Learning GNU Emacs - Cameron, Rosenblatt and Raymond

Yes, that Raymond. Pre-Cathedral/Bazaar, fortunately. Pre-pretty-much-everything, in fact, as the copyright's 1996 (revised from a 1991 edition!). Anyway, I wouldn't be surprised if I got it in 1997, perhaps not long after starting uni. It made a fairly good introduction (better than the online tutorial, at any rate, which I also had a quick look at), and I've been using emacs for the better part of a decade... but I never finished the book before.

So, finally, I've decided to finish the job, and read the later chapters. It's good. I've learnt a lot more key combinations for dead useful features, and indeed learnt more of the gubbins of emacs, so while I've been comfortable with it for a long time, I feel I've stepped up a level. I'm even being tempted to write work code using it, after years being distracted by Visual Studio.

Given it's a book review, I suppose I should review the book. It covers a lot of areas, but does it pretty well. It covers the mid-90s hotspots, with plenty on using emacs to access mail, news and surf the web. Yuck. It's a text editor, ok? The section on elisp is rudimentary, but makes a good introduction. The book really is Learning GNU Emacs, since it's such a huge program that a volume this size can only really scratch the surface.

While it does introduce the stuff well, it does have a weakness in telling you where to go next. Random googling when I've been irritated with a seeming lack of a feature has generally led to the discovery of obscure flags that enable just what I want, and my .emacs file is collecting a lot of these cool switches. I have a strong suspicion that there are many more of these flags I don't even know I'm missing, but... I have no real idea how to go about finding them. Maybe I'll have to read the reference manual. Eeek.

Posted 2006-02-02.