Atom is the new Emacs


Another repost from my Google+...

So I'm coming to the realization that GitHub's Atom editor is "the new Emacs." Now, don't take this the wrong way, editor fans of all stripes. This is not meant to be a denigration of any particular editor (or even a promotion of one). Just an interesting common quirk Emacs and Atom have.

Back when it was still new, Emacs was lambasted for being a "piggish" editor. The joke was that "Emacs" stood for "Eight Megs And Constantly Swapping" (back when eight megs was a lot of RAM). People complained that Emacs wasn't really an editor – it was just a Lisp environment that happened to ship with a bunch of functions for text editing. This is actually somewhat accurate, even though it was meant as an insult: the majority of Emacs's editing functionality does consist of Lisp routines. The fact that it's a full-blown Lisp environment also gave it lots of crazy capabilities that other editors of the time (and even some modern editors) didn't have.

Now let's turn the page to Atom. People complain that Atom is big and "piggish" and, well, even compared to Emacs on modern hardware or most any other popular editor, yeah, it certain appears that way. People also complain that it's not really an editor, that it's really a web browser (it is based on Chromium) with all its editor functionality implemented as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Which, yeah, is basically also true. However, it's that web browser base that gives it lots of functionality that other editors don't always have. Bulit-in live previews of web pages (or other markup languages, like Asciidoc and Markdown, that can be converted to HTML) is a killer feature that many editors don't have, for example. See the parallels to Emacs, here?

One interesting thing that Atom has that Emacs doesn't is its choice of implementation languages. Love or hate the trifecta of HTML/CSS/JavaScript (okay, and CoffeeScript as well, which is basically just syntactic sugar on top of JavaScript), there are tons of coders out there who know these languages. Certainly a lot more than those who know Lisp (which tends to be mostly beloved by AI people and/or theoretical/mathematical CS folks). As a result, Atom does have some really, really, really neat plugins that have cropped up very quickly since it was made public.

Current rating: 3.6


work 1 year, 3 months ago

Nice work

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Current rating: 5

Ramkumar 8 months, 1 week ago

Nice comparisons dude!!!, good work. basically i am a coder for scientific computing. initially i used atom for a while then partially switched to emacs, now i am unable to move out of it because of its awesome features. With the statement "Atom is the modern Emacs", i thought that emacs keybindings can be enabled in Atom too, if thats true please let me know. i am a serious fan of people who developed atom and emacs.

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