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John Bokma MexIT
freelance Perl programmer

Emacs it is

Wednesday, April 16, 2008 | 0 comments

At the beginning of this month I helped a programmer modifying a Perl program he had written, and gave some advice on the how and why of my modifications. When he asked me how I wanted to be compensated for my help, I asked for a copy of the sixteenth edition of the GNU Emacs Manual, because I considered the help I had given to fall under the Perl help in exchange for books category.

A few years ago I decided to start helping people with Perl programming related problems in exchange for something small, like a (computer related) book or DVD. Or if a solution would take more of my time: several books. Some already had a Perl program, but somehow got stuck, or wanted a professional to review their solution. On other occasions, people had to write a Perl program, but no idea where to get started.

GNU Emacs Manual - sixteenth edition for GNU Emacs version 22 by Richard M. Stallman.

Often I ask for a Perl related book in return, so the help I offer can also be seen as an investment. This time I asked for the Emacs Manual, because I want to learn how to use the editor that is "generally not used, Except by Middle-Aged Computer Scientists".

And today the GNU Emacs Manual - sixteenth edition for GNU Emacs version 22 by Richard M. Stallman - arrived. Which is impressively fast, assuming that the book was ordered the 4th of April, or maybe the day after. It normally takes 4 weeks or more for books to arrive when ordered via Amazon. If they arrive, which is not always the case.

But why Emacs, you might wonder? Well, sometimes ago I asked input for selecting an editor on Usenet. I was already doubting between the two "archenemies" vi and Emacs, but was not really sure what to do: learn Emacs, or improve my vi(m) skills.

I got quite some feedback, but in decided to start to learn Emacs even though vi derivates like vim and gvim were mentioned the most. Main reason: I already am able to edit using vi. It's the editor I've been using a lot during my computer science studies. Moreover, I also have used a vi derivate, vim, on a huge Perl project when I was living in New Zealand. Mind, I am not saying that I am good at using vi(m). But I know enough of the basics to be able to use it, while I haven't used Emacs at all (not counting starting it up and doing some minor edits). And in order to decide which one is better, I have to learn Emacs first...

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