Background: I contacted José Romero, the creator of Sunrise Commander, after finding this wonderful piece of code for emacs with some [for him] unusual questions. I am someone relatively new to emacs and completely new to Orthodox File Managers (OFMs) like Norton/Midnight Commanders which this was created to emulate. I’ve been using org-mode for perhaps six months as of Nov 2010 and that is the extent of my emacs knowledge. I only learned emacs to use org-mode. I run Arch Linux and the xfce desktop environment and am used to doing all of my file management via Thunar or the command line.
Recently, I had stumbled across Ranger while perusing the Arch Linux forums in search of recommended file managers and my I/ENTP obsessiveness kicked in, urging me to do a reasonable survey of available programs before diving in. Most of the searches I conducted were turning up graphical interface based solutions, but I wasn’t sure this is what I wanted. I was tired of right clicking in Thunar to rename a file/folder, yet typing “mv /path/to/file.txt /path/to/newName.txt” was getting old as well. I recalled that emacs could manage files and re-discovered the Dired-mode. Somehow in searching around for Dired (or perhaps some provocative searches like “dired vs. midnight commander”), I stumbled on Sunrise Commander. I found that it came highly recommended via Arch Linux forums, and noted some positive comments on the main page also. Based on its features and emulation of MC (another highly favored FM) and the fact that I spend a reasonable amount of time in emacs already using org-mode, I decided to take the plunge.
Motivation: So, returning to the whole point of why this page… my questions to José were atypical, since most come to Sunrise Commander having used MC or another similar program as well as having a reasonably extensive steeping in emacs, or at least this was his impression. I actually had asked if there was some sort of manual or FAQ site since I was finding some basic operations a bit difficult. In our email discussion, the idea surfaced for creating a landing page for new users. I volunteered to create it since I matched the targeted feature set: Sunrise Commander and emacs noob.
Aims: Given this background and motivation, the idea of this page will be to create an auxiliary page to accompany Sunrise Commander (and the Tips/Tricks page) focused on the noob. I’ll document my usage patterns, what I think are the essential keybindings to get ingrained first, counter-intuitive discoveries that might need explanation, a sandbox for adding FAQs, and even a very short emacs primer. As of writing this paragraph I probably have one hour into Sunrise Commander in total. My hope is that as I discover things that are non-obvious to me but obvious to those with more experience with emacs and/or Sunrise Commander, I’ll document them in the hopes that they’ll be more accessible to others to come.
In the end, then, here’s a shot at my mission statement: build a body of documentation such that the lack of familiarity with emacs and other similarly functioning file managers does not prevent a newcomer from accessing the features and benefits provided by this tool. In other words, make Sunrise Commander not only powerful, but also welcoming.
I began using emacs specifically because I found Org-mode. I had no emacs knowledge, and even though Org-mode looked fantastic, learning emacs just to get at its functionality was a big scary obstacle. I had been using TiddlyWiki, installed emacs and tried Org-mode for literally about 5 minutes and decided it just wasn’t worth the investment of my time. It felt like the time I installed FreeBSD? on my MacBook? just to attempt to be more of a Unix “purist.” After leaving it running for about a week straight to compile what I wanted (calling my wife several times a day from work to tell her to mark various compile options and tell it to continue), I realized that it just wasn’t worth it. That’s how I felt about emacs and Org-mode.
Eventually, though, my frustrations with TiddlyWiki? built to the point that I tried again. This time I took a step back and learned some of emacs first. Just the bare bones basics for just learning how to open a file, save a file, and close emacs. I printed out a cheat sheet (probably not the best, but it seemed concise and easy to follow) and pinned it to my cubicle wall. It’s still there after probably 9 months now.
I include this somewhat irrelevant anecdote specifically for noobs who can relate. I have found various emacs modes to be priceless compared to the alternatives. Emacs has become so integral in such a short time for my work that I would rank it right under Linux in the best computer/software related items I’ve ever found. If you have read about Sunrise Commander (or any emacs mode) and thought, “That just sounds like exactly what I want,” but are turned away by emacs… I encourage you to try again. I’m specifically writing this page to try and save others from being “emacs quitters” like I almost was! It’s worth it!
So, onto some basics. Don’t stick with these, though; go read up on some emacs tutorials as well. I just want to provide something for the complete beginner so that you don’t do what I did and literally stare at the screen with finger paralysis.
More to come...