Emacser’s Harbingers Of Change

“Harbingers of change” announce significant changes. You see them in Emacs configuration (init) files all the time. Here are some of my favorites:

All in reference to my Emacs init file.

  • First file, thought completed ten or twenty times, across three years when I started using Emacs in irritation and stopped using it in anger each time.
  • Second re-write because I have some sense of how to configure Emacs, or rather I thought that I did.
  • Installing nearly every one of the top 20 most downloaded packages on MELPA because they are simple and powerful.
  • All of the Nth changes, all answers to questions long forgotten, now codified in it, and the answers do still make sense.
  • The “beliefs” about how an editor should work “The Care and Conservation of Computer Files (TC3F)”.
  • Conversion into Literate Form basically pasting it into a source block and calling org-babel-demarcate-block a bunch of times then addming comments.
  • Doing everything (IRC, web browsing, editing) inside of Emacs, and then only things that I really enjoy doing in Emacs (editing).
  • Going between my-current-mode and fundamental-mode to make fixes that my-current-mode is battling, and that using quoted-insert would take to long to make
  • Re-write of literate file into one full of exploration, concluding with more questions than answers, including development of core personal concepts about my cognitive model for thought, ALEC: ALEC’s a Language for Expressing Creativity
  • Writing macros. Then getting rid of all them. Then maybe using them at some point.
  • Spending too many hours choosing a font.
  • Leveraging mode-inheritance.
  • Diligently using global-set-key and mode-maps and other times using global-set-key to “just make it work”
  • Using with-temp-buffer or narrow.
  • Grokking that most of my blog posts exist because I didn’t read the user manual or package manuals, and that was OK
  • Thinking that I could make a standard config good for everybody then realizing that is impossible.
  • Modeline configuration.
  • Binding successfully to an upper and lower cased character: order matters and key syntax matters, can’t just write ‘t’ versus ‘T’

    (global-set-key [(control meta ?t)] #'help/insert-datestamp)
    (global-set-key [(control meta shift ?t)] #'help/insert-timestamp*-no-colons)
  • Finding my Emacs heroes
  • Having Org2Blog teach me the “real meaning” of open source
  • Grokking the “real meaning” of the GPL and then Free Software. Stunning.
  • Finding that when one way to unset a keybinding doesn’t work, that there is another way, probably

    (define-key org-mode-map (kbd "C-,") nil)
    (global-unset-key (kbd "C-,"))
    (local-unset-key (kbd "C-,"))
  • Custom tool-bar. When I use Emacs with a mouse while reading Org-Mode files or Emacs Lisp code, when I am not typing anything, my tool-bar is very helpful. I use Emacs on MacOS, Linux, and Windows so I’m already using a mouse all over the place. When I’m logged into a server using a terminal emulator, running Emacs or VI, I use a mouse to drag the terminal emulator window around. Long ago I spent a lot more money to get a computer with a mouse and a GUI instead of only text. Mice are great.
  • Re-write into literate file into one full of answers. Sped up tangling. Wrote to make it easy for parts to be copy-pasted with as little hassle as possible. Simplified splitting it into four parts, and files, for its four logical sections.
  • Recognizing that referring to my configuration as “Emacs” means nothing both to other Emacsers, and also to non-Emacsers, and changing the name in the frame to “PIE Interactive Editor”. “PIE’s an Interactive Editor”. “PIE Isn’t Emacs.” 😄 (Joy)

Here I don’t want to explore anymore. Now I just want to make iterative refinements once in a while. My “Emacs System” is now satisfactory and perfect for me. That leaves more time for “working on things using Emacs”. Then something interesting happened.

O is an interesting person writing interesting code and doing interesting things. O’s writing is entirely in lower-case. Probably six years ago is the first time I saw that style of writing and it made me wonder why. Then I forgot about it until a three weeks ago.

Having made every Emacs’ configuration change perfect for me, writing has become fast and streamlined, again, perfect for me. Maybe too streamlined.

Sitting here typing away I felt kind of mad because for me it is a painful interruption in my flow to have to reach way over to the SHIFT key in order to capitalize the first letter of a sentence (years ago I would have found such a claim surprising and now not at all). It is a waste of time I said to myself.

One school of thought says that you should just write and worry about making corrections during the proofing stage. Agreed. But failing to capitalize the start of every sentence isn’t a typo. Your editor would throw your writing in the trash. So I checked to see if there is code for auto-capitalization. Of course there is. I installed auto-capitalize mode and it works great (Why does it only have 1320 downloads? 😮(Surprise)). But I didn’t stop there.

I observed my writing and noticed that reaching down with my pinky to hit ‘.’ happens so often that it is a waste of energy to have to drop my pinky off the home row so I mapped C-; to ‘.’. Great. Then I realized that I should just include a space after so it became ‘._’. But it didn’t stop there.

‘,_’ is probably my second most frequently used punctuation mark, so I mapped ‘._’ to ‘,_’. And ‘,’ to ‘;_’. It looks like this:

(use-package auto-capitalize
  :ensure t
  (diminish 'auto-capitalize)
  (add-to-list 'auto-capitalize-words "http")
  (add-to-list 'desktop-minor-mode-handlers
               '(auto-capitalize . (lambda (desktop-buffer-locals)))))
(add-hook 'prog-mode-hook #'turn-off-auto-capitalize-mode)
(global-set-key (kbd "C-;") (lambda () (interactive) (insert ". ")))
(global-set-key (kbd "C-.") (lambda () (interactive) (insert ", ")))
(global-set-key (kbd "C-,") (lambda () (interactive) (insert "; ")))
(define-key org-mode-map (kbd "C-,") nil)

This is the point was the hallmark totally surprising to me:

  • Getting mad about flow interruption by capitalization and hitting punctuation marks.
  • So I automatically capitalize.
  • And remap punctuation marks to “closer” keys.

Now on my init file timeline has become something that will be a complete oddity to the outside reader. Now it contains something even beyond micro-optimizations. It contains incomprehensible optimizations. This is a hallmark that I thought I would never reach but I am happy about it 😄(Joy)😮(Surprise).

That is the great thing about Emacs: if you stick around long enough it will continue to grant you surprises in the truest sense of the word.

What are your favorite harbingers?

4 thoughts on “Emacser’s Harbingers Of Change”

  1. Doing cloud stuff, I am forever SSH into something fresh, and may lack the time to install Emacs. So I took the vi plunge.
    Then I found Spacemacs, which is truly a game-changer.

    1. VI’s interactive model is fun and powerful. It is great to know when SSH’ing into boxes and doing admin work and such.
      My buddy adores SpaceMacs. SpaceMacs seems to be well-loved by the blogging community too.
      When it fast and I am not doing loads of stuff as admin, I just use TRAMP for working on remote.

  2. That is so cool! =) It’s so much fun to have tools that you can play with and experiment with, and to see which changes stick. Thanks for sharing your journey!

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