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Emacs is Not Just An Editor

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Update 2016-07-02: Link to article by Christopher Patti

Update 2020-01-21: Link to the "Emacs is no text editor" article

Update 2020-09-11: Rephrasing of "Emacs is an OS" because of avoiding to use wrong terminology

The editor war between users of the vim editor and the Emacs editor exists since decades. Here is my comment on that as somebody who is using vim and GNU/Emacs intensive on a daily basis.

In my opinion, the most dominant advantage of Emacs is that it's not just an editor: it's a LISP interpreter and thus a very capable highly dynamic platform.

The consequence of this fact is dramatically: Emacs runs a very large number of third party packages. Those packages provide top-of-the-art features for editing but also for non-editing stuff like file management, games, project management, email management, calendar, data processing and visualization, version management, spreadsheets, drawings, or even composing music.

Other "editors" do offer some few non-editing features as well. However, only Emacs is even used by people who don't need an editor at all. Org-mode is an excellent example of functionality which has almost nothing to do with editing per se and whose enormous capabilities are not matched by any other software solution.

Apparently, the well known quote "Emacs is not an editor, it's an operating system" is not just a funny phrase to make you smile - it's perceived as an opererating system (in a non-technical sense). People like John Wiegley (and many more) are not using many features from applications related to one specific operating system or any other software at all. They basically "live" within Emacs only. They've added another abstraction layer on top of their classic operating system. This does provide great abilities whose benefits can't be understood by most people unfortunately. It's impossible to explain colors to people who can not see (yet).

So: comparing Emacs to an editor is like comparing GNU/Linux to a word processor. It's an unfair and inadequate comparison for both sides. Those stupid editor flame-wars are not worth the time at all.

If you need only an editor, great power-tools like vim are fine as well. Don't complain that Emacs can be so much more than just an editor.

Simply use the best tool for each job deliberately.

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