Bye, Emacs!


I switched to Doom Emacs back in January. I was excited to see how extensible Emacs is and I can see why people have stuck with the editor for so long. I even tried to get some of my friends to come give it a shot.

The honeymoon is over. I gave up on Emacs.

A lot of my experience mirrors this blog post from Tristan Hume. I found it while looking for sympathy during the peak of my frustration with Emacs. It really helped validate my feelings during a time when I was blaming myself for Emacs' problems.

The Good

Emacs, especially Doom, has some awesome stuff going for it:

  • Evil, by far the best Vim emulation in any non-Vim editor
  • Spacemacs-style keybinds are genius
  • A declarative package manager, straight.el
  • Discoverability of functions is very good
  • Incredibly easy to extend the editor

The Bad

Over time, I ran into more and more issues.

Startup time on my fast desktop was over 5 seconds. Opening a Rust file would freeze the editor for 3 seconds. Even the input latency on buffers with any features enabled was unbearable. I am told this is unique to Emacs on Windows.

I spent a lot of my time with Emacs figuring out why stuff was broken. Why did Treemacs get into a busted state so frequently? Why would some stuff replicate across persp-mode workspaces? Why can I sometimes get my cursor into the LSP suggestions window and edit it? Doom was supposed to be a curated set of packages and patches to make them all work together, and yet they often did not.

Packages monkeypatch functions that get monkeypatched by other packages that invoke some hooks in an order that sometimes changes. I ended up reading a lot of Emacs Lisp trying to figure out why something small like line numbers refused to work.

Doom Emacs has a cool upgrade process and uses straight.el for its packages. Over 8 months, I tried to upgrade Doom four times and did not succeed once. Each time, I would hit a new unique internal error and restart my Doom install from scratch.

Eryn would frequently poke fun at how my editor was janky and broken.

By the end of my time with Emacs, I was depressed. I thought I had found the end-all editor, the last one I would ever use, and it would be infinitely customizable! In reality, it was slow, often broken, and it made me not want to program anymore.

The Now

I bought a Sublime Text 4 upgrade and switched back to my old ways, mostly.

It's painfully obvious how much faster Sublime Text is than Emacs. The editor opens instantly. Files open instantly. I can type and the editor usually doesn't freeze.

I learned the fundamentals of the Sublime Text plugin API and wrote a couple plugins. It turns out that's pretty easy. I even changed some of my bindings to be more Spacemacs/Doom-like.

Programming is fun again and I spend zero time waiting for a frozen editor or fiddling with monkeypatching a package's obscurely-named functions.

I'm happy again.