a dinosaur turns 22
Saturday, June 2, 2007 6:41:15 PM
Version 13 was the first public release: versions 1 through 12 never really existed - actually, the numbering scheme would require us to prepend an implicit "1.": after version 1.12 the authors realised they would never increase the major version number and reduced the version scheme to <minor>.<patch>.
Version 15.34, released in May 1985, was the first widely used version. This however sparked a heated controversy on some code copyrighted by James Gosling for the (by then commercial) Gosmacs, or Gosling Emacs - the first significant software copyright controversy, which led to the release of version 16.56 without Gosling's code in July 1985, and contributed to the creation of the GPL. More details in an interesting paper [PDF].
Version 18.47 from 1987 became the basis for a new project, originally (1987) called "Nihongo Emacs", or NEmacs, later to become Mule, the "Multilingual Enhancements to Emacs" in 1993 - handling not only Japanese, but an impressive amount of other character sets, coding sets, input methods and languages. Main Mule facilities (except for BiDi) were included in the main GNU Emacs as MULE, starting with version 20.1 (1997).
In 1991, while waiting for version 19 to be released (19.28 was the first official release, in 1994), Jamie Zawinski at Lucid Inc. forked off Lucid Emacs, later to be renamed to XEmacs: they urgently needed to ship Emacs (with the features new to version 19) to support their Energize C++ IDE. Both Emacs and XEmacs developers have expressed their views on the lasting schism: one of the main disagreements being the copyright assignment issue. However, most features developed in one of the editors soon appear in the other one as well, and several features are developed to equally work in both.
Version 21.1, released in 2001, was the first version that could display inline images - and promptly Emacs got its own logo and displayed it in its splash screen. Additional features include support for proportional fonts, a better GUI with toolbars and support for mouse, and some Unicode support.
And now, more than two years after the last update (triggered by a security fix) and almost six years after the first release for version 21, version 22.1 got released - or shouldn't we really rather say: version 1.22.1?
Emacs now comes with:
- a new set of icons,
- a new GTK+ GUI (specify --with-x-toolkit=gtk when building),
- Leim (the Library of Emacs Input Methods), the Emacs Lisp Reference Manual, the CUA mode and many more as part of the distribution,
- a graphical interface for GDB,
- Python mode,
- a few nice new command line options (-D or --basic-display is how my emacs has always been running),
- the infamous C-M-delete and C-M-backspace have been removed (
since there are situations where one or the other will shut down the operating system or your X server- took them exactly how long to remove this?), and
- a few neat new bindings have been added (such as C-x left and C-x right to switch buffers) and some changes were made to C-h bindings,
- enhanced utf-8/16 coding systems and support for iso-10646-1 (Unicode) fonts,
- support for Mac OS X,
- some incompatible editing changes,
- support for drag'n'drop,
- mouse support in xterm (M-x xterm-mouse-mode), and
- loads of more NEWS…
It's also worth giving a look at the guided tour which provides an excellent overview on the most used features.
But the really exciting work is yet to come: next steps towards version 23 will be merging the unicode and multi-tty patches!