Emacs Redux

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Ace-jump-mode Is Dead, Long Live Avy

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People often ask how am I navigating efficiently Emacs windows and buffers. I have the feeling they expect me to share with them some secrets that would turbo-charge common commands like C-s, M-f, C-x o, etc. I don’t, however, use those commands that much. Ever since I saw that vim’s EasyMotion has been ported to Emacs, I’ve been using that port - namely ace-jump-mode.

Basically, it allows you to navigate to every visible portion of your Emacs (buffers & windows) with only a handful of keystrokes (usually one two activate it and one or two to get where you want to go). You can see it in action in this excellent video. ace-jump served me well for years, but I’ve had a few gripes with it that were never addressed (multi-char targets, CamelCase support, etc). I would have implemented those myself, if the project was maintained at all, but alas - that’s not the case. Seems I wasn’t the only one who was frustrated with ace-jump, as the prolific Oleh Krehel reimplemented it pretty much from scratch for the purposes of his excellent ace-window library. Once I got wind of this, I managed to persuade Oleh to start distributing his rewrite as a standalone project, which he dubbed avy.

Avy features everything ace-jump does and more. Apart from the many extra features, its codebase is way cleaner and readable and Oleh is a fantastic and very responsive maintainer. So, as far as I’m concerned ace-jump is now a dead project and pretty much everyone who’s using it should try out avy instead. Their usage and interface are pretty similar, so the learning curve is non-existing. By the way, here’s avy in action:

And what about my usage of avy? Nothing fancy here - I just bind the commands I consider most important to handy keystrokes.

(global-set-key (kbd "C-c j") 'avy-goto-word-or-subword-1)
(global-set-key (kbd "s-.") 'avy-goto-word-or-subword-1)
(global-set-key (kbd "s-w") 'ace-window)

avy-goto-word-or-subword-1 is aware of CamelCase words and I do a lot of programming in languages that use those extensively.

avy has one more thing going for it - it’s part of the default Emacs package repo GNU ELPA, which means that you can install it right away without having to setup any third-party repositories (which you’ll probably need sooner or later).

avy and ace-window are naturally part of Prelude.

P.S. Oleh, one of those days you should rename ace-window to avy-window. :-)