[OS X Emacs] Re: Returning to Emacs

David Reitter david.reitter at gmail.com
Thu Apr 15 20:55:36 EDT 2010

On Apr 15, 2010, at 4:01 PM, David Frascone wrote:
> 	• Not to start a flame war, but, now that Aquamacs is based on version 23, and cocoa-emacs is not going to be maintained any more, there are only three viable emacsen to choose from: Aquamacs, http://emacsformacosx.com/ and the emacs that comes on OS X in the terminal.  Is there a guide anywhere showing the major differences?  For me, pretty much a noob to OS X emacs, I only notice two major differences between Emacs.app and Aquamacs:  Aquamacs has tabs, and, Aquamacs uses CMD for meta, instead of Option.
> Seems I was wrong, and there are many more viable emaxen out there -- given that, why should I choose one over another?

You weren't that wrong.  There's GNU Emacs 23 (NS port), which you can download as a binary build from various sources (you mentioned one).  You can run this as a X11 version as well (you may have to re-build it).  Most people won't want to do that.  You can also run it in a terminal, but again, most people wouldn't benefit from it.  And: most people won't want to run this sort of vanilla Emacs build anyways, except you're keen to install other packages and do a lot of configuration yourself.  However, it will be maximally compatible with other Emacs 23 installations.

Aquamacs 2.x is based on GNU Emacs 23 but adapted to fit contemporary user interface standards.  Tabs are just one feature of many.  There are key bindings, more ways to set Meta keys (e.g., right command-key only), spell-checking in 140-or-so-languages out of the box, printing / PDF support, full-screen editing, more comfortable configuration of colors and fonts (and fonts specific to major modes if you want those),  and of course it comes bundled with a myriad of major modes and extra packages including LaTeX (AUCTeX) with Skim support and ESS, in addition to downloadable point&click installers and user-friendly, searchable Apple Help manuals.  See its website and try it out to see if you like it.

Carbon Emacs Package and Aquamacs 1.x are based on the older Emacs 22, and both are still a very viable choice.  Carbon Emacs Package is designed to be more UI-compatible with GNU Emacs on other platforms, but it bundles quite a few popular packages such as AUCTeX, and you can install some packages via a package distribution system.  As announced last week, Carbon Emacs Package will no longer be supported, so we're going to provide a configuration file for Aquamacs to give people the same Emacs-compatible environment without permanently taking away any of the Aquamacs functionality.  If you value stability/reliability, choose Aquamacs 1.9 or Carbon Emacs Package.

The big difference between Emacs 22 and Emacs 23 is Unicode support.  You will sometimes read about "Cocoa Emacs", and that means Emacs 23 (NS=NextStep port).  "Carbon Emacs" is Emacs 22 on the Mac.  The names come from the different OS APIs (Carbon vs. Cocoa) that those Emacs versions use.  (There are experimental patches for a Carbon Emacs 23, which is a mix of Carbon and Cocoa, dubbed "AppKit port".  This is in development and most people won't want to use it regularly.)

I hope that clears up some of the misconceptions that are out there.

http://aquamacs.org -- Aquamacs: Emacs on Mac OS X
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