Learning Emacs in Brazil

I’m here in Brazil at the arte.mov festival which is probably the best festival I’ve ever been to in terms of hospitality. We were in Belo Horizonte last week and now we’re in São Paulo with a fantastic group of artists, writers, activists and programmers, my old friend from Bristol, Duncan Speakman among them.

One of the new people I’ve met (although I’d seen his Wifi Camera work with Adam Somlai-Fisher and Usman Haque in Berlin before), Bengt Sjölén has convinced me to try Emacs and it appeals to my desire for arcane nerdy knowledge and keyboard combinations – something that takes time to learn but eventually enables you to edit faster.

So now, I’m happily struggling with buffers and keyboard combinations that remind me of John Gielgud’s line in ‘Shine’ about the Rachmaninov Piano Concerto Number 3: “Don’t you just love those fat chords?”

One thing that stumped me a bit this morning was code completion, which I think I will use a lot when I’m editing Python. The normal way to get code completion is to start typing the word and then press Meta (seems to be another word for ‘Alt’) and Tab. The problem with this in Linux is that this key combination is mapped to switching programmes and so you find yourself out of your Emacs session and into whatever else you’re running. A way round this is to substitute ‘Alt’ or ‘Meta’ with ‘Esc’. Now, code completion works on my box with ‘Esc-Tab’. Happy.

Now all I have to do is work out how to get snippets working!

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