May 26, 2018

Emacs' GNU Look: A Sneak Preview of Emacs 21.0 - page 4

The More Things Change....

  • December 18, 2000
  • By Michael Hall

Emacs is, of course, a huge program. There are "Emacs people" out there who use a lot of it, and there are "lesser Emacs people" who have a few set tasks they perform. It's not possible to describe everything new and improved, if only because changes that may seem trivial to someone who never uses the features in question are likely profound to someone else.

Consequently, this is just a look at a few of the changes a weekend turned up.

There is one bit of "GNOME functionality" now added. The "browse-url-gnome-moz" option to "browse-url-browser-function" can be used to invoke the GNOME gnome-moz-remote program. GNOME users will be familiar with that as a tool to invoke a new browser window without launching an entirely new process. One of the nice things about it is that it's smart about your current running browser: Mozilla users don't get a new instance of Netscape Communicator to deal with when opening a URL with this function. Now it's tied into Emacs, which is handy for previewing HTML copy or opening URLs from a mail message.

GNUS has earned a following not only as a good newsreader, but as a mail client and a back-end to several other 'net-based resources. A few new things have popped up. It now, for instance, has integrated MIME support. Combined with another new feature (the ability to display graphics in your Emacs window), it's possible for GNUS to show inline MIME attachments (pictures), and Emacs now also has sound support, making it possible to play .wav files from within Emacs.

This new MIME functionality frees GNUS and Emacs in general from relying on external helper programs to display graphics. According to the documentation, Emacs supports PNG, XPM, TIF, JPEG, and a few other graphics formats, all of which are compile-time options.

GNUS also has better multi-lingual support. If you receive a message written with Japanese characters, it prints Japanese characters.

Finally, GNUS also now supports IMAP and some interesting new backends, such as Slashdot (which allows you to browse the site as if it's an NNTP feed) and support for some popular web-based mail services (such as HotMail and Yahoo!).

There are also some changes in the way GNUS is configured. If, like me, you borrowed compulsively from others to get your GNUS configuration up and running, it's time to dust off .gnus.el and figure out what some of those statements mean--they've changed a few things. Just looking at the suggested configurations, though, they look more streamlined, allowing for much less configuration code to handle much more.

Another new piece of streamlining is in how Emacs handles scroll wheels on mice so equipped. What used to take 12 lines of Lisp now works with the very simple command (mwheel-install) placed in your .emacs file.

Font-locking, which is how Emacs provides color syntax highlighting, now supports multiple lines. Another feature long in coming to GNU Emacs was color support from tty's (text consoles.) While Emacs under X provided color syntax highlighting, Emacs from the console didn't. That's changed now, which makes using Emacs on an older machine that isn't quite up to X much more of a pleasure.

In the "yet another reason to never leave" department, there's WoMan, the integrated man page reader, which does a nice job of formatting man pages and provides hyperlinks to man pages referenced by the word under the cursor. It takes a little while to get WoMan started, since it indexes your entire collection, but once loaded, it's a nice way to look up information. With something like procmail, which spans four manpages, hyperlinked help is handy.

Configuring Emacs via its built-in configuration menu structure seems a little easier now, as well. There are graphical radio buttons for options, and the use of X toolkits makes it easier to immediately identify what's to be clicked.

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