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GNU Emacs

GNU Emacs


What is GNU Emacs?

GNU Emacs is described as a free extensible and customizable text editor for the Lisp programming language.

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Users rely on GNU Emacs as a versatile text editor for editing and maintaining configuration files on Linux servers. It is widely used for …
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What is GNU Emacs?

GNU Emacs Technical Details

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TrustRadius Insights are summaries of user sentiment data from TrustRadius reviews and, when necessary, 3rd-party data sources. Have feedback on this content? Let us know!

Users rely on GNU Emacs as a versatile text editor for editing and maintaining configuration files on Linux servers. It is widely used for various text editing tasks, including reformatting and cleaning up tabular data using macros and rectangular selections. One of the key use cases of GNU Emacs is its ability to edit files on remote Linux machines, providing an efficient way to make changes to deployed infrastructure. Users also appreciate Emacs for tasks like fixing small code changes, running code in the background, and creating to-do lists and quick notes for future reference. Additionally, many users utilize Emacs' org-mode for note-taking, managing to-do lists, and organizing agenda files. It serves as an invaluable development tool for multiple programming languages such as Python, NSIS scripts, and C++. Emacs solves the problem of coding on remote servers by providing a seamless development environment. Its consistency across different tasks, including software development and administration work, along with the productivity benefits of using Org Mode, make it an integral part of users' workflow. The familiarity and ease of use provided by Emacs make it a preferred choice for many users, who find it difficult to switch to other editors that may not meet their needs as effectively.

Simple and easy-to-use interface: Many users have praised Emacs for its simplicity and ease of use, especially in Linux-based operating systems. It has a user-friendly interface that allows for intuitive navigation and convenient keyboard shortcuts, enhancing productivity.

Versatile with extensive functionalities: Emacs offers a wide range of functionalities and shortcuts through its extensive library and rich macros. This versatility allows users to efficiently perform various tasks such as programming, shell access, and organization using extensions like Org Mode.

Highly customizable: The extensibility and flexibility of Emacs are highly regarded by users. They appreciate the ability to customize the editor to suit their needs, work in different languages, and adhere to specific coding standards. This customization power enables users to tailor Emacs according to their preferences, making it their own unique text editing experience.

Steep Learning Curve: Users have found that Emacs has a steep learning curve, requiring a significant amount of time and effort to become proficient. Some users mention the initial high learning curve, especially for those coming from an IDE-like environment.

Complexity and Size: The complexity and large size of Emacs are common concerns among users. Some users find it challenging to learn and remember the shortcuts for Emacs, while others mention that Emacs can be clunky and not as polished as modern editors.

Default Configuration: Some users mention that the default configuration of Emacs is not appealing and may require customization for a better user experience. This requires additional time and effort on the part of the user to configure it according to their preferences.

Based on user reviews, there are several recommendations for Emacs. Users highly recommend spending time on the built-in tutorial to learn how to use Emacs effectively. They also suggest exploring available plugins and packages, such as Lisp, to enhance functionality and customization. Additionally, users advise considering alternative editors like Vim, Atom, Sublime Text, and Brackets before choosing Emacs. Overall, users emphasize the importance of investing time in learning and exploring Emacs due to its highly functional and customizable nature.

Attribute Ratings


(1-4 of 4)
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Kaleb-John Loo | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 9 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
Emacs is utilized as one of the primary text editors available for global use across our remote build servers. This allows engineers to modify files on a system with a familiar interface that they can access on their own local computer. Emacs is adept at language recognition and highlights syntax in a meaningful way. It also allows users to set their own custom configurations for their user profile and is expandable via installation packages.
  • Fast
  • Syntax highlighting
  • Shortcuts are not standard.
  • Sometimes certain key combinations puts it into an unfamiliar state.
Emacs is best utilized on a Unix system where it can be easily installed and accessed. It allows for quick editing of files on a system whether you are accessing it locally through the console or remotely via an ssh connection. Once users familiarize themselves with the Emacs shortcuts, it becomes a pretty efficient text manipulation program. On a standard Windows computer, it is less likely to use Emacs for code editing, especially if you have a local repository on your host machine.
  • Emacs is free to use.
  • Most firmware and electrical engineers are familiar with Emacs making it easy to set up new employees to immediately start working.
Emacs can be easier to use than Vim as it is more similar to modern text editors. Its graphical interface is also better than anything Vim has to offer. Emacs also has better syntax highlighting and recognition of coding languages. Interestingly, Emacs handles clipboard copy and pasting into other programs a lot better than Vim does. Overall, if you know how to use Emacs, it is often preferred over Vim.
Everything that you need to know about Emacs can be found on the internet. There are many Emacs "cheat sheets" that list out all of the shortcuts for Emacs. There are videos on how to use Emacs. Emacs is easily installed using the standard Linux package managers and can also be easily updated through them as well. There are tutorials on how to customize Emacs to your liking.
Score 7 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
I use GNU Emacs as my primary text editor, as well as an organization tool for project tracking and to-dos as well as scheduling and planning. It is also used for taking notes and recording bits of information for easy retrieval later. I also use it for searching and parsing multiple large log files for troubleshooting.
  • GNU Emacs is a text editor that can do almost anything that you want to do with it. It is fairly easy to extend the functionality using Emacs Lisp with a large library available.
  • It can be easily customized using themes as well as custom code to change the look and feel as well as how everything works.
  • There is a bit of a learning curve for Emacs. In order to use it most efficiently, it takes a little time to learn the Emacs way, as well as learning the keyboard commands for everything. Many things can be done from the menu, but the keyboard is really most efficient.
  • Customizing and extending Emacs is done with Emacs Lisp. While very flexible, Lisp is a bit different programming language than many people are used to.
If you are willing to put in a little time to learn how GNU Emacs works, it can be an extremely powerful and versatile editing tool, as well as being used for almost any kind of text searching, replacing, or processing. Using Org-mode alone is worth learning Emacs. Once you learn the basics, they can be applied and used in all areas that you would use Emacs for. If you want a text editor and information tool that you can use for almost everything, then the learning curve is worth it. If you want simple text editor for editing small files, then Emacs may be overkill.
  • Emacs is free software, there is no cost at all.
  • It has helped tremendously in situations where many, or large, log files need to be searched.
While Notepad++ is a very capable editor, it is not nearly as customizable and extendable as GNU Emacs.
Microsoft OneNote is a nice, easy-to-use note-taking and organization tool. Its advantages are that it is GUI based, and it is easy to embed images, audio, and other media. If it doesn't do exactly what you want, or work how you want it to, you cannot change it. Emacs (and Org-mode for Emacs) can be easily modified and extended to do exactly what you want as well as work exactly how you want it to.
Since Emacs is free software, support comes from online forums, and online searches. I have always been able to find an answer to any question I've had, as well as "How do I do XXX in Emacs?". I've found Emacs users in general are very willing to help others who are learning Emacs and to share what they have already done with Emacs.
Jan Peterson | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 8 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
As far as I know, I'm the only user of Gnu Emacs at Lendio. I use it daily in my work as a DevOps engineering team lead and individual contributor. Emacs is an editor, but also more than just an editor. It is a way of life. You can do pretty much anything in Emacs. I use it for editing files, both in my local filesystem and on remote systems using the Tramp subsystem. Emacs is well integrated with tools such as ssh and sudo, and allows me to edit files on remote systems in a privileged manner. I also routinely use Emacs's integrations with our source code management system (we use Git). The Ediff function is extremely useful when comparing between versions of a given file. As for the business problems that it helps with, Emacs provides IDE functionality in an extensible fashion at zero cost. It is a great tool!
  • Emacs is exceptionally good at editing files. The various modes available allow customization of things like indentation, color schemes, etc. when editing different types of files.
  • Tramp mode in Emacs allows transparent editing of files on remote systems, including using sudo for access to secured files. As far as I know, no other tool does this as well.
  • Emacs's integration with Git is very useful when it comes to determining what changed and when. Git plugs into Emacs's generic SCM functionality, which means you get a ton of features for free, including Ediff for change management (so you can see what changed between two revisions of a file).
  • Integration with my web browser through the Edit with Emacs Chrome extension allows me to use a full editor when composing a post on a web page. This allows me to run various tools (such as spell checker, etc.) when composing on a web page in a text area.
  • Emacs is old, so it's a little crufty and not too easy to pick up and start using. There is a community package called Spacemacs that simplifies a lot of things that you do with Emacs. It is probably better suited to beginners.
  • Sometimes, the choices that were made to integrate certain functionality change the basic models for that functionality. This is seen primarily in the version control system support, where multiple version control systems are supported and "unified" to a standard Emacs-y way of doing things. This can be confusing to the new user not familiar with the Emacs way.
  • Emacs has, as its foundation, a lisp interpreter. This means that the extension language for Emacs is emacs-lisp. Some people find lisp hard to understand and have difficulties writing Emacs extension code, or understanding existing code.
Emacs is well suited to pretty much any application... if you already know Emacs. If you have never used Emacs before, you might be more comfortable with a generic IDE system. If you are working at the system level (not just coding an application), then Emacs is an excellent tool. If you are managing multiple systems and need to edit files all over the place all the time, Emacs is great. If you know Emacs Lisp and enjoy extending your editor, Emacs is for you.
  • Overall, the ROI of Emacs has stemmed around its nature as a free, open source product. Usability is high, so when you use it you are more productive, but if you are unfamiliar with it, you will be less productive to start.
  • Emacs is more than just an IDE. It includes IDE-like functionality, but it is really much more than an IDE.
  • Emacs makes it easy for me to work in my environment, in a fashion to which I have become accustomed over the last 30+ years. It is more suited to the professional who has used it before.
I have used several different IDEs and editors, but I keep coming back to Emacs. I guess my fingers are wired for Emacs and I find that I can do pretty much anything in the tool that I can with other tools. Some other tools are more polished, but are specific to certain languages (Java, Python, etc.) where Emacs is totally generic and works with everything. If you find something that Emacs doesn't work with, you can always write your own support for it!
Score 9 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
Emacs isn't used universally at my place of work, though it's one of the better options for editors readily available to us. Certain teams use it depending on their needs, and some use others for theirs. There are no restrictions or requirements as to what editor we use. The business problem it solves is just having a good editor that can be counted on for large and small scale use.
  • Readily available: Emacs is available on almost all operating systems. You can use it for free, and even use it for remote editing. It has a nice desktop application that anyone can use, even the ordinary user.
  • Lightweight application: Although it hasn't always been, Emacs is now a very lightweight, efficient editor that isn't going to demand much CPU power. This can be crucial for large-scale applications.
  • Easy learning curve: for complex editors, Emacs is one of the easier to get a handle on. There's good documentation, and an easy layout that makes figuring out how it works much easier than others.
  • Initial startup time: not that it matters greatly, but Emacs can take a while on initial startup. But since it only happens once, it's not a huge deal.
  • Discovery of features: there are a lot of features to Emacs! But finding what all Emacs can do can take you some time. You'll still find new features on occasion even as a seasoned user.
GNU Emacs is great for being a customizable editor. There are countless features for whatever you need. It's highly programmable, highly supported, easy to learn, and very lightweight. However, if you're looking solely for an IDE, you may be better off with a true IDE, although Emacs can probably do what you need.
  • Organization: Emacs makes it easy to keep our projects organized, which is always important. It helps you have cleaner, more efficient code.
  • Efficiency: Since Emacs is so customizable and programmable, we've found it helps increase our efficiency by utilizing macros or programmed features!
  • Productivity: Because of the high efficiency of using Emacs, our productivity has boosted. I'd expect to find the same after beginning use of Emacs elsewhere
Of course, Vim is a good contender for comparison as well, so I'll include it. I find Emacs much easier to learn, which will help speed up productivity for newer users. It seems much faster than VIM and VSCode, especially under load. It's highly highly customizable, in ways other editors don't stack up against. Its lack of bloat also is a nice addition to a great product.
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