Working Programmer's Emacs


I’m not an Emacs expert, but I’ve been using it for about 8 years. Emacs gives me a lot of power for editing Clojure (and other text), despite me knowing only the basics. It has a few hurdles to learning, and I’d like to make a series of lessons helping people over those hurdles.

Topics will include:

  • Emacs Basics (Opening/closing files, switching buffers, etc)
  • Emacs Copy-Paste (it’s a little different from most apps)
  • Paren setup (without Paredit)
  • Cider (the two keystrokes I really use)
  • Paredit (and the four keystrokes you need to stay sane and be productive)
  • Emacs Configuration (just the basics!) and Package management (how to install new packages)
  • Emacs Help (the internal help system and helpful web resources)

Please vote. Comments are encouraged!

  • :thumbsup: Yes, please teach this!
  • :thumbsdown: No, I’m not interested.

0 voters


Keep going back and forth between that and cursive. Would also be interested in the latter


I heard your interview with Ben Orenstein on the Thoughtbot podcast and your intentions of having guests. For an advanced episode on Emacs, the guy from “Parens for the Dead” would be ideal. I learned a lot by watching how he uses Emacs, but it was only a fraction because he moves very fast and didn’t really explain what he was doing with Emacs.

Also, watching someone like him use Emacs also kept me motivated to learn it. There is something about observing a master craftsman work with his tools.


On option to consider with Emacs is to come at it from the angle of Spacemacs. I’ve been a Vim user for a few years and am making a transition to Emacs 100% motivated by the superior Clojure tooling. Spacemacs was recommended to me to ease the transition and so far it’s been great.
There are countless flamewars on how to best learn Emacs, but having a community backed ‘distribution’ with standardized key bindings and compatibility testing seems like the easiest way to get started. I did have some difficulty getting Cider working, but my impression is that the issue I had (ensuring version compatibility) would’ve been an issue for anyone setting up Cider.

That all said, providing editor usage tips and tricks is certainly something that I would watch!


This one is super popular, so I’ve started lessons on this. You can find the first one here.


Eric, I watched the first Emacs lesson just now. Could you take a few minutes to explain the advantages of Emacs for a Clojure programmer? Or said another way, an overview, some perspective, might be very helpful for newcomers to Emacs.




Thanks Nando! I will!


Thanks for that first episode! Some feedback: It was definitely useful, but tbh you momentarily lost me at the “And I’ve got mine set up…” that came within a few seconds of the video’s start.

It’d be useful to walk through that setup so viewers can follow along and see what you’re seeing. (Or, alternatively, either starting with a bare-bones emacs installation or making the emacs config used in the videos publicly accessible.)

It’d also be great if the videos could be played sped up, since there’s some slack in the narration at 1x.

Thanks again!


Hey @jkmr,

Great advice.

Just a word on my setup and what I taught in that lesson: everything I taught is standard Emacs. The ido stuff is simply an enhancement that I prefer. The same keybindings work without it. I will go through basic configuration at some point, though.

Thanks for the comments. I really like hearing honesty about my videos.


I’ve been downloading the videos and playing them locally using VLC at 1.2X speed. That has worked well for me. If there are sections I don’t quite grasp, I find it usually works better for me to rewatch a few times rather than playing back slowly (or at normal speed).


I agree with Nando. I’d like to see an overview of the advantages and disadvantages of Emacs for Clojure. Where in the Clojure workflow does it shine? For what kinds of users? What other minor modes are useful?

I’ve used Emacs for 5 years (also not an expert) for programming and also find it indispensable for prose, but with Clojure I’ve actually been using Cursive/IntelliJ for a change.