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Emacs' GNU Look: A Sneak Preview of Emacs 21.0 - page 3

The More Things Change....

  • December 18, 2000
  • By Michael Hall

On starting the program up, I immediately understood where the rumors of Emacs' GNOMEification had come from: where the program used to present a very sparse, black and white window with simple, unadorned, menus it now has a toolbar providing a set of basic buttons familiar to anyone who's ever used GNOME or a GTK app. The splash screen, I also noticed, showed something besides fixed-width fonts for a change: Emacs has support for scaled, proportional fonts.

One of the changes to Emacs 21, according to the News document that ships with it, is that it can now take advantage of X toolkits if present. It lists support for Lesstif/Motif as well as Lucid and Athena widgets (and Xaw3d). Consequently, the menubar and the tool bar look more finished. The program does not, however, use GTK at this time. With the right icons, though, it would be easy to make Emacs look quite a bit like a GNOME app, or, for that matter, a KDE app.

The toolbar is the function of some very simple Lisp.

  (define-key global-map [tool-bar shell]
    '(menu-item "Shell" shell
		:image (image :type xpm :file "~/gnome-term-linux.xpm")))
in my .emacs file, for instance, produced an icon on the toolbar that invokes the Emacs shell buffer. Obviously, much more elaborate code can be substituted to make it worth the user's while to remove her hands from the keyboard long enough to click a button.

The addition of graphical cues extends to a few other areas of the software. The speedbar, for instance, now uses folder icons to denote directories instead of + and - symbols. Because of the raised look of the bars separating frames, it seems more likely people might try to "grab" them and resize them.

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