Welcome to ‘Do you even lisp?’

I was first exposed to the Emacs command set some time in 1990, while I was a sophomore in college; I owned an Atari ST, and stumbled across a port of Conroy’s uEmacs for TOS. It was a good little editor—capable and easy to use. In fact, as I was learning C at the time, I spent some time converting the source to ANSI C as an exercise.

I have used and even become pretty facile with a couple of other editors—I spent a lot of my last couple of years of college using Turbo Pascal, whose embedded editor used a command set derived from WordStar, and in my first job out of college I spent a lot of time writing Clipper code using Brief—but I’ve always had Emacs hovering in the background.

Then in 1994 I lucked into a job as a system administrator for a Unix system and even started using Linux as my primary desktop OS. The logical editor for me to start using was GNU Emacs, and I’ve never really looked back.

I use GNU Emacs a lot, every day—I read my email using Gnus, I track my to-do list and log my work time using Org-mode, I edit all my code and writing in Emacs—but in many ways, I feel like I’m still a raw beginner.

When I watch something like Magnar Sveen’s Emacs Rocks videos, I am constantly amazed at the fluidity with which he does things that would take me much longer because I’m not familiar with a lot of capabilities that he’s using. And the little snippets of elisp that he uses to simplify things in his What the .emacs.d!? posts blow me away with their ratio of bang for the buck.

In light of all this, I made a conscious decision to start actually studying GNU Emacs in 2013—and then I decided to chronicle my study, in the hopes that it might help others discover new things in GNU Emacs. When I remembered the Do you even Lift? meme, well, naming things is always the hardest but most important part.

So, the plan is for a post a day. The subjects will probably start out utterly mundane and basic—”Hey, did you know there’s a keystroke for that?” sort of stuff—but I hope that, over time, they may come to be more complex and sophisticated—less a chronicle of my own personal journey and more a contribution to the store of knowledge about ways to use Emacs most effectively.