GNU Emacs 22: world's greatest software package

The GNU project has released Emacs 22. For the curious, now is a good time to try the World’s greatest software package. There is even an Emacs tour for people to take a look first.

Emacs development began in 1976 and has been active development ever since. It was built for extensibility, and for thirty years, users have been adding and smoothing the features that make their daily work easier. The documentation for GNU Emacs is also amazing. As well as the comprehensive manual, there is convenient per-function and per-variable information available from within Emacs.

When I moved from ViM to Emacs in 2002, I was amazed that most of the mildly complex tricks that I learned with ViM were coded into Emacs and available at a key press. It’s definitely the piece of software the contributes most to the efficiency of my computer usage.

Version 22 doesn’t have a killer feature, there are just jumper loads of changes that make things more like you’d expect or more convenient, such as:

  • The TRAMP packages for editing remote files transparently over FTP or SSH etc. is included
  • Now follows convention of ‘left mouse click to follow link’.
  • Can now handle 256 megabyte files on 32-bit machines.
  • 'C-x eee'now executes the last macro 3 times, so you don’t have to 'C-x e C-x e C-x e'
  • The new Kmacro package has added a load of other conveniences too.
  • GTK+ gui support, although I don’t use those features.
  • Better interface defaults: syntax highlighting is on by default and the colour scheme is much easier on the eyes.
  • New longlines-mode for editing paragraph-style documents which don’t start a new line in the file for each line displayed on the screen.
  • Consistent display of lists of messages with line numbers such as the results of grep or html validation.

A list of notable changes can be seen in the NEWS file. There are new features for programmers, but I’m not one (any more). And there is better support for editing files in Asian writing systems, and for users of non-standard hardware and operating systems, but I can’t comment on any of those features either.

Tips and tricks for Emacs can be found on this independent site:, and the Emacs article on Wikipedia is quite good. And discussion of the release can be found on, Slashdot, OSNews, etc.

Ciarán O’Riordan, -- Support free software: Join FSFE’s Fellowship


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