I am a college student that has fallen in love with Emacs. I have used IDEs in the past, and although features like Intellisense made the switch to Emacs very hard, I now think that Emacs is much more powerful, and features like Intellisense can be pretty closely matched by various modes depending on language (and I am not referring to M-/). I am happily writing Elisp code for everything that I need that isn't provided by modes or by Emacs itself and I love the way that it adapts and molds to my needs.

However, I do think that its main disadvantage is the fact that it has a pretty steep learning curve and that most new programmers will not even begin to learn it out of many common misconceptions.

So, I want to know the opinions of young people (or any person who didn't start using Emacs before there were IDEs) that are Emacs users. Just to get some reassurance that Emacs is not dead within our Eclipse-loving generation =). (Opinions of users of any other highly extensible editor like Jedit are also welcome)

+9  A: 

I'm 21 and started using Emacs at 15, only moving away for Textmate/E in recent years. I personally can't stand IDEs, feeling they get in the way far more than they help. Give me a good straight-up text editor any day.

Cody Brocious
+1 from me. I can't have put it any better than that.
I use to feel this way, until I started using Eclipse for java programming, and it made life sooooo much easier. (Mind you, it wasn't until I found the viPlugin for it that I could really use it.)
The key is to not use Java. If you use a good programming language,you'll find that there are more important tools than "rename this class".
I agree. There was a question a while ago about a good IDE and Debugger for Perl. I wanted to say "vi/emacs and `use warnings;`" because, honestly, most languages give pretty good warnings. IDEs often feel like overkill to me.
Chris Lutz
+25  A: 

My "highly extensible editor" of choice is vim. Started using vi 10 years ago, at age 17, and I haven't really looked back. I like to stay away from my mouse as much as possible.

I rarely work in compiled languages these days, so the only thing I feel like I'm missing from an IDE is syntax-completion. Constantly switching to a browser to look up the order of arguments to various PHP functions gets a bit tedious.

PS: I don't want to start a vi/Emacs war here. I suspect that Emacs and vi[m] users have more in common with each other than either group has with IDErs.

Ben Dunlap
I hope I got upvoted for my mouse-hatred. When I was coding full-time on a UNIX-based network appliance and rarely needed to use Windows, I worked exclusively in gnu-screen on top of *ratpoison*. Bliss.
Ben Dunlap
+1 for mouse-hatred. Mouses (Mice? Meece? I want meece.) are overrated. They're more intuitive, but slower in the end. Especially on a laptop.
Chris Lutz
I get the order of arguments on my mode line in emacs, or I can insert them with a key combination. When writing a symbol, I can get likely completions, too. I am sure that there is something similar for vim.
Well, so there is; thanks! http://ruturajv.wordpress.com/2006/12/21/vim-7-autocomplete/
Ben Dunlap
+8  A: 

When i was young i heard this: A good hacker must be expert in 4 editors and 4 languages.

And have taken it to heart since then....

I routinely use vi(m), (x)emacs, eclipse , sed/awk/perl ( yeah .. they are text editors ).

IMHO, mastering a range of tools is essential. One should subject his brain to move out of comfort zone every once in a while.

I now found it amazing that i have hundreds of key combinations at my fingertip , and rarely type key sequence of one into other.

Vardhan Varma
+5  A: 

Well, I started using Emacs in college, and I'm only 30, so I think I count as part of the "Eclipse-loving generation".

I don't use it every day, but Emacs is certainly near the top of my tools list. (And much higher than Eclipse, I can tell you that.)

What do you use for your day-to-day editing tasks? Most people decideon one editor, and then use that 99% of the time. (Obviously youdon't have your editor of choice when you are ssh'd into your wirelessrouter... but that is rare.)
Bad example with ssh. Emacs has tramp, so you can ssh anywhere and have your editor of choice.
Ryan Thompson
+1  A: 

I'm 26 and I'm using VIM for several years now for C++ development. All my team mates use either VIM or Emacs (50% vs 50%, we have great flames from time to time), our lead is also using VIM. It's a best choice for us on Solaris. However for large MS APIs like DirectX I use VS... its sometimes pain to switch but it's much easier to tackle this kind of monster :)

+2  A: 

I'm 23 and emacs was taught in our Operating Systems course as the "C editor you should use." I used it for the course, but have moved on to other IDEs that better suit my workflow and day to day development environment.

Edit Because my original post was not altogether helpful.

I used emacs through a command terminal inside of PuTTY and that is my extent of using it. I didn't mind it as an editor and got good enough with the shortcuts to be quite productive. I haven't really explored the emacs editor anymore than that because I was already using eclipse and really liked it.

Now, I use eclipse day to day because it is an extensible language that I have to develop with Java, ActionScript, JavaScript, PHP, CSS, HTML, and even Scheme. I also have a custom eclipse extension that I'm perfecting that helps me be more productive in my full time niche (WordPress development). Eclipse provides FTP and SSH services and I've been familiar with the interface for longer than any other IDE, and that is why I use it.

It would be helpful to elaborate as to how IDEs have helped you bemore productive. The OP really wants concrete advice, not "yeah, Idon't use it".
@jrockway - You're absolutely right. I was rushed, but I've fleshed out my answer.
+2  A: 

I'm 21 and I use vim. It's a real step up from the other programming editors I had been using, and I would recommend anyone else in computer science courses to try it out.

Ray Hidayat
+14  A: 

I'm 62 and I've been using emacs for 21 years. I am capable of using vim in a pinch, but I really prefer emacs.

I used to use TECO a long time ago (in the 1970's) and I liked that one too.

TECO... now that's hardcore!
Martin Cote
Know what's hard core? The standard text editor. Yep, Ed.
+4  A: 

I'm a university student age 19, but I started learning Emacs a good 2-3 years ago. I tried vi(m) for a bit, but I couldn't stand the modal editing model.

Prior to my introduction to Emacs, I was using Gedit and nano to do all my coding.

+13  A: 

First off, why do you care what other people think? It is clear that Emacs has a vibrant community, as there are lots of extensions and lots of people working on the core. There is plenty of support to be had for it.

If you are "worried" that other editors are better, then you should try those editors and make the decision yourself. Only you can know what you like.

That said, I am young (23) and use Emacs. I have used it for almost 15 years. I have tried other editors, including Vim, Eclipse, Netbeans, and Textmate. None of those editors work as well as Emacs as far as I'm concerned, so I feel I made the right choice. I can't, however, tell you which choice to make. You will have to figure it out for yourself.

It is important to note that I am pretty "invested" in Emacs. I maintain a lot of extensions, and have spent a lot of time understanding the Emacs core... so if I switch editors, I am throwing away a lot of time and experience. This could theoretically cloud my judgment, but I don't think it does. Textmate works like Emacs, but has fewer features. (I try not to use my mouse, so the eyecandy and OS X integration don't buy me much.) Netbeans and Eclipse are nice for managing Java projects, but on the rare occasion that I have to do Java, I still find Emacs easier to use. I even find that writing Ant files myself gets me closer to "where I want to be" than relying on Eclipse's auto-builds. That leaves Vim, which is certainly featureful, but is still a "lesser" Emacs. Emacs has all the features of Vim -- if you want modal editing, you can just invoke Viper. The only reason to use Vim is that you have already learned Vim, and you can't stand the keybinding and editing model differences between Vim and Viper. (No, Viper is not a Vim clone. It's Emacs with modal editing.)

Anyway, JMHO. I think Emacs will serve you well throughout your programming career. (Or any career that involves text. Emacs is great for writing books... and email.)

I am not insecure about my choice of editor. It is just that at my school, everyone that I know uses Eclipse/Netbeans/etc.. and the only people who seem to use it are professors. I think that if this generation still uses Emacs, it has a better chance of still being around throughout my career.
8 years old and using Emacs? Wow. And I'm just picking it up now...
Kyle Cronin
Probably not that young, actually. I remember using it on an earlyversion of MkLinux, which Wikipedia said was 1996. So, I must havebeen at least 11 :)
+4  A: 

If you go to most grad schools, you will find your share of UNIX hackers who stick with emacs, so it's definitely there.

+1  A: 

I barely step out of my VIM these days and on those applications where I find myself forced into an IDE, I quickly remember why. I have become so accustomed to the VIM hotkeys for selection, replacement, folding, etc. that my productivity gets floored.

Like others, I rarely work in compiled languages anymore, so I've setup shortcuts that run my Perl/PHP paste the interpreters to find syntax errors. In some cases, I've even set up VIM to run available unit tests through the same interface. It's also very easy to alt-tab back to a browser (preferably on another monitor) and hit "Control-R" for a refresh, all without touching the mouse.

+1  A: 

I'm 21 and I use vim for now 3 or 4 years... I once tried emacs when one of my teacher told me it was better than Vim...but I prefered my workflow with vim...

I tried to use emacs last week because I had problem indenting html files...But my teamate lost me when he started talking about key combination or something like that. My guess is that vim or emacs are two great editor...It's better than most of the IDE I know.

Thumbs up to everyone.

+1  A: 

I'm 20 and I started using Emacs last summer when I have to code c++ on linux, and Emacs was the only editor I can stand on openSUSE (Kate is horrible, horrible! - especially my work machine is kinda slow). Then I was won over; there is really nothing better in the world for a mouse-hater. Now I use emacs (yeah on Windows...) for all kind of thing including doing file operations with dired and playing tetris ;)

That being said I still code c# in Visual Studio (occasion switch to emacs for major refactoring and boilerplate work, which is much^100 easier in emacs). IF emacs has intellisense (that works) then I'll dump the text editor in VS studio (I will still use the GUI designer though, nothing replaces that); as of now, having to look up classes is too much a pain for me to code c#.NET in emacs.

+6  A: 

I'm 19, started using emacs last year, and I'm liking it. Even though I don't know how to use its "advanced" features yet, I'm comfortable with the fact that they exist and I could learn them when needed.

In my college, there shouldn't be much more than 5 students using Emacs or Vi, though.


Emacs is all right; it doesn't quite do everything I like jEdit to do, but I'm not interested in spending time writing macros and plug-ins for my editor - I like getting stuff done instead. If I needed my editor to do something that different, I'd get another editor or install someone else's plugin.

I've used jEdit, Visual Studio, notepad++, TextWrangler. I abhor VIM.


I use emacs full-time now. Several months after the above answer I was doing a lot of remote logins into Linux and nano got too constricting. And, yes, I've spent time writing macros and plug-ins for emacs. jEdit is still pretty good, but emacs is quite better. Still don't use vim(yet?).

Paul Nathan
+2  A: 

I'm 38, but came (back) to programming about 6 years ago, starting with Visual Basic 6 (ay-yi-yi!). A co-worker would hard-code all his Perl in a text-editor (INCLUDING forms), which boggled my mind, but did not entrance. Slowly, I started using humble MS notepad for... notes while on the phone, open tasks throughout the day, etc. And slowly, I started wanting more. A number of other factors (desire to work closer to regexes, old desire to learn LISP [I came of age in the 80s, if you know what I mean]) lead me through a couple of editors, and finally to Emacs.

Now, I get frustrated in IDEs that I can't key-navigate and tweak to my heart's content.

Michael Paulukonis
+4  A: 

The first proper editor I used was Brief and then a number of IDE based ones before someone convinced me to try emacs (on Windows no less). I made the decision then that I was going to learn that one editor well and when I needed it to do something different I'd learn how to do it.

The real benefit of choosing one editor and sticking to it is consistency. Whatever language or task you're doing, if you're in your favourite editor, everything is easily remembered. Added to that the extensibility makes things possible that are often not on the slick IDEs.

Of course the downside is that your emacs session is a well crafted environment. If I don't have my .emacs loaded up it can seem like a foreign environment. Things work almost but not quite like I'm used to. Fortunately with DVCS systems my perfect environment is a git clone away.


I tried to learn how to use Emacs when I started my degree, but I eventually gave up. Part of that is because I have a poor memory, and its keyboard shortcuts are unconventional compared to what I am use to.

I do almost all my coding in TextMate (which has been dubbed the Emacs of Macs). If I'm in a command-line environment then ViM does the trick.

+2  A: 

I'm 28 and switched from vim to emacs a month or so ago. I learnt a bit of emacs while learning lisp. I switched from vim because having compiler / debugger / shell integration made a lot of sense to me and I like the idea of the extensibility / customization.

I've got a few die-hard eclipse / intellij people I work with that are young and are rubbing their chins while thinking about making the switch. The buffer philosophy was almost enough to sell one person who was sick of tabs in IDEs.

It's not so much about age I don't think - those that are considering emacs are the ones that are forward thinking enough to realize that is has powerful enough features / ideas that the learning curve is / might be worth it.

+4  A: 

Fear not, young programmer, and take courage from this Editor or IDE analysis. Powerful editors like Emacs will be around as long as there are language mavens. And IDE's will continue to serve the tool mavens. And each camp will continue to be amazed at how [un]productive the other is. ;-)

like the dont feed the trolls element to the answer +1

I'm 17 and I started using Emacs when I was 14, and VIM when I was 15. I use Emacs for SLIME and ERC mostly now, preferring GVim for editing files and such.

+1  A: 

I'm a 19 year old college student who uses Emacs - I started using it about a year ago and haven't looked back.

+1  A: 

Each time I approached a respected guru type about Emacs, they would warn me away. Most of them didn't like it, either. I took that as a clue.

OTOH, I was interested in TECO a long time ago (now you know my age), and I hear Emacs grew out of that. So, I still wonder...


As a 22 year old Visual Studio user I enjoy poking fun at my e-macs using colleagues. When they see how nifty VS with Visual Assist X is they are instantly envious, and spout things like "but it's on Windows" and "Bill Gates is a moron".

I can with hands on heart say that I write code several times faster than my e-macs wielding counterparts.

Then you have slow, inexperieced counterparts. BTW, I use vi, on Linux. And while I think Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer are the personifications of the anti-Christ, Gates isn't a moron. Morons don't get that rich that fast. In these days of dual monitors and high resolution displays, an IDE simply isn't necessary. If you need auto-completion for everything, you don't know how to program.
They are all programmers with 5 or more years of experience. If you don't use auto-complete, I would argue that you are doing it wrong. Why make it harder than you have to? Who are you trying to impress by typing out every sentence and remembering all API calls? If I can fill a 80 character line in less than 10 keystrokes I'm more than happy. Besides, me using auto-complete doesn't mean I couldn't have written it all by hand if I had to.

You can have my copies of Eclipse, NetBeans and Visual Studio when you pry them from my cold, dead hands!

Your proposal is acceptable.
Donal Fellows
+1  A: 

I'm 22 year old emacs user and I cry whenever I have to leave it to do something on other IDEs.


I've only been using emacs for about 10 years now. At one point I took a decided turn to learn it (and vi) to be more comfortable editing directly on servers.

When it comes to writing code quickly and with little red flags when the syntax is wrong in realtime, using an IDE is like wearing gloves when handling thorny plants: you don't have to be as careful. (It's also like using a word processor with automatic spelling fixes and grammar checks compared to using, well, emacs for writing.)

So, I mostly use Eclipse/Xcode/other-required-IDE except when it comes to quick changes, direct edits on a server, or other remote/fast editing scenarios.

What I haven't done is looked around to see if there are any good modes for emacs that allow it to provide such quick editing help as other IDEs (though, the default modes do help quite a bit, anyway -- this isn't raw text editing, really).

I also had a pleasant surprise recently when I realized much of the Mac OS UI can use emacs commands in a similar way to how unix command line editing can be done with emacs commands. How cool is that?


I'm just finishing high school, and I've been using Emacs for a little while now. It's great for all sorts of things I've been doing recently: LaTeX, Jabber, Javascript or even just normal text editing. Now that I've used it for a little while, I find I am much faster with it than anything else.

One of my friends is also using Emacs now, which shows that it is not completely gone.

That said, I still like to use Eclipse for Java editing. I've set up the key commands to emulate Emacs, which isn't perfect but does a pretty good job. The only real reason I still use it is that all my current Java projects started there, and I'm too lazy to switch over.

Tikhon Jelvis

I am under 30 and I use emacs.

Currently, I has to interface with computer through software speech recognition. Nothing beats emacs because various commands are easy to program for recognition and create aliases.

now, it took me some time to get comfortable with programming in elisp, but I think benefit was worth it. I have tried using eclipse, but there is something about emacs, particularly extensibility, that it's hard to replace.

+1  A: 

Mostly I use gedit. Simple and sweet. I'm 20 and always hated IDEs (I got my start with Netbeans in high school).