After a long time of intentionally avoiding tweaking my emacs file, I've gotten back into tweaking and hacking on my setup a bit in emacs land. Rather than wax philosophical about emacs and plain text, I thought I'd share a few things with you all in the hopes that this will prove helpful for you.

I've given some thought to publishing a git repository with my emacs files, my awesome config, and the useful parts of my bashrc files. My only hesitation is that all of these files aren't in one repository right now, and I'd need to do some clean up to avoid publishing passwords and the like. Encouragement along this direction might be helpful in inspiring me to be a little more forthcoming in this direction.

Keybinding "Name Spaces"

I've begun reorganizing key-bindings in a standard pattern, in order to avoid collision of bindings in certain spaces. The problem with the "C-x C-[a-z]" bindings is that it's hard to get really good mnemonic bindings for whatever you're trying to do, and there are few of them. I've taken to putting all of my custom bindings (mostly) under "C-c [a-z]," and then grouping them together, based on mode or function.

(global-set-key (kbd "C-c o a") 'org-agenda-list)
(global-set-key (kbd "C-c o t") 'org-todo-list)
(global-set-key (kbd "C-c o p") 'org-insert-property-drawer)
(global-set-key (kbd "C-c o d") 'org-date)
(global-set-key (kbd "C-c o j") 'org-journal-entry)
(global-set-key (kbd "C-c r") 'org-remember)
(global-set-key (kbd "C-c a") 'org-agenda)

(global-set-key (kbd "C-c w s") 'w3m-search) (global-set-key (kbd "C-c w t") 'w3m-goto-url-new-session) (global-set-key (kbd "C-c w o") 'w3m-goto-url) (global-set-key (kbd "C-c w y") 'w3m-print-this-url) (global-set-key (kbd "C-c w l") 'w3m-print-current-url)

You can see here, org-mode related bindings and w3m related bindings. "C-c o" is wide open, and I haven't yet found anything in that space that I've overwritten. Same with "C-c w". Even though the command key-chains are a bit longer than they might be if I piled things more sporadically, I can remember them more quickly.

Org-journal is something I got from metajack, and I don't use it as much as I should. Everything else is standard org or w3m functionality.

I suppose I should make mode-specific key-bindings so that I'm not eating away global name space for mode-specific functionality, but I'm not sure that would make things too much clearer or easier to remember.

Also I really like the (kbd ") syntax for specifying key sequences. Much easier to read and edit.

Custom File settings

A while back I pulled my customize-set variables out of my main init-file, and gave them their own file, which means my init-file isn't quite so long, and the variables that I'm not setting.

Nevertheless, I like to set as many variables by hand with setq just so that I can be in better touch with what settings I'm changing. This code, moves custom-set variables out of main file:

(setq custom-file "~/path/to/emacs.d/custom.el")
(load custom-file 'noerror)

Window Transparency and Font Settings

At the top of my init file, I have the following four lines to set font and window transparency.

(add-to-list 'default-frame-alist '(font . "Monaco-08"))
(set-default-font "Monaco-08")
(set-frame-parameter (selected-frame) 'alpha '(86 84))
(add-to-list 'default-frame-alist '(alpha 86 84))

Note that this depends on running a composting manager like xcompmngr, and the transparency is quite subtle. With great pleasure, running this code at the begining of the init file means that emacs' looks and behaves correctly when I start it using a plain,

emacs --daemon

command from a regular bash prompt. I'm running fairly recent (but perhaps not the actual release?) builds of emacs 23. Note that I'd had trouble getting daemonized versions of emacs to start and capture the right information about font and transparency. That seems to be resolved.


Here's the alaises I use to make key-commands less work to type. It's sort of a space between "creating a key binding" and just using the function from M-x Here's the current list:

(defalias 'wku 'w3m-print-this-url)
(defalias 'wkl 'w3m-print-current-url)

(defalias 'afm 'auto-fill-mode) (defalias 'mm 'markdown-mode) (defalias 'rm 'rst-mode) (defalias 'wc 'word-count) (defalias 'wcr 'word-count-region) (defalias 'qrr 'query-replace-regexp) (defalias 'fs 'flyspell-mode) (defalias 'oa 'org-agenda) (defalias 'uf 'unfill-region) (defalias 'ss 'server-start) (defalias 'se 'server-edit) (defalias 'nf 'new-frame) (defalias 'eb 'eval-buffer) (defalias 'mbm 'menu-bar-mode) (defalias 'hs 'hs-org/minor-mode)

There are a number of these that I don't use much any more, but it's not worth it to edit the list down.

New Modes

A few new modes that I've been using


I've started using yasnippet more, and I'm quite fond of it for managing and inserting little templates into files as I'm working. There's not a lot of example code that I can share with you, as it just works, but I do have a couple of notes/complaints:

  • I have to use C-i to expand snippets. The "tab" key doesn't seem to work to expand snippets ever.
  • The organization of the snippets directory is absurd. I understand how the structure of the hierarchy mirros the way modes are derived from one another, and having the expansion triggers as file names also makes sense, but it's really hard to organize things. Do people use modes that aren't derived from "text-mode"? Are there any? There should be a "global" directory in the snippets folder (next to text-mode) where all of the files in any number of folders beneath "global" are available in all modes.
  • It's amazing useful, and there are some things that I need to create snippets for that I haven't. This is on my list of things to do.


w3m is an external text-mode browser that emacs hackers have written a good bridge to emacs for. What this means is you get a text-mode browser that works in emacs, but it's speedy because page rendering happens outside of emacs.

It works, and it's immensely use-able, though the key-bindings are a bit hard to remember and there are too many of them to change at once without completely driving yourself crazy.

I read a thread on the emacs-devel list a few months back about embedding something like uzbl inside of emacs (making emacs more like a window-manager) and I think the project presents an interesting possibility, but I think w3m succeeds because it makes the text of a website accessible within emacs.

Embedding a "real" browser in emacs, would just duplicate window manager functionality, and add complication. I think better to make a uzbl config file that was emacs-friendly, and some sort of "create emacs buffer with selected uzbl text" bridge would be nice, but anything more than that seems foolish.

My (few) w3m key-bindings are above.

nxml mode

With all this web-design work I've been doing, (eg. cyborg institute) I've needed to stray into using HTML and CSS modes. There's this newer mode called nxml-mode which is delightful because it validates your html/xhtml/xml file on the fly (great!) but I've found it less than helpful for situations where I just have a snippet of HTML/XML in a given file, because it gets included later. Nonetheless, powerful stuff.

That's about it for now. There are few other things, but I don't feel ready to really explore them at this point, mostly because I haven't gotten familiar enough to know if my modifications have been useful. Muse-mode, etc.

Any good emacs code that I should be looking at?