2023-07 Austin Emacs Meetup

There was another meeting a couple of weeks ago of EmacsATX, the Austin Emacs Meetup group. For this month we had a predetermined topic: Org-Reveal. As always, there was mention of new modes, packages, technologies and websites that I had never heard of, and some of this may be of interest to you as well.

#1 was the organizer; he used to work for the City of Austin. I do not know what he does for money, but it involves Emacs.
#2 was the developer in North Texas. I might give him the number two spot permanently.
#3 (aka the Esteemed Gentleman From Oklahoma) was not in attendance.
#4 was a developer in Seattle, originally from Romania.
#5 was in San Francisco; I think he is one of the organizers of the San Francisco Emacs meetup.
#6 was someone in Kansas.
#7 was the professor in OKC.

Here is a list of the modes and packages that were mentioned (I will not list the big ones here, like Org, Doom, Spacemacs):

There was just one non-Emacs Topic:

  • The correct pronunciation of “Dracula”. Per the Romanian in attendance, it is “drah-KOO-lah”. If someone tells you otherwise, don’t let them fool ya.

#4 gave a presentation on Org-Reveal, which allows you to export Org files to HTML presentations by connecting to the Reveal HTML presentation framework. You can go from one heading to the next by clicking on the horizonal arrows, and if there are sub-headings you can access them by vertical arrows (see the demo here).

You need to import the org-reveal package and a couple of others. You also need to have an Org keyword poiting to the reveal.js file; you can point to a local copy or one online. #4 pointed to one on JSDelivr. Org-reveal adds an “[R]” option to the org-export-dispatch menu. The result is a large HTML file with your presentation.

Your Org file can contain source, media and images, and those can all be exported. You will still need to look at the documentation on the Reveal website; I do not think Org-Reveal can wrap Reveal completely. You can use any themes from the Reveal website.

There was some discussion about exporting to PDF, but that seems like a chore in general.

#5 talked a little bit about the relationship between Org-Reveal and org-re-reveal. Development on Org-Reveal had stopped, so someone forked it as org-re-reveal. Then after a couple of years work on Org-Reveal resumed, and now they have diverged and are no longer completely compatible. #5 and #7 both thought that org-re-reveal had more features, looks better, and has a better charting library.

I mentioned that someone has resumed work on XEmacs. You can access the source here. My understanding is that way back in the mid-1990s, some developers wanted to add functionality to GNU Emacs, but Stallman wasn’t too interested in their changes. So for a while there were two Emacsen, and XEmacs was where the action was. Then in the mid-2000s somone else started managing GNU Emacs, they changed their process and started making changes to GNU Emacs, and XEmacs lost its momentum. The last release was in 2009.

I wish that #3 had been on this call. He had some contact with both Emacs projects and might be able to offer some insight.

In the past decade there has been a lot of momentum and community growth in Emacs due to Org Mode and Magit. Some people learn Emacs just to use one or both of those tools. A lot of us in the group are heavy Org users. Will XEmacs incorporate these tools? Will it last if it does not? What about use-package? Tree-sitter?

People are always debating if Emacs is just an editor or something more. The front page of the GNU Emacs site calls Emacs “extensible, customizable, free/libre text editor – and more.” The front page of the XEmacs site calls XEmacs “a highly customizable open source text editor and application development system”. Their source page calls XEmacs an “editor and productivity suite.” Some people joke that Emacs is an operating system, but it does not deal with drivers, user accounts, or managing other applications like an OS does. Perhaps it is best to consider it a combination of editor and application platform. This guy has some interesting points on the subject. He is also working on a GUI library for Emacs (HN discussion here).

#2 shared his screen and demonstrated his Emacs-fu. He showed us using Org-noter to keep notes in a PDF file. He ran the PDF viewer within Emacs; I guess he does not start Emacs with the –no-window-system option. He showed us Embark. It lets you choose a command based on the text near the point (which is what Emacs calls the cursor). The example he showed is that if there is a mention of an RFC, like “RFC 1234”, he can highlight that text, and call rfc-mode to download a PDF of the RFC and open it in Emacs. He also showed us anki-editor, a mode to make flash cards in Emacs. #2 truly lives in Org Mode.

At that point I had to leave. The meeting continued, but I do not know for how much longer.

Note: rfc-mode is made by galdor; you can find him on Mastodon here. And there really is an RFC 1234.

You’re welcome.

I give people numbers since I do not know if they want their names in this write-up. Think of it as the stoner’s version of the Chatham House Rule. I figured that numbers are a little clearer than “someone said this, and someone else said that, and a third person said something else”. Plus it gives participants some deniability. People’s numbers are based on the order they are listed on the call screen, and the same person may be referred to by different numbers in different months.

I am not the official spokesperson for the group. I just got into the habit of summarizing the meetings every month, and adding my own opinions about things. The participants may remember things differently, and may disagree with opinions expressed in this post. Nothing should be construed as views held by anyone’s employers past, present or future. That said, if you like something in this post, I will take credit; if you don’t, blame somebody else.

Image from BNF Latin MS 278, “Evangelia”, an 11th century manuscript housed at the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Source gallica.bnf.fr / BnF; image assumed allowed under public domain.