Emacs and The Second Coming of TextMate

A text editor is one of the most important tools of a sysadmin, software developer, documentation and blog writer. So, after switching from Linux to Mac a few years ago, I immediately starting looking for a good editor software. On Linux, I had been using Emacs for many years, but its Mac versions available at that time didn’t convince me. They rather reminded me of the reasons for which I replaced my desktop OS after all. It didn’t take me long to find TextMate and it became one of the first in the long line of applications I purchased in my Mac life. And I’ve been using it daily ever since.

TextMate is a very capable editor and its add-on “bundle” concept makes it easily extendable. There are bundles for every common programming language, for using version control systems and even a bundle for blogging that lets you not only write and preview your writing but also publish your finished post.

But there is also one concern that’s been bugging TextMate users for a long time now: the author is working on version 2 of the software. At least that’s what he uses to claim on his blog every few months. Recently, Watts Martin must have lost his patience and in “Text Editor Intervention“, he makes a compelling case that there are proven alternatives to eternally waiting for the Second Coming of TextMate:

But in the meantime, you gotta get work done. Either pony up money for BBEdit, pony up time for MacVim (or Emacs), or stick with TextMate.

Shorty after reading his thought-provoking post, I came upon Joshua Timberman’s blog post “Switching to GNU Emacs“. I did a short search and it almost looks like there is an Emacs renaissance going on.

As you may already have guessed, I decided to give it a try and join the movement. Why?

  1. Back in the days, I’ve been using Emacs for almost everything that had to do with plain text. I know I’ll be able to accomplish all the tasks for which I’ve been using TextMate.
  2. GNU Emacs has been ported to Cocoa in the meantime, so its UI runs natively on Mac OS X.
  3. After installing Emacs, I realized that all of the important Emacs keyboard shortcuts are still stored in my muscle memory.
  4. Getting Emacs fit for a variety of tasks is easy with pre-configured packages like the Emacs Starter Kit.
  5. The effort of customizing and extending probably is more effective if put into Emacs. As Watts puts it:

Why do I recommend three stodgy old warhorses? Well, any editor that has a still-growing community after two decades is probably doing something right.

And finally, as GNU Emacs is the embodiment of Free Software, I certainly won’t have to pay another license fee for the next major version.

Repentantly, I return into the arms of the Church of Emacs.