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Emacs's got a redesigned website!

I've been very busy lately, so I haven't posted anything for a month. As a result, I have many topic notes sitting in — including the kik-left-pad-npm drama, the Text Expander outcry, and such — waiting to be organized and written up (I'll probably never write them up in the end, since these days it's very weird to write an opinion piece about an event whose attention span has already lapsed).

Anyway, this will be a short post about Emacs's redesigned website. See screenshot at the end. Apparently this was last week's news, but there's little interest in Emacs in general, so the news only reached me two days ago, sort of by chance.

According my impression, Emacs has been the underdog for quite some time. First, when you compare to vi/Vim, hard stats shed light on popularity: there are way more VimL repos than Elisp ones on GitHub.1 Also, there are more exciting (or at least exciting-sounding or excitement-inducing) things happening in the Vim realm, e.g. Neovim, but not so much in the Emacs kingdom (excuse me if I missed something big). I'm actually very curious how Vim sold itself to so many people. I, for one, can't tolerate the Esc key at all (yes, I know basic editing in Vim, and I know the various workarounds to Esc, some of them reasonable and some not). I can't understand how people could laugh at Escape Meta Alt Control Shift — oh, I never used Esc in Emacs once, by the way — when the single most awkward Esc key serves a fundamental purpose by default in their own beloved editor. The Esc key is of course not my only gripe with Vim, nor the biggest; I'll however stop here to avoid turing this post into a complaint about Vim. Apart from Vim, Emacs is also being sidelined by more modern GUI-based text editors like Atom,2 or various IDEs. Atom recently reached one million monthly active users. I actually like certain parts of Atom a lot, e.g. the project navigation sidebar,3 but I simply can't give up my good ol' tty.

Personal preferences aside, I think Emacs does need a bit more publicity to draw a few more users. Whether redesigning the website will help at all I don't know; maybe the effect will be statistically indistinguishable from zero, but the bottom line is that people like pretty websites, so why not. The redesigned homepage is a bit more graphics-heavy, but it currently weighs a total of 521.33KB — within the tolerable range.

The most interesting thing I found on the redesigned homepage is the link to I aimlessly clicked on the last episode — episode 15 — just to see what it was like, and ended up astonished. The episode is about restclient.el, which turned out to be wicked cool. In the real world it's probably a little bit too geeky to my liking, and I use the more mundane (and more powerful) Paw as my REST client, but I can't stop admiring the beauty of restclient-mode. I'll definitely find time to watch all episodes of Emacs Rocks, and you probably should, too.

A scaled down screenshot of the redesigned Full screenshot on my 2880x1800 MBP is here. Actually I lied a bit — the screenshots were taken with pageres, so I could have specified any resolution.

A scaled down screenshot of the redesigned Full screenshot on my 2880x1800 MBP is here. Actually I lied a bit — the screenshots were taken with pageres, so I could have specified any resolution.

  1. According to GitHut, in 2014 Q4, there were 22,450 VimL and 9,978 Elisp repositories on GitHub, respectively. And according to a real time search I did just now, the VimL number has risen to 82,519 and the Elisp number to 30,320. The ratio has risen from 2.25:1 to 2.72:1. To add insult to injury, on GitHub's advanced search page, GitHub lists VimL in the "Popular" language section and Elisp in "Everything else". Hurt feelings anyone?↩︎

  2. Of course Emacs can operate in standalone GUI mode (or more precisely, window system mode), and more can be done in GUI mode (both in terms of customizability and functinality). However, in my early days with Emacs I found the GUI look like crap — the default always does, even to this day. I can never bring myself to use anything crappy-looking, unless I've got no choice, so I went with the TUI. Later I learned how to make the GUI habitable (still not as nice as the uniformity I find in tty, though), but by that time I'm already totally in love with tty mode and probably will never switch.↩︎

  3. In Emacs I have ido, fiplr and sr-speedbar to help with navigation, but this is one area where a graphical sidebar really shines.↩︎