Learning GNU Emacs, 3rd Edition
A Guide to Unix Text Processing
Publisher: O'Reilly Media
Final Release Date: December 2004
Pages: 536

GNU Emacs is the most popular and widespread of the Emacs family of editors. It is also the most powerful and flexible. Unlike all other text editors, GNU Emacs is a complete working environment--you can stay within Emacs all day without leaving. Learning GNU Emacs, 3rd Edition tells readers how to get started with the GNU Emacs editor. It is a thorough guide that will also "grow" with you: as you become more proficient, this book will help you learn how to use Emacs more effectively. It takes you from basic Emacs usage (simple text editing) to moderately complicated customization and programming.The third edition of Learning GNU Emacs describes Emacs 21.3 from the ground up, including new user interface features such as an icon-based toolbar and an interactive interface to Emacs customization. A new chapter details how to install and run Emacs on Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux, including tips for using Emacs effectively on those platforms.Learning GNU Emacs, third edition, covers:

  • How to edit files with Emacs
  • Using the operating system shell through Emacs
  • How to use multiple buffers, windows, and frames
  • Customizing Emacs interactively and through startup files
  • Writing macros to circumvent repetitious tasks
  • Emacs as a programming environment for Java, C++, and Perl, among others
  • Using Emacs as an integrated development environment (IDE)
  • Integrating Emacs with CVS, Subversion and other change control systems for projects with multiple developers
  • Writing HTML, XHTML, and XML with Emacs
  • The basics of Emacs Lisp
The book is aimed at new Emacs users, whether or not they are programmers. Also useful for readers switching from other Emacs implementations to GNU Emacs.
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oreillyLearning GNU Emacs, 3rd Edition

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(2 of 2 customers found this review helpful)


Hoping for a 4th Edition

By re_nelson

from Dallas, TX, USA

About Me Developer

Verified Reviewer


  • Accurate
  • Helpful examples
  • Well-written


    Best Uses

    • Intermediate

    Comments about oreilly Learning GNU Emacs, 3rd Edition:

    As another reviewer mentioned, text editors are undergoing a renaissance. And, for me, GNU Emacs has been a wonderful journey of rediscovery after far too many years of benign neglect.

    Any book with Eric Raymond among the authors is guaranteed greatness. Although I have the latest GIT version of GNU Emacs (24.4.50), it was an interesting journey to build version 21.3.5 on a modern platform so that I could go down memory lane with the identical version written about by Deb, Mark, James, Bill and Eric.

    Still it's 2014 and nine years have passed under the bridge. Even though so much is available online, the pleasure of cracking open a book still is unmatched. I sure hope that the gang gets together again for a long-overdue fourth edition.


    Very good book and very good software

    By FrDlp

    from France

    Verified Buyer

    Comments about oreilly Learning GNU Emacs, 3rd Edition:

    It's easy to learn how to use Emacs with such a book. It is well written.

    (13 of 15 customers found this review helpful)


    Informative, but a frustrating read...

    By Brad Camroux

    from Undisclosed

    Comments about oreilly Learning GNU Emacs, 3rd Edition:

    I wish that I could give this book a better rating. The content is, for the most part, well-done. I must, however, take issue with the editing. There are so many errors in this the third edition that I doubt even a high school English teacher would accept it as a final draft. I really wonder whether the authors compiled the manuscript using emacs, or if they used one of the heavily bloated word processors on the market. Emacs would have certainly have been sufficient to mark up the text of the manuscript. This would have at least pointed out errors such as mismatched parentheses.

    The content is good, although at times the authors' instructions are difficult to understand. Nevertheless I am learning from the book, and will continue to do so. Frustrating as the errors are, I am willing to set them aside in my head and plow on through the material, trying to absorb what I can before going over it again later. I just hope that the fourth edition will have better editing.

    (10 of 12 customers found this review helpful)


    Respects the intellect of one motivated enough to learn Emacs and enables mastery of the tool

    By barryhawkins

    from Undisclosed

    Comments about oreilly Learning GNU Emacs, 3rd Edition:

    If a person is thinking of learning GNU Emacs (http://www.gnu.org/software/emacs/emacs.html) , or if they have been using it and are looking to sharpen their skills and broaden their Emacs savvy, it is a fairly safe assumption that the individual is motivated. This person probably knows their way around a command prompt, and it is likely that they are aware that Lisp is more than just a speech impediment. This person needs a book that offers expert advice without wasting time or insulting the intellect of the reader. Learning GNU Emacs, 3rd Edition (http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/gnu3/) is that book.

    As a programmer, when firing up a monolithic word processor or graphical IDE to edit a simple script or properties file, one cannot help but wonder if these tools aren't overkill much of the time. For a growing number of users, the answer is yes. The tried-and-true text editor is enjoying a renaissance of sorts. One of the most extensible and customizable applications in the text editing category is the venerable GNU Emacs.

    The tutorials and documentation for Emacs are abundant, but they often prove time-consuming and ineffective for actually learning Emacs. This book is a refreshing break from the documentation many have come to expect. Imagine you had a consortium of leading experts on Emacs at your disposal to teach you how to use it in a conversational, consultative style. That is what has been bundled into this latest edition of the book.

    The extensibility of Emacs has been both a key strength and a criticism of the application. Its user and developer community have created all sorts of additional capabilities for Emacs, ranging from the impressive to the absurd. The authors have done well to judiciously select what to cover in this edition. For example, while Emacs does have the capability to function as an email client, other applications have long superceded its ability. The authors have chosen not to cover this topic, and instead devote the available space to learning Emacs' core functionality - powerful, efficient text editing. Other peripheral areas of Emacs have been left for the user to research after gaining their solid foundation on Emacs as editor and work environment, such as compatibility modes for programming languages other than Java and Perl.

    This edition of the book uses the space gained by the removal of esoteric topics to flesh out areas of more common interest. Integration with the major version control systems has been expanded to include Subversion alongside of the age-old standards CVS, RCS, and SCCS. Coverage of support for Java and Perl has also improved, as well as sections for editing HTML and XML. Users wanting to tap into the power of Lisp programming for Emacs should find the coverage satisfying as well.

    Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of this book is the chapter devoted to the use of Emacs on different platforms. Unix, Windows and Mac OS X users receive equal acknowledgement. The precautions and insights regarding Emacs nuances when used on particular platforms can reduce users' frustration when getting started with Emacs.

    Even current Emacs users can benefit from this work. The mnemonic devices and conventions used in the book allow users to commit useful keyboard commands to memory. The memorization is further solidified by the exercises sprinkled appropriately through each chapter. Readers do not go for very many pages before it is time to be at the keyboard again, harnessing the power of muscle memory to reinforce the material presented.

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