A different GNUemacs experience

I have been refining my GNUemacs setup for many years now, and it is now quite a different beast from the default installation. Here, I describe what you will see that's different if you were to watch me at work with it.

Handsfree operations

One noticeable thing is that my emacs is doing quite a few operations without me touching the keyboard. Further observation will show that I am using two pedalboards, one for each foot, and each having three pedals on it.

Highlighted selection

Instead of just the normal cursor, you will often see a highlighted selection on my screen, moving in leaps and bounds. The cursor keeps changing colour, too, and the type of area that is highlighted, and the way it moves, change at the same time as the cursor colour.

Closer inspection will show that the highlighted area is acting as a kind of non-point cursor, selecting a particular kind of object (word, s-expression, paragraph, symbol, etc) and that the cursor movements are also working in terms of the same unit. The cursor colour indicates the unit type.

Occasionally a grid of dimension names pops up at the bottom of the screen, and I move a block cursor around that to select a new way of moving.

This is done by Versor.


I do a lot of my emacs control using a gamepad instead of the keyboard. I've now started to experiment with custom controllers made by taking two gamepads apart and combining them.


For some of the time, I use either a headset or an array microphone below the monitor, and speak a mixture of commands and dictation into the computer.

Embedded voice

As well as the normal commands with a pause before and after them, sometimes I speak commands in the flow of dictated text; the words making up command phrases turn orange briefly, and then disappear from the buffer as the commands are executed.

My embedded text processor is in embedded-commands.el and command-phrases.el. It builds on vr.el

Vocabulary learning

As I type, tooltip balloons appear briefly, containing words in several languages. As an aftermath of each balloon, the same words appear in brackets and italics in the buffer, each one disappearing after a couple more have popped up. I am a keen, but very amateur, language enthusiast, and what is happening here is a vocabulary learning aid is telling me translations into various languages of the words I have just typed.

[emacs] [computing]
John C. G. Sturdy
[John's home] Last modified: Wed Apr 16 18:27:47 IST 2008