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Gnu Emacs Manual Paperback – September 1, 2000
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One of my favorite technical books from a documentation standpoint is Richard Stallman's superior GNU Emacs Manual. The tool is justly famous and the manual is one of the best written and best organized books I'd ever seen. I've had problems at times figuring out how Emacs works, but when I came across an older edition of this book at a used bookstore, I realized that I simply had to have this book. I've found almost everything I wanted to know from this book and gotten a sense of how everything works. The manual also leaves me with a sense of how wonderfully extensible and versatile the program is. The book contains a glossary, a key index, a command and function index and a concept index. Wow! This is every technical writer's dream! I can generally find the answer to any question within a few seconds when consulting this manual (the help that comes with the program....well, that's another story). Keeping true to the GNU philosophy, Stallman makes the book (as well as a LISP reference guide) available for free at the gnu site.
So the good news is that the book is expertly written and organized. What's the bad news? First, the 14th edition (20.7) book doesn't include a discussion of how to use major modes of Emacs (such as PSGML) or the very handy PCL-CVS. Also, because emacs and xemacs have followed different development paths, Stallman's book doesn't cover the NT-based xemacs implementation. Love or hate xemacs, you have to appreciate the attempt at a GUI, especially when it comes to configuring the program. The package update functionality of Xemacs, could use better documentation as well.
In summary: a masterpiece of documentation, but the manual is sorely in need of a section discussing major mode and emacs.