Haskell’s compiler to /usr. Modifying my system so my IDE can understand a thing? No, thanks

Yes, maybe I could have the same dependency-understanding problem with emacs, but there are more chances that a lot more users had the problem and fixed it, or even better, wrote a plugin for it, or pushed some commits to the plugin that generated this problem.

Emacs is open source and has a really big and active community.

“Ok, Nick, but I don’t program in Haskell, I use IntelliJ for Java and Ruby (i.e.)!”

And you should keep using it if you are really comfortable using it.

Meanwhile I will be at my home, emacs, being as productive as you are, but if there is a feature that there is not available to me through the default settings, I’ll install a plugin, or if it is still really weird that no one did it, I’ll write it by myself in 5 minutes or less using elisp instead of saying, “Damn, I hope they implement this in the next version”. Maybe you are already used to not wishing for features. But I do.

Another important thing is, I can use a CVS like git to manage all my configuration and reuse it everywhere I want.

Long live home sweet home, emacs.