About the author

My name is Solène Rapenne. I like learning and sharing experiences about IT stuff. Hobbies: '(BSD OpenBSD h+ Lisp cmdline gaming internet-stuff Crossbow). I love % and lambda characters. OpenBSD developer solene@.

Contact : solene on Freenode or solene+www at dataswamp dot org

Trying to move away from emacs

Written by Solène, on 03 July 2018.
Tags: #unix #emacs

Hello

Today I will write about my current process of trying to get rid of emacs. I use it extensively with org-mode for taking notes and making them into a agenda/todo-list, this helped me a lot to remember tasks to do and what people told to me. I also use it for editing of course, any kind of text or source code. This is usually the editor I use for writing the blog articles that you can read here. This one is written using ed. I also read my emails in emacs with mu4e (which last version doesn’t work anymore on powerpc due to a c++14 feature used and no compiler available on powerpc to compile it…).

While I like Emacs, I never liked to use one big tool for everything. My current quest is to look for a portable and efficient way to replace differents emacs parts. I will not stop using Emacs if the replacements are not good enough to do the job.

So, I identified my Emacs uses:

  • todo-list / agenda / taking notes
  • writing code (perl, C, php, Common LISP)
  • IRC
  • mails
  • writing texts
  • playing chess by mail
  • jabber client

I will try for each topic to identify alternatives and challenge them to Emacs.

Todo-list / Agenda / Notes taking

This is the most important part of my emacs use and it is the one I would really like to get out of Emacs. What I need is: writing quickly a task, add a deadline to it, add explanations or a description to it, be able to add sub-tasks for a task and be able to display it correctly (like in order of deadline with days / hours before deadline).

I am trying to convert my current todo-list to taskwarrior, the learning curve is not easy but after spending one hour playing with it while reading the man page, I have understood enough to replace org-mode with it. I do not know if it will be as good as org-mode but only time will let us know.

By the way, I found vit, a ncurses front-end for taskwarrior.

Writing code

Actually Emacs is a good editor. It supports syntax coloring, can evaluates regions of code (depend of the language), the editor is nice etc… I discovered jed which is a emacs-like editor written in C+libslang, it’s stable and light while providing more features than mg editor (available in OpenBSD base installation).

While I am currently playing with ed for some reasons (I will certainly write about it), I am not sure I could use it for writing a software from scratch.

IRC

There are lots of differents IRC clients around, I just need to pick up one.

Mails

I really enjoy using mu4e, I can find my mails easily with it, the query system is very powerful and interesting. I don’t know what I could use to replace it. I have been using alpine some times ago, and I tried mutt before mu4e and I did not like it. I have heard about some tools to manage a maildir folder using unix commands, maybe I should try this one. I did not any searches on this topic at the moment.

Writing text

For writing plain text like my articles or for using $EDITOR for differents tasks, I think that ed will do the job perfectly :-) There is ONE feature I really like in Emacs but I think it’s really easy to recreate with a script, the function bind on M-q to wrap a text to the correct column numbers!

Update: meanwhile I wrote a little perl script using Text::Wrap module available in base Perl. It wraps to 70 columns. It could be extended to fill blanks or add a character for the first line of a paragraph.

#!/usr/bin/env perl
use strict;use warnings;
use Text::Wrap qw(wrap $columns);
open IN, '<'.$ARGV[0];
$columns = 70;
my @file = <IN>;
print wrap("","",@file);

This script does not modify the file itself though.

Some people pointed me that Perl was too much for this task. I have been told about Groff or Par to format my files.

Finally, I found a very BARE way to handle this. As I write my text with ed, I added an new alias named “ruled” with spawn ed with a prompt of 70 characters #, so I have a rule each time ed displays its prompt!!! :D

It looks like this for the last paragraph:

###################################################################### c
been told about Groff or Par to format my files.

Finally, I found a very **BARE** way to handle this. As I write my
text with ed, I added an new alias named "ruled" with spawn ed with a
prompt of 70 characters #, so I have a rule each time ed displays its
prompt!!! :D
.
###################################################################### w

Obviously, this way to proceed only works when writing the content at first. If I need to edit a paragraph, I will need a tool to format correctly my document again.

Jabber client

Using jabber inside Emacs is not a very good experience. I switched to profanity (featured some times ago on this blog).

Playing Chess

Well, I stopped playing chess by mails, I am still waiting for my recipient to play his turn since two years now. We were exchanging the notation of the whole play in each mail, by adding our turn each time, I was doing the rendering in Emacs, but I do not remember exactly why but I had problems with this (replaying the string).