#lisp FEP – I want to learn lisp but I don’t want to use emacs


Your favourite lisp(s) + emacs + Slime (+ paredit) constitute a fabulous development environment that is widely used, and therefore widely supported, on #lisp. Eschewing this environment for something else will make it far harder for people to understand your problems and (if you ask nicely, and intelligently) help you with them.

(I also find it telling that when the smart folks who started developing lisp had the time and energy to build editors they built emacsen.)

However, if you really can’t stand emacs (perhaps because of a childhood incident with Richard Stallman, a wasp’s nest and a jar of manuka honey), you could use plain Vi (and give up the wonders of Swank) or Cusp, if you’re an Eclipse fan.

But don’t come running to us when something goes wrong.


“I want to learn Russian but I can’t be bothered with all the funny characters.”

* “FEP” = Frequently Expressed Predjudice

10 Responses to “#lisp FEP – I want to learn lisp but I don’t want to use emacs”

  1. mfh says:

    There are a few quite sophisticated IDE’s for CL, for those who aren’t Emacs fans. Eclipse has a CL plugin called Dandelion, and many of the commercial CL’s offer their own IDE’s.

  2. cap says:

    If you want to have the best of both worlds, use a vi editing-mode! (e.g. viper)

  3. ref says:

    I tried to learn Lisp on Windows using emacs+slime+sbcl but I couldn´t make it work. I had success with xemacs+clisp. For a newbie like me it´s too difficult, so it´s better to use a commercial free edition or trial but I wanted to use a open source implementation. If only there was a packaged distribution …

  4. splittist says:


    Indeed, Dandelion could well be worth a look (but I don’t really know how it compares to Cusp). And, indeed, the commercial CL’s have their own more-or-less clickibunti IDEs. I get the impression, however, that their editors are emacsen, even if they have a thin layer of Windows-like keybindings as an option.

  5. splittist says:


    I’ve found the combination of an sbcl msi package (like this, no doubt outdated by now, so look here), a Windows-adapted emacs (like this one), some asdf magic (such as this) and a vanilla slime works great. (Except for “C-c C-c” at the repl killing the underlying sbcl – but I guess just shouldn’t write non-terminating loops…)

  6. Larry Clapp says:

    I can’t stand A2. That would be more applicable to APL (unless it’s changed since 1986 :). How about “I want to learn Russian but don’t want to move to Russia to do it” ?

    That said … I abandoned work on slim-vim and purchased Lispworks Professional. So *I* moved to Russia.

    But it’s still a stupid comparison.

  7. Keith says:

    To me, the main problem with Emacs is that it’s fugly. Besides, I like doing i, Ctrl-V, y, p, :w, :q, etc. But the Russian argument is flawed. You’re not learning new letters; you’re learning a new alphabet. And in theory, you could use the Roman alphabet rather than the Cyrillic, though I doubt many Russians would appreciate that. I’ve never tried Russian, but if it’s anything like German, grammar (especially cases) is going to be much more difficult than learning a few new letter representations.

  8. Vermeil says:


    Find another community.

    Lisp is one of my favorite languages, but I keep getting fed up with it. One reason is this pervasive “Emacs is the One True editor” nonsense. Does using Emacs make you all so miserable that you need to compensate by belittling people who prefer not to use it?

    No, I won’t be running *to* you. I prefer to run *away* from people like you.

  9. splittist says:


    Note two important words in the title: “#lisp” and “learn”. It is quite possible to be a fabulous lisp programmer and not use Emacs. It is possible to learn lisp without using Emacs. It is highly sub-optimal for most on #lisp to try to learn lisp without using Emacs.

  10. Vermeil says:

    Except for those “important words”, your post strongly implies that you presuppose that no sensible reason for not choosing Emacs exists and that you associate “smart people” with Emacs. The second alternative even states by analogy that Emacs is a *prerequisite* for learning Lisp.

    I’ve taught programming for several years, and have been active in PL forums even longer. I’ve helped people learn C/C++, Perl, and Tcl (and some more to lesser extent), and I have *never* found any reason to demand that the learners should use some specified environment to enable me to help them.

    Still, I *can* imagine one reason: that the interface/environment is simply too intrusive to allow a programming discussion that is decoupled from it. If that is the case, I submit that using Emacs to learn Lisp is highly sub-optimal for anyone, on #lisp or anywhere else.

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