todd8 2 months ago

Thank you for the detailed write up. (I hope the author sees this)

I'm always impressed with Emacs users that are capable of such discipline. I've use Emacs well over forty years, with only a few years of interruption, but I have never had a stable or well organized configuration. It's inspirational to see other's use of Emacs.

I'm disorganized, and I'm a hoarder (right now, my bedroom has at least 100 books stacked on the floor in different piles). Like my fluid Emacs configuration, the books are all attractive possibilities of what to read or try out next.

  • b3morales 2 months ago

    Sounds like you have a flourishing Anti-library:

    > Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there.

    • zasdffaa 2 months ago

      > Read books are far less valuable than unread ones.

      izzit me or is that total garbage? The only information of value is that which you can use, if it's in a book you've never read it's effectively nonexistent. I get text books to stuff them into my cranium, not have them sit around as handy doorstops.

      Might as well leave them in the bookshop until you need them. They're just as unread and you have cash in your pocket for other things you actually need.

      • 3836293648 2 months ago

        The information is more useful once read, but once you know it you don't need the book any more

        • randomswede 2 months ago

          Unless you anticipate wanting to check and re-check the contents. On a shelf right beside me (as opposed to the plethora of shelves in the room we call "The Library") is a copy of "Concrete Mathematics" by Graham/Knuth/Patashnik, because I am occasionally going through it again. Quite happy I have not decided to let it go.

    • comfypotato 2 months ago

      Sorry for being dense, but I couldn’t deduce from the source; does the “anti” just mean “unread”?

      • shrimpx 2 months ago

        Yeah. It comes off as a playful/tentative term, not a precise one. If a "library" is a collection of read books, an "anti-library" is a collection of unread books.

      • presz 2 months ago

        Most of the books in libraries are books most people haven't read, does that make every library an anti-library?

  • mikrl 2 months ago

    As a fellow emacser, I’m also incredibly scatterbrained and just kind of intuit my way through things. When I make plans, systems and processes I do better with less stress until the inevitable stressor completely wrecks my flow and I forget to get back on track.

    Luckily emacs lets you save a bunch of useful processes and workflows in a VCS that works the same across multiple environments (modulo 15 minutes here and there to resolve major version conflicts)

  • SoftTalker 2 months ago

    It's not really the use of Emacs, it's the discipline. Emacs is a good tool, but the people who are super organized with Emacs would be super organized with anything, including a paper notebook.

    I say this as an Emacs user who has used org-mode for project planning and task/time management.

d3nj4l 2 months ago

I really like emacs, and I want to use it. I really loved the way I could mix my thoughts and tasks in org and have an agenda view that shows me a todo list. However, I spend so much time without a computer that it doesn’t make sense for me to use org mode. I’ve tried a mobile app for org mode but it didn’t work as well for me as a task tracker that has a mobile app. How are others in this situation working with org?

  • m4lvin 2 months ago

    Which app did you try? I use Orgzly for getting the agenda on my phone and for small edits. And whenever I want the full experience I run a real emacs on my phone in Termux.

    For syncing I use Syncthing.

    • wanderingmind 2 months ago

      Use syncthing-fork and Tailscale and you can do realtime syncing on mobile networks of org mode files across multiple devices as well

      • m4lvin 2 months ago

        Any reason you use syncthing-fork for that and not the original? I think mine syncs fine even on mobile data. Sometimes I turn on ZeroTier doing the same job as Tailscale/WireGuard, but syncthing seems to work already without that.

    • d3nj4l 2 months ago

      I use iOS so I used Plain Org when it was launched. That was a while ago so I'm not entirely sure why I didn't like it. I can try giving it a spin again, but I stopped using org shortly after so I don't have a good sample to try it with.

      • wanderingmind 2 months ago

        Orgzly comes with a sample notebook that can be used as a template.

  • djha-skin 2 months ago

    I have found that a few well-placed shortcuts in my vim configuration file makes it very easy to work with my notes using markdown. I have shortcuts for viewing links, taking screenshots[1][2] and saving them to my disc and linking to them in my markdown, and viewing mark down in a viewer that can export to PDF. On mobile, I use the excellent Epsilon Notes with Folder Sync Pro. The two work together seamlessly.



  • jcynix 2 months ago

    On Android devices, you can use Termux (Debian style Linux as an app) and install a complete emacs inside. I use it on a tablet and sync files (incl. *.org) over ssh with my "real" computers.

    The tablet can be used with a bluetooth keyboard if I have to do a lot of typing and have no laptop with me. And thanks to ssh I can reach any of my computers, even ones at home via reverse ssh tunneling.

    • billfruit 2 months ago

      Isn't that too much effort for something as simple as that.

ChildOfChaos 2 months ago

I'm tired just reading the article.

That process sounds exhausting, after working through it, I think I'd want a nap rather than to go do some actual worthwhile work.

  • bitlax 2 months ago

    By contrast, the author was able to both read and write the post without such exhaustion, perhaps due to the fact that he wasn't wasting mental energy on recurring tasks.

  • m463 2 months ago

    The idea is when you need to get work done, you procra^H^H^H^H^H^H work on your emacs startup files...

KryDos 2 months ago

I love such readings, they often inspire me to start (at this moment "to keep") my "digital organizers" in shape but I always been wondering for how long people can keep such dedication to the process and how the process becomes useful later.

I started with GTD a long time ago, I don't even remember what digital tool I used at that time. Then I switched to Todoist, then Wunderlist, then some cli tools like Taskwarrior, then org-mode, then Evernote + various todo apps then Obsidian + org-mode (org-roam is awesome but I need GOOD mobile support) so my GTD is not even a GTD now in it the original sense.

And I still don't see any serious benefits from the process. Sure, tasks are there and I'm aware of them, I look at them and do them. But that's it. For some reason, I expected super productivity from myself while doing all this. I don't see myself productive still. Especially comparing to the author and many other authors of similar posts. I'm pretty sure I could track all those tasks in one Evernote note or Obsidian file or one Org file or even in one piece of paper (no mobile support though) and stay on the same level of productivity I am right now.

My question(s) is. Is there anyone who make notes or track tasks for a more than a year period? How often do you change your workflow? Do you find it all useful and how the tracking helps you now? Was there any time you thanked yourself for doing all this during a long period of time?

p.s. I'm of course not talking about a "project" tasks in Jira or issues on Github. I'm talking about tracking/notting of your life(todos) and thoughts(notes).

  • nequo 2 months ago

    The author himself seems to have given up on following the described GTD process strictly.[1]

    I have wondered this about productivity systems and hacks, too. With GTD, the key seems to be to get yourself over the edge of your resistance to get your tasks done. If you fundamentally resist the tasks you think you ought to be doing, GTD will probably not work long-term. For example because you hate some aspect of your job or you’re afraid about the outcomes of your tasks. If you just need a way to organize all the little actionable items because otherwise you lose track of them, GTD might work.

    I also wonder if people that we normally see as productive (Nobel prize winners, etc.) need to force themselves to stick to a special GTD system, too, or if for them the resistance is weaker and their tasks end up getting done one way or another.

    In any case, Emacs and Vim are great outlets for tinkering with productivity hacks. But the long-term solutions might need to be deeper.


  • gtdthrowaway3 2 months ago

    I'd argue that any tool or system of any kind is for when you are in need of assistance. Whatever gets you up to momentum each day, refreshes context, minimizes malaise, and maximizes just knocking things out one by one.

    Let me frame it another way. If you did the couch to 5k over the course of a few months and succeeded, is it the app that got you to running consistently or is it the fact that it kickstarted you into momentum. There is no ideal. There's whatever makes you feel like you did good work on the right things today and that momentum for tomorrow seems like you've got the right tools in place to get there and forgive yourself when you fall off the wagon. Don't worry about specifics other than that whatever you engage in seems to give you momentum at a pace you find appropriate.

jonnycomputer 2 months ago

Side comment about the presentation on the blog. Looks like old type-written page, with color. Very clean style, very readable. I like it. The CSS style sheet has the author's name on it, so I guess it is their work. Good job!

Forge36 2 months ago

Taking a quick peak at managing email in emacs I think I'll keep two separate programs.

I really like the agenda view, I'll need to reconsider using Outlook tasks (I'm using a split system between Outlook, emacs, and my corporate bug tracker). The cleaner history tracking +easy ability to add notes/reorganize makes this such a clear progress update. Might try using this as my future workplan update.

The breakouts by people is also interesting. I've not categorized my interactions in this way (I'm also not mentoring anyone directly or managing someone else's work).

  • jonnycomputer 2 months ago

    I have a hard time imagining being able to use Emacs as effortlessly with Microsoft Exchange emails as I can with Outlook. I use org-mode todos, and Outlook tasks, and it might be nice to integrate, but I'm not going to bother trying, tbh.

    Outlook notes are terrible, imo. Switched to using org-mode with org-crypt, and its worked pretty well, except I have an entry that won't decrypt anymore, and I'm not sure what has happened.

    • gleenn 2 months ago

      That's pretty bad if you put your life into notes or docs or whatever you're encrypting and then it just won't decrypt anymore. Do you think the file just got corrupted? Or is it actually the plug-in that's failing?

f1shy 2 months ago

Sorry, off-topic question: does somebody happen to know what tool was used to make this page? I really like the style.

  • stephc_int13 2 months ago

    The layout and styling are very nice.

    However, the main text color is lacking contrast, either the font is too thin or its color too light.

    I can read it, but it is borderline uncomfortable.

    I don't mind a bit of softened contrast, but in this case, this is a bit too much.

    • tmtvl 2 months ago

      The enumerations (Chapter 1, 1.1,...) are a bit too soft for me, I prefer decent contrast a la Modus Operandi over some of the barely visible text of Nano themes.

    • jonnycomputer 2 months ago

      I find it refreshing and very readable. But everyone's eyes and preferences are different, not to mention screens.

  • nebqr 2 months ago

    It looks like it was exported straight from org-mode, using the author's custom css.

kkfx 2 months ago

I have a much more chaotic structure and do not use time tracking / effort estimate but as a suggestion for going beyond: Emacs for me works very well as a file manager, not much in the sense of using dired but in the sense of org-attach anything, sometimes small trees to be seen/treated via dired [1], accessing them via org-roam search&narrow UI (i.e. org-roam-node-find).

I've hesitated a lot at first, especially since migrating a decade old curated home taxonomy with symlinks, TMSU etc in the middle, it's not so easy nor much automate but in the end it pay back very well since not only add much more flexibility and much more level of indirection than symlinking/TMUS fuse fs queries but also offer the ability to search & filter for much more textual information easily.

Doing so allow integrating essentially anything else.

[1] org-id-get-create then renaming (moving) or copy etc a small set of files and directories to be linked in org-mode notes

mszcz 2 months ago

A little OT but that is one beautifully put together website. The fonts, font weights, colors, layout, the way the different block types are visually distinctive. A joy to look at, really.

edit: Does anyone know if this is some kind of a style framework that's available publicly or authors own doing?

djha-skin 2 months ago

Richard stallman himself got repetitive strain injury from emacs. So many people have. They tell you to remap the key to caps lock they tell you to use your palm instead of your finger they tell you to get a weird keyboard but at the end of the day it was just poorly designed.

Vim is only slightly slower but so much easier on my hands. Yes, I could get emacs evil or spacemacs or whatever but bolting on modality to an editor that was never meant for it, especially when all the docs basically ignore their existence, is not something I'm interested in. Native vim is just better.

But I do miss that you can configure emacs using lisp.

There is hope, though. I've heard there is a plug-in for neovim that allows you to write configuration files using common lisp.

  • aleks224 2 months ago

    > Richard stallman himself got repetitive strain injury from emacs

    Is this really true? Some notes at indicate it was a different type of strain injury, unrelated to ctrl/meta key:

    > In the mid 90s I had bad hand pain, so bad that most of the day I could only type with one finger. The FSF hired typists for me part of the day, and part of the day I tolerated the pain. After a few years I found out that this was due to the hard keys of my keyboard. I switched to a keyboard with lighter key pressure and the problem mostly went away.

    > My problem was not carpal tunnel syndrome: I avoid that by keeping my wrists pretty straight as I type. There are several kinds of hand injuries that can be caused by repetitive stress; don't assume you have the one you heard of.

    • djha-skin 2 months ago

      Mine was more ulnar tunnel (emacs pinky) than carpel. I too had the problem of the hard keys. From what I can tell my problem was that my muscles grew so tight that there was no space for my nerves, causing owner tunnel numbness. Neurologist tested my nerves and found no damage, and the massage therapist I later visited told me that this could happen. It also explains why rock climber's stretches helped me make the problem go away. But to this day it comes right back the minute I turn on emacs.

    • User23 2 months ago

      I really want a basically traditional keyboard, except with a thinner space key that permits two more modifier keys under each thumb. The anatomy of the hand is meant for the thumb to work in opposition with the other four fingers.

      Sadly the ErgoDox doesn't fit my hands so it's uncomfortable to use the thumb clusters. The Kinesis does if I place it very low, but I'd like to retain the rest of my muscle memory for key location.

  • iLemming 2 months ago

    > but bolting on modality to an editor that was never meant for it

    Frankly, I don't even know what you're talking about. Modality is all over Emacs. It was there even before Evil. Some extensions even use modality completely differently - not like in Vim.

    As an avid, hard-die Vimmer, I tend to agree when people say "there's no such thing as Vim-emulation", it's either Vim/Neovim or something half-baked.

    But Emacs is an utterly different beast here. Emacs can and does vim better than Vim and Neovim. Anyone who argues differently perhaps has never gotten deep enough in either of those muds.

    • sigzero 2 months ago

      Emacs is not a "better vim than vim". That's just absurd.

      • iLemming 2 months ago

        It's not absurd. It very often does "vim" better, I'm using "vim" here as a verb, apply whatever meaning your heart desires. Even when it comes to some practical text manipulation like I once demonstrated here: - I needed to replace every single occurrence of UUID in the file, generating a new one in the stead.

        My friend later did try ( to replicate the same thing in Vim.

        Of course, it's all subjective - some may like Emacs way, some Vim. But guess what? I'm helping now that friend of mine to learn Doom.

  • MichaelCollins 2 months ago

    I think that emacs with evil mode is a superior vi-like editor than either NeoVim or Bram's Vim. I haven't found the docs to be an issue, I don't need the emacs docs to tell me how evil works because I already had years of experience with Vim before switching to evil+emacs.

  • ducktective 2 months ago

    > Vim is only slightly slower

    Both vim and neovim (be it in TUI or GUI form) are faster than Emacs.

    • iLemming 2 months ago

      Arguing that Vim or Neovim run faster than Emacs is like saying that your single-engine sport aircraft moves faster than my best aircraft carrier. An average Emacs user installs and loads a few hundred packages, ranging from Org-mode and version control extensions to PDF tools, and natural language assistants. I bet Vim wouldn't be "faster" if you feed it up with even half of that number of plugins.

      Vim and Emacs have different use-cases, philosophies and mechanics. Each has its own pros and cons. There's no point in debating if one has better speed, aesthetics or popularity. I suggest we stop this nonsensical debate of Vim vs. Emacs and instead focus on their strength.

      What people very often miss is that both Vim and Emacs are absolutely free. Free to use, free to copy, free to change. And that freedom is worth protecting and worth fighting for. Because no matter how MSFT, JetBrains, et al. paint it - VSCode and IntelliJ are not free products. And not just the money at stake here - the entire ideology and the idea of being a hacker with control over computational power and the tools is something worth protecting. I (just like many others) am so fed up with proprietary services and corporations taking your data hostage. Tired of being locked in and losing control over my data; tired of the status quo, of that infamous: "people don't know what they want..."

      I chose Vim & Emacs not because they are technologically superior to VSCode or IntelliJ (even though they are), but because I've seen the other side. I've used Jetbrains' products for many years. I loved them, blindly. Do you know what grants you a huge amount of satisfaction? Not when you see that bug ticket you filed in 2008 gets finally fixed in IntelliJ, fourteen years later (by that time you're already forced to learn how to avoid the workflow leading to that bug).

      Satisfaction is what you feel when you learn Emacs to the point that even though you know there's a bug, you've accumulated enough knowledge to sit down and figure out a workaround for it, writing fifty lines of Lisp. That's freedom. That's being a programmer. Choosing to pay for a proprietary product and ecosystem (because it has emojis and pizzzaz) is like jumping into a slow melting pot; willingly checking-in into a mental prison.

      • bitwize 2 months ago

        > Arguing that Vim or Neovim run faster than Emacs is like saying that your single-engine sport aircraft moves faster than my best aircraft carrier.

        Vim vs. Emacs debates these days remind me of a story I read about an F-16 pilot and an A-10 Warthog pilot sitting in a bar, debating the merits of their respective planes. At one point the F-16 pilot said something like "Come on, you have to admit that an F-16 with AIM-9 Sidewinders on its pylons is pretty badass!"

        The Warthog pilot just smiled. "Do you know what the pylons on my 'Hog are meant to carry?" he said. "F-16s."

        I've long considered Emacs to be the Warthog of editors: big, ugly, a little outdated, but absolutely your best friend when it comes to certain big ugly jobs (and nothing else comes close). These days it comes with a pretty decent implementation of much of Vim, so it really is like a Warthog carrying a pair of F-16s. That said, it also has in common with the Warthog that its number is coming up and it is probably soon to be retired permanently because the landscape has evolved out from underneath it.

        > What people very often miss is that both Vim and Emacs are absolutely free. Free to use, free to copy, free to change. And that freedom is worth protecting and worth fighting for. Because no matter how MSFT, JetBrains, et al. paint it - VSCode and IntelliJ are not free products. And not just the money at stake here - the entire ideology and the idea of being a hacker with control over computational power and the tools is something worth protecting. I (just like many others) am so fed up with proprietary services and corporations taking your data hostage. Tired of being locked in and losing control over my data; tired of the status quo, of that infamous: "people don't know what they want..."

        Most developers use Visual Studio Code. IntelliJ is still largely considered a must for development in Java-family languages. Microsoft and JetBrains are doing something right. It may be the case that people really don't know what they want. Whatever the case, if you work as a professional and do not use the tools that maximize your productivity, you are leaving money on the table.

        • nequo 2 months ago

          > That said, it also has in common with the Warthog that its number is coming up and it is probably soon to be retired permanently because the landscape has evolved out from underneath it.

          Do you think so?

          Unlike the Warthog, Emacs has also been evolving. Doesn’t LSP close a large part of the gap with IDEs?

          • bitwize 2 months ago

            Emacs still has no parallel multithreading, very poor async support, lots of global state everywhere, and you still have to contend with Emacs Lisp. So no, I say it hasn't evolved to keep up with the state of the art.

    • hollerith 2 months ago

      Your URL is about how fast the software is at responding to the user's keystrokes. In contrast, the person you are replying to is writing about the effect of key binding on how quickly a user can get common tasks done.

  • tmtvl 2 months ago

    It's weird I used vim for 5 years and started getting really sore hands, so in early 2019 I switched from QWERTY to Dvorak layout, and at the same time decided to try out Emacs. Nowadays my hands are in far better shape.

    I sometimes try using Evil, but every time I have to stop because my fingers become sore. I guess it's because when using modal editing I slam the keys down. That's because mistypes can be disastrous when compared to Emacs where mistypes just end up as characters in the active buffer.

    • kzrdude 2 months ago

      Mistypes shouldn't be that disasterous, enable all undo features (including persistent undo) and enjoy.

  • ghosty141 2 months ago

    Just use EVIL? For me its the best of both worlds, vim for text editing and elisp for extensibility

  • lvass 2 months ago

    >it was just poorly designed

    This is actually true, but not an issue anymore. Control was near the space bar in the Symbolics keyboard, now it's in a much more comfortable position where it can and should be pressed with the left hand's palm, which is important even if you don't use Emacs. Vi uses control too.

  • EFreethought 2 months ago

    One way to avoid strain on Emacs is to move your hand over an inch or so for certain keys. I tend to use M-x ${function-name} for new modes and commands that I learn, so this is not a big deal to me.

    Speed is nice, but it is not the main goal. Getting things done is (no pun intended).

ctrlrsf 2 months ago

How do you save screenshots?

ayayaweird 2 months ago
  • benreesman 2 months ago

    I use VSCode sometimes, it’s very cool.

    But emacs/vi pros are fucking fast. It looks like magic the first few times you see it (are u a wizard?) and for some it’s worth the learning curve.

  • chrsig 2 months ago

    i don't think so...vscode has been a bit hard for me to adopt

    ..because it doesn't have a good emacs keybinding.

    In general, I find it kind of cluttered, and overwhelming. I definitely don't like that it's made by microsoft.

    If i'm working on a big project, I don't see a reason not to use a jetbrains ide.

    If i'm on something smaller, or just need to edit some text, it's much easier in emacs than vscode

    • thom 2 months ago

      I’ve been able to get decent Emacs like key bindings to work in VS Code but that’s never been my complaint. My complaint is just that every extension seems to want to show custom UI and even where they have a keyboard and text based workflow it’s wildly inconsistent with everything else. I just can’t… _be_ in VS Code, everything’s so jarring. In Emacs my code, my database client, my terminal, everything is just text in the same sort of buffer that supports the same sort of navigation and manipulation. VS Code’s community (or API) doesn’t seem to value this. Maybe the abstractions will come with time. Either way, good luck to them.

  • bitlax 2 months ago

    I don't even think you read the title.

    Edit: Downvote me all you want. I'm not the one using VSCode to manage my emails!

  • daptaq 2 months ago

    VSCode is a common denominator. While enough for most, it doesn't do the job for everyone. There is nothing bad about it one way or another.

    • bitlax 2 months ago

      This is an article about productivity software, not editors. Emacs blows VSCode out of the water here.

aslak 2 months ago

I can just use VS Code.

  • iLemming 2 months ago

    > I can just use VS Code.

    So how many VS Code extensions have you written? How many workarounds have you invented to make your workflow more productive?

    Do you use VS Code for automation? Does it run any tasks for you?

    Can you for example open a page in your browser, send it to VS Code instance and let it collect all the links on that page and show them?

    Can VS Code work as a window manager? Email client? Maybe RSS reader?

    Do you read PDFs in VS Code and make notes and annotations? What about epubs? djvu maybe?

    Do you do project management in VS Code? Is there a way to calculate the number of days between the two dates? Convert that to hours?

    Do you test HTTP requests in VS Code? Can you send a request, then feed the results to a Python Script, then based on that - create a SQL query and send it to a DB, then transform the data with Clojure and finally create a table with the final results? Can you do that in VS Code? Because I do something like that in Emacs quite often.

    Do you plot sequence diagrams in VS Code? Or do you write math formulas? Do you work with research papers? Does VS Code have support for scientific citations?

    What about prose? Do you write plain text in VS Code? I'm typing this in Emacs. I have syntax and spell checkers, integration with Grammarly (I know VS Code can do that one); I have Google translate integration, have dictionaries and thesauri.

    What about some advanced version control? Can you change the editor settings depending on what git worktree you're in? Can you select a few files in the directory tree and see the git log pertaining only those? Can you edit the directory tree using regexp-replace or multiple cursors, or do something like "find all the files larger than 3Mbs that were created between two days in March, and rename them all?"


    Whenever anyone claims that they can perfectly do anything that you can do in Emacs, they probably have no idea what you can do in Emacs.

  • bitlax 2 months ago

    You literally can't.