06 February 2008

The Hacker Within I

I only blog from the office when I have something work-related to share. Now is one of those times.

Because code development is part and parcel of our work as computational researchers, my advisor encourages our group to unleash and cultivate "The Hacker Within" (THW). THW is always trying to improve his or her computing experience--customizing, automating, and navigating parts of the digital landscape in new (and hopefully more productive) ways. Plus, messing with THW-related projects is usually more fun than doing whatever work you're supposed to be doing.

My THW project the last day or so has been switching over to using Emacs, which I have to say has already yielded some nice results. The learning curve on the key bindings is a little steep, but I'm getting better.

One of my long-time complaints with Emacs (or rather short-time, since I've only been using Linux for a year or so, which while I'm at it I should say that this and probably most future THW content will probably seem extremely lame to people who actually know what they're doing) was that there is no single-keystroke way to switch between open files, at least none that I could find. That functionality is extremely important when you're working with source code that's spread out over a bunch of classes (and hence files).

Well, today my HW fixed that, or rather he found the code someone else's HW had already written to fix that. I highly recommend Adrian Quark's Emacs customization buffer-stack, which brings Windows-Alt-Tab-like switching to Emacs buffers. I chose Ctrl-Tab for my key binding to his main function, as you can see from my .emacs file, which I include in the hope that it might be helpful to other new Emacs customizers-in-training.

Note: Other THW posts will be much shorter and to the point. I don't take blogging at work lightly, but I do think that since I get so much help with code development from online sources, I have the responsibility to "give back" once in a while, to the pathetic extent that I'm able to. In this longish post, I just wanted to sort of establish the context of THW.

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