Emacs Software

7 Best Free and Open Source Emacs-Like Text Editors

Over the years, one of the most emotive areas in the world of Linux is the choice of text editor. Some people are strong advocates of Vim, others prefer Emacs. And there’s tons of other text editors available with strong backing. Having robust opinions is the way the land lies in Linux.

Emacs has a long and revered history. The original program was written in 1976 as a set of macros for an existing text editor called TECO. Emacs originally was an acronym for Editor MACroS, unifying the many TECO command sets and key bindings. TECO is both a character-oriented text editor and an interpreted programming language for text manipulation.

Emacs has come a long way since 1976. It offers a robust Lisp interpreter that is hugely extensible and hackable. It brought to light lots of novel concepts such as an infinite clipboard, tree-based exploration of history, a reverse variable search, structural editing of code, and recursive editing that let you stop what you are doing, perform other edits, and then revert back to the original task.

Emacs is an incremental programming environment, a mutable environment that provides functionality without applications.

We have surveyed the Emacs scene. There are lots of Emacs-related software available. To save you time, we’ve made our recommendations in the chart below.

Ratings chart for best free and open source emacs-like text editors

TeXmacs is great for scientific users. It isn’t based on Emacs’s code in any way; instead it seeks inspiration from Emacs (and TeX).

The other programs featured here are Emacs-like programs, much simpler programs than Emacs with a significantly reduced feature set, but they can be very useful in certain situations where you don’t need all the power from Emacs.

Let’s explore the 7 programs at hand. For each title we have compiled its own portal page, a full description with an in-depth analysis of its features, together with links to relevant resources.

Emacs-like Text Editors
TeXmacsHigh quality scientific word processor and typesetting program
ZileCustomizable, self-documenting real-time display editor
RemacsCommunity-driven port of Emacs to Rust
JOEJoe's Own Editor with no code used from Emacs
mgSmall, fast, and portable Emacs-like editor
ceSmall, fast, Emacs-like text editor
JOVEJonathan's Own Version of Emacs. Highly portable, supports many ancient systems

This Group Test initially included configuration frameworks, but these have been moved to a dedicated article about configuration frameworks for Emacs.

Best Free and Open Source SoftwareRead our complete collection of recommended free and open source software. Our curated compilation covers all categories of software.

The software collection forms part of our series of informative articles for Linux enthusiasts. There are hundreds of in-depth reviews, open source alternatives to proprietary software from large corporations like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, IBM, Cisco, Oracle, and Autodesk.

There are also fun things to try, hardware, free programming books and tutorials, and much more.
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3 years ago

You forgot jed

Neil Bruce
Neil Bruce
3 years ago
Reply to  Itai

Or that LinuxLinks doesn’t consider it as good as the ones that are featured.

3 years ago

Any reason doom-emacs is missing?