GNU Emacs Basics – Part 1 – About and Installation

About GNU Emacs

GNU Emacs is a commonly used text editor. It is not the prettiest text editor out there but in my opinion it is one of the most useful tool that you will ever learn. It is used by many people ranging from casual user to programmers.

This series of posts is not intended to cover everything GNU Emacs can do, that would be nearly impossible, but to help you get started, understand its capabilities and of course to get work done. Personally, I use GNU Emacs in conjunction with Common LISP programming language as a programming environment.

Here are some of the features of GNU Emacs:

  • GNU Emacs allows you to use buffers, windows, and frames
  • GNU Emacs allows you to use advance features such as search and replace, word abbreviation mode, and spell checking
  • GNU Emacs uses macros (you can write your own macros as well) to eliminate repetitive tasks
  • GNU Emacs allows you to set up your own .emacs customization file, modify your display, keyboard commands, editing environment, load Lisp packages for extra functionality, and so much more
  • GNU Emacs allows you to issue and edit shell commands
  • GNU Emacs allows you to use within Emacs, time management tools such as the calendar and diary
  • GNU Emacs allows you to use ediff to compare files
  • GNU Emacs is a programming environment and it has support for many programming languages (including Common LISP, the programming language I use), as well as the interface to compilers
  • GNU Emacs has a version control mode and an interface to CVS, RCS, Subversion, and SCCS
  • GNU Emacs also has a very comprehensive online help facility

As I said, there is so much more but every person has different needs and you should learn only the things that you need.

Installation of GNU Emacs

In order to install GNU Emacs you need to visit the GNU Emacs download page at You can find downloads there for Linux, BSDs, Windows, and MacOS. Download the version you like (it would be a .tar.gz file for Linux users) and install it. Also, more features are explained on the website and also Documentation and Support is available.

Once GNU Emacs is installed you can open it and you will be greeted by the GNU Emacs welcome screen.

Gnu Emacs welcome screen

Of course you can install Gnu Emacs via command line. In Ubuntu (the Linux distribution that I use) you can install it as a snap package using the following command:

sudo snap install emacs --classic

Snaps provide users with the most up-to-date software and it is the easiest way to install software via command line in Linux. In Ubuntu and probably any other Ubuntu based Linux distributions the GNU Emacs can be found in the Ubuntu Software and it can be installed with a single click.

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