Emacs: Effective Windows Management

By Xah Lee. Date:

Ace Windows Mode?

recently, Jon Snader (aka jcs) mentioned ace-windows mode, see: http://irreal.org/blog/?p=2699. The ace windows mode lets you quickly move cursor to the split pane you want. When invoked, it displays a letter in each split pane, and pressing that key moves you into that pane.

xah emacs screenshot 2014-03-06
full screen emacs with split panes.

for those of you who prefer one full-screen emacs window with split panes, but haven't yet decided, i'd like to suggest the following workflow:

when you start emacs, create 2 or 3 windows that don't overlap and together fill the screen. (so it's like one full-screen window with split panes)

for this workflow to work efficiently, you must also:

① define a system-wide easy key to switch to emacs, such as 【F9】. 〔➤see How to Set Key to Switch to Emacs

② define a easy key such as【F8】 to switch windows within a given app . You can easily do this in emacs or system-wide for any of {Microsoft Windows, Mac, Linux}.

  1. In emacs, set a key to the command other-frame. 〔➤see Emacs: How to Define Keys
  2. In Linux, it's under your system control panel's window manager preference. 〔➤see Linux: Keyboard Tools for Key Layout, Keymapping, Keybinding ⌨
  3. In Mac, the default key is 【⌘ Cmd+`】, but you can easily change it in system preference or with Mac Keyboard tools ⌨.
  4. in Microsoft Windows, use AutoHotkey. See the section “Launching or Switching to Browser” at Simple & Useful AutoHotkey Scripts

IMPORTANT: Use Easy Single Keys to Switch App/Window

The key to switch to emacs, and the key to switch windows within a app, must be easy-to-press keys, by your preference and on your keyboard.

For example, on standard PC keyboard【F7】 【F8】 usually works. Or, if you don't like the reach for F keys, you might prefer 【Ctrl+8】 or 【❖ Super+4】, etc. They must be easy key for this workflow to work because you'll need to use them every few minutes.

On fancy keyboards such as Ergodox, Kinesis, Maltron, Truly Ergonomic Keyboard, you can use extra keys in the middle or thumb keys combinations. 〔➤see Best Keyboard for Emacs

once you have these keys, you can easy switch to any app or any specific window.

your windows are always “split” the way you want, and nothing's going to “unsplit” them or change their size, unless when you want to. Never worry about managing split-panes whenever emacs pops up a pane. 〔➤see Emacs: Manage Split Windows

but also, now you can constantly split & unsplit a window at will, close any split emacs pops up. Using split to view different areas of a file, or use split to keep cursor position. I split/unsplit about every few minutes. Note: you should also have easy keys to split and unsplit windows. On a standard PC keyboard, {【Alt+4】, 【Alt+3】} works well.

xah linux desktop 2014-03-05
3 emacs windows among other app's windows.

for me, i have 2 easy way to switch to emacs:

for switching windows within a app, i use a middle key on Truly Ergonomic Keyboard.

For split, it's 4. Unsplit is 3. For moving among panes, it's a home row single key. They are xah fly keys. Note: these keys are the same in ergoemacs-mode, but with Alt.

〔➤see Show Your Emacs Screen: Xah Lee's Emacs Screen

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