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Manoj Rao

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In the past, I have written about using Emacs as a C++ IDE, and some other stuff. However, I did not realize that I have been using Emacs for many other things. To be brutally honest, I would not have enjoyed using Emacs anywhere nearly as much if it wasn’t for the features listed here. So, I decided to cover some of them. I will provide the configs that works out-of-the-box on my setup (by literally copying from .emacs)

First things

tl;dr: If you are impatient to get started skip this section and proceed to the first section with package Helm

I am running Emacs - 26.1 compiled from source. You don’t need to do this to get these features working. All the packages mentioned here were installed from Emacs package Manager. By running,

M-x list-packages

This should bring up a list of packages available in MELPA. Now, don’t worry if you don’t know what MELPA is, just think of it as a repository of all packages, as in, analogous to the Debian Package Repo in Debian/Ubuntu distros. In this case, we get a long list of available packages like below:

List Packages

If you select a package, a new buffer containing a short description pops up. It usually contains a “Quick Start” instruction for the package. You can simply press i and x to install a package.


If you don’t know what this is, just drop whatever you are doing and give this a shot. Odds are, it is totally going to be worth your time.

I don’t think I should try and describe this feature but here is the official blurb from their website:

Helm is an Emacs framework for incremental completions and narrowing selections.
It helps to rapidly complete file names, buffer names, or any other Emacs
interactions requiring selecting an item from a list of possible choices. 


Helm Demo

(require 'helm)

(setq-default helm-M-x-fuzzy-match t)
(global-set-key "\C-x\C-m" 'helm-M-x)
(global-set-key "\C-c\C-m" 'helm-M-x)
(define-key evil-ex-map "x" 'helm-M-x)

(define-key evil-ex-map "b " 'helm-mini)
(define-key evil-ex-map "e" 'helm-find-files)

Evil Mode

Evil is an Extensible VI Layer for Emacs. This is, obviously, a big controversial topic to stray away from a purist’s Emacs experience. To be honest, there is no such thing. In my opinion, the raw power of Emacs mainly comes from the ability to turn Emacs into whatever you want. I grew up using machines that did not have anything apart from vi on them so I ended up using it quite a bit and got quite good at it too. I’m no guru, but I can use vim well enough to get some work done quickly or feel productive without knowing why.

Approved By Your Orthopedician

Using Emacs, I missed the single key press commands a lot, mostly because I am terribly slow at typing, at least, in comparison with real masters I have encountered

Enable Evil Mode:

(require 'evil)
(evil-mode 1)

;;;; define shortcuts for powerful commands
;;;; these can be invoked vim-style 
;;;; Esc-:<single_key_from_below>
(define-key evil-ex-map "b " 'helm-mini)
(define-key evil-ex-map "e" 'helm-find-files)
(define-key evil-ex-map "g" 'helm-projectile-grep)
(define-key evil-ex-map "f" 'helm-projectile-find-file)

;;;; I wept with joy about this in:
(define-key evil-ex-map "m" 'magit-blame)


I cannot understand why people are not running on the streets just pinching their scalps because they are stark raving mad with joy, because that’s how helm-projectile makes me feel. Github


Helm Projectile Grep

(require 'helm-projectile)
(define-key evil-ex-map "g" 'helm-projectile-grep)
(define-key evil-ex-map "f" 'helm-projectile-find-file)

Doom Themes

Since this is aesthetics based, it is very subjective. So skip this section if you are happy but if you like what you see in the screenshots above, continue.

Doom Themes helped me setup a “modern” looking Emacs. I get bored from time to time about using the same looks on my Emacs (feel like there’s some room for psycho-analysis there). So I kept looking for “that one theme” on Emacs. I used the zenburn theme for a long time. But I eventually realized that I actually like contrasting font but not with colors that are too sharp. Enter Doom Themes, in particular, doom-molokai which apparently mimics the look and feel of the Modern Atom IDE. The bare minimum setup required for the above setup is presented here. I use a modified version of this stolen from the Internet.

(require 'doom-themes)

(require 'indent-guide)
(set-face-background 'indent-guide-face "dimgray")

;; Global settings (defaults)
(setq doom-themes-enable-bold t    ; if nil, bold is universally disabled
      doom-themes-enable-italic t) ; if nil, italics is universally disabled

;; Load the theme (doom-one, doom-molokai, etc); keep in mind that each
;; theme may have their own settings.
(load-theme 'doom-molokai t)

;; Enable flashing mode-line on errors

;; Enable custom neotree theme
(doom-themes-neotree-config)  ; all-the-icons fonts must be installed!

(require 'doom-modeline)
(doom-modeline-mode 1)


I know I have written a couple of posts mainly about rtags: here and there

Reading Email in Emacs with MU4E

This really deserves a complete post to itself. The configuration this requires is sort of non-trivial (my case at least). Lack of good Email Clients on Emacs has had been one of my long time peeves, sorry Gnus. Apparently I was not alone, and someone else (thankfully, smarter and more skilled) felt this needed to be solved too. mu4e along with offlineimap have given me an in-Emacs solution to writing emails that I actually enjoy.

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