6 months of Emacs

3 minute read

[2021-12-14 Tue 10:13] - 7897

I’d been using vim for 18 months before I shifted full time to Emacs this past May(2021). I allowed for a fair, healthy, deliberate acclimatization buffer of 4 days before I passed any judgments - by the end, I’d settled in my new home (a CLI emigrant). This is a meta-review: about how a functional customization dilettante experiences such abstractly potent tooling.

The Abstractualized1

As with any versatile, complex tool one intends to add to their repertoire, one always starts out with base expectation as to how the new tool handles the requests old utilities handled. One slowly acquaints oneself with orthogonal utilities that have a different take on tasks - Emacs definitely does not shy away from its own different takes.

One definitely can’t expect to know about all the bells and whistles right away: achieving a global efficiency optima (questionable existence) is probably a non-verifiable experience. In such a situation, fluid feedback mechanisms and ease-of-access to novel ideas come in handy.

Emacs2 does an exceptional job of being transparent about what your “editor” is actually doing for you without burdening you with the peculiarities from the get go. It draws upon the powerful mathematical notion of closure - almost all are capable of it but none approach what lisp does to make it so obvious and almost magical3. Elaborating, closure is all about the result sharing some base abstract structure with the input upon being processed by an operation.

This may seem like “meh” in the moment… But, if all there is, boils down4 to one representation and retains this upon transformations, with “all-there-is” encompassing the transformations as well mind you, the computer is a joy to program: you can have transformable transformed transformations of “data” (or code).

Now that I’m out of implicit pretentious self-praise, moving on to …

The Materialized

One, however, does tend to occasionally settle down for a local optima and without frequent jitters, won’t ever discover what’s possible. Fortunately, a periodic tinge in monotonic pursuits does excite me 5.

Post a semester of Emacs, I’ve thrown a lot of tasks at it and my present local optima for my root tasks looks something like this:

Task Management

  • GTD with org-mode and org-agenda
  • org deserves more than a single bullet


  • LSP mode for uniformity
  • I use it for Racket, Python and C++


  • drafted in org
  • converted to latex via org-to-latex (does beamer as well)
  • sometimes do directly write in latex using Auctex

Blogging workflow

  • Written as markdown -> Evil(C’est la VIE (Vi Is Everywhere))6
  • Magit for version control
  • Projectile and dired for basic file-ops
  • Rarely call upon eshell if testing locally

Research workflow

  • org-roam for the note-web (replaced obsidian)
  • org-noter to couple the notes with papers
  • Zotero managing an automated .bib (independent of Emacs)
  • helm-bibtex, org-ref, org-roam-bibtex for citation management
  • reading and annotating papers via pdf-tools

Remote work

  • Tramp is good
  1. albeit a good counterpart for materialized, it’s not a word 

  2. Lisp, to be precise 

  3. I’m not proficient enough to appreciate it fully yet, though… 

  4. boils up should sound right - but doesn’t 

  5. imagine a(>0)x + b(<a)sin(x) 

  6. Serendipity is awesome 




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