Back to Emacs

Sep 3, 2021

My History with Emacs

  • Started using vanilla Emacs in 2012
  • Copied a bunch of configs from the Internet
  • Switched to Spacemacs in 2017
  • Tried Org mode, but notes search or Babel never worked well for me
  • Switched to VSCode in 2020 for a year
  • Tried Doom Emacs in July 2021, fell in love and switched back since then
  • Now I do my coding editing, and notes writing in Emacs every day


  • Bare metal Emacs is too hard to use and forces me to tinker all the time. After my config bankruptcy, Doom Emacs saves my life.
  • I bound a lot of two-key combo with the Mac OS keyboard’s Command/Super key, like Super-t -> (counsel-buffer-or-recentf). But later I found it hard to switch to Linux desktops because the keyboard layout is different from Apple. So I started remembering function names instead, and relied on Ivy autocomplete to help me. That reduces my reliance on Apple hardware.
  • Org mode + Babel, when it WORKS, it is powerful! Doom Emacs shines with org-mode working out of box.
  • For packages backed by Linux commands, like Magit or counsel-ag, it is important to learn the underlying model (git) or CLI options (ag) first. Otherwise, your usage is quite limited and never realizes their potential.

Personal workflow

  • I like to export an org file into read-only html file a lot. I find it reading my notes in a different fonts and background is refreshing and inspiring. So I used C-c C-e h o a lot. If the default HTML template is too plain to you. Grab one theme from org-html-themes and roll with it.
  • I use a like a scratch pad and a brain extension. This is inspired by Cal Newport’s WorkingMemory.txt. Our lives have so many important decisions to make, but worring where to take notes is NOT one of them.
  • When editing org files, I like to narrow to the subtree, so my screen is distraction-free, whic helps my focus a lot.

My favorite packages

  • Doom-emacs (More of a framework than a package)
  • Magit
  • Org-mode
  • counsel-projectile (as opposed to Helm which I found too heavy)