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Why Spacemacs?

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Update: I really like Spacemacs, and if you like the following post I recommend that you try it, but I absolutely encourage to stay awayfrom Spacemacs the project, as theyrefuse to define a Code of Conduct.


Over the last six months I was slowly gravitating towards Spacemacs, an Emacs distribution that aims to combine Emacs with VIM. About a month ago I finally couldn’t resist its gravitational pull anymore, and abandoned my hand-crafted, elaborate, >3k lines personal Emacs configuration and switched to Spacemacs. In this post I’ll share why I think that Spacemacs is an awesome project, and why I’m happy that I’ve made it through a bumpy start and am now using Spacemacs full-time.

You’re using a starter kit, why?

Spacemacs is beautiful.

What got me attracted to Spacemacs initially was the beautiful user interface, particularly the beautiful sleek mode line. I love beautiful things, and the Spacemacs UI was just so much more beautiful than all that I had managed to achieve in my own configuration. Even as I write this post in Spacemacs, after almost six months of using it eight hours a day for work, I still marvel at its beauty.

Spacemacs is not a starter kit—it’s an editor on its own!

What made me stay with Spacemacs eventually was not its beauty, though; it was the revelation that Spacemacs—unlike Prelude, Graphene and similar projects—is not a “starter kit”. On the contrary: Spacemacs is actually an editor on its own, with a special focus on a beautiful user interface, great user experience and deep integration of packages. It feels like a perfectly integrated product made from one single piece.

Layers below

As bright as Spacemacs shines on the surface, as solid are it’s underpinnings and foundations, notably it’s excellent, well-designed and powerful configuration system called “layers”. A layer groups related packages and configuration into a single unit that provides a specific feature. Each layer is activated as a whole. The git layer for instance provides support for the Git version control system and enables the popularMagit extension and a couple of other Git-related packages. Activating this layer enables all Git features at once, without any further customisation required.

Layers are transparent. They never get in your way.

Nonetheless—and this is what’s so particularly awesome—layers are not opaque. A layer is not a “take all or nothing” thing. Each individual package within a layer can be disabled in isolation without breaking the layer at large. It’s even possible to “steal” a package from a layer, i.e. to use a layer but with an entirely different configuration for one specific package.

Layers enable horizontal and vertical customisation.

Unlike conventional starter kits, Spacemacs’ layer system succeeds at enabling customisation in both dimensions: Horizontally by adding new layers to your customisation, but also vertically by changing individual parts of a layer—which is what all other starter kits fail to provide.

Layers give structure and guidance to your personal configuration.

Spacemacs includes many built-in layers, but also lets users define their own layers and thus gives you structure and guidance to organise your configuration without risking the dreaded “Emacs bankruptcy”. Spacemacs configuration works best if you create layers early on for every additional configuration, and leave Spacemacs’ init file (~/.spacemacs or ~/.spacemacs.d/init.el) only for Spacemacs’ own settings (as in the template) and the list of enabled layers and excluded packages.

The external structureof layers helps you to group related configuration into single “units” or larger features. Spacemacs encourages you to follow its own example and not create a single large layer for your entire configuration, but rather split your configuration into small isolated layers, where each layer works as a single unit that provides one consistent larger feature.

The internal structureof a layer in turn helps you to modularise your configuration around the concept of packages, where each package provides one individual feature of a layer (e.g. completion, compilation, syntax highlighting, etc.). Layer packages are mostly identical with ELPA packages—Spacemacs will try to install packages from ELPA by default—but they don’t have to be: Spacemacs also knows “local” packages, i.e. libraries that are contained within a layer, which allows to keep a layer itself free from large amounts of custom extension code. Custom code goes into local packages, which are then enabled in the package configuration of a layer.

Dark corners

Even the best software has it’s dark corners, and there are some bad places in Spacemacs as well. Like all large projects that suck up many external contributions Spacemacs suffers from a wildly varying quality, and some pieces of code are downright bad. Having seen some of these places I can’t help but wonder how fast Spacemacs is accumulating technical debt, and whether the project provides the structures and processes to mitigate this problem.

No Code of Conduct here

Another very dark corner is the lack of a Code of Conduct, which is just sad in a project of this size and importance. Even worse is the apparent unwillingness to change that: The head maintainer actively spoke out against a Code of Conduct, and the whole issue seems to lack traction, given that it’s been open for almost three months despite supposedly having “high priority”. It’s so disappointing to see that the discussion centers around to usual “haters gonna hate” style of arguments which entirely and utterly fails to actually touch the problem that Codes of Conduct try to address.

To me this casts doubt on the governance of Spacemacs as a project and truly puts me off contributing any more, now that I fixed the worst issues I encountered.

But VIM?

Spacemacs’ banner brags about Spacemacs being “Emacs and VIM”, and many people seem to choose Spacemacs for its VIM bindings only. The work that Spacemacs has done on providing a comprehensive and consistent set of VIM bindings for all its included packages and modes is truly amazing, and absolutely brings Evil Mode to the next level, but Spacemacs goes far beyond being VIM.

VIM bindings are nice, but…

To me the VIM part was no incentive at all. I had been using VIM for quite some time in the past and I’m happy to have modal editing again, but it wasn’t what sold Spacemacs to me.

…Spacemacs’ importance goes far far beyond bindings.

I think the work and the value of Spacemacs go far, far beyond VIM bindings, and its real selling point and major contribution to the Emacs universe is its design (the layer system in particular), and the unique focus on building an integrated and consistent product that immediately delivers value to end users; a focus that many, many Emacs Lisp projects are entirely missing.

Spacemacs puts the user first.

I admire Spacemacs for trying to put the user first, however hard that is, and thinking about user’s needs first. This mindset is what leads to an awesome UI, to a great user experience, and to superb documentation, things that many other Emacs Lisp projects are missing.

I ? Spacemacs!

原文出处: Sebastian Wiesner
原文地址: http://www.lunaryorn.com/2016/01/26/why-spacemacs.html
原文时间: 2016-01-26 07:00
本文地址: http://emacsist.com/10705
整理时间: 2016-01-27 21:53

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