GNU Emacs […] is a sort of hybrid between Windows Notepad, a monolithic-kernel operating system, and the International Space Station. It’s a bit tricky to explain, but in a nutshell, Emacs is a platform written in 1976 (yes, almost half a century ago) for writing software to make you more productive, masquerading as a text editor.
1 Why Emacs
It took me a lot of perseverance to get into emacs. I love it now though. The reason I got into it again (I’d dabbled a long time ago, before subsequently using vim instead) was I was looking for a libre alternative to Workflowy. This brought me to org-mode and then I also came across spacemacs, which combines emacs with the vi-like keybindings that I was very used to. It also has a very nice default look and feel and plenty of useful features configured out of the box. So I gave emacs another shot.
I persevered this time because I really want to use libre software wherever possible. Emacs must be one of the longest running free software projects out there, and I feel it will exist for a long time after other editors have come and gone. It is really hackable and has a great community of people hacking on it.
I would never make the claim that Emacs is better than any other editor, there are many good ones out there, and I think it really depends on what you want and why. But I can quite definitely say that after using emacs regularly for a few years, I absolutely love it, and can’t imagine myself using anything else anytime soon.
One of the delightful and surprising things about Emacs, as you get to know it better, is the depth of customisation which is available. Emacs can be a completely different editor for different people and for different purposes. Being able to tweak things on the fly and try them out before you commit to them, or even as a temporary fix to solve the particular problem you have right now, is empowering.
I can’t recommend a good tutorial as I never really did one end-to-end, just dipped into different things here and there.
Bit I think series of short videos can be better than text tutorials for this, sometimes.
I haven’t watched this series, Using Emacs, but I see it linked a lot, so it might be useful: www.youtube.com/watch?v=49kBWM3RQQ8&list=PL9KxKa8NpFxIcNQa9js7dQQIHc81b0-Xg
This one is quite good for org-mode, not least because he sounds like Arnold Schwarzenegger: www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQS06Qjnkcc
3 Do you spend more time configuring Emacs than doing work with it?
Not gonna lie, I do probably spend more time fiddling with Emacs than I really should. But I enjoy it!
I also feel like it's an investment that's paid off - understanding how it works has let me do more with it, so it's probably been a net gain overall.
And unlike other programs that might just be setting options etc, I feel like at least when I'm tweaking it I'm learning skills that might be applicable elsewhere. (In that elisp is kind of coding at times.)