Something of a starter kit for Emacs, Spacemacs is named for its extensive mnemonic space-leader keybindings centered around the Extensible Vi Layer (EViL).
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Pro Combines the best parts of Vi and Emacs
Spacemacs combines the Emacs platform (with the full power of the Emacs plugin ecosystem) and the Vi keybindings (via EViL), all in the same box.
Pro Simple but powerful configuration architecture
At the heart of Spacemacs, the configuration layers group packages configuration into semantic units that can be toggled on and off. The architecture is simple but powerful, allowing the user to easily manage configuration dependencies between hundreds of packages.
Pro Community-driven configuration
Spacemacs is the biggest community-driven Emacs starter-kit.
Pro Can be controlled fully with the keyboard
There's no need to reach for the mouse again since Spacemacs can be fully controlled with keyboard.
Pro Gradual learning curve
Evil package is a first class citizen and Spacemacs embraces it from day one. Evil package allows Vim users to be productive very quickly while still allowing regular Emacs users to use Spacemacs.
Emacs runs on Gnu/Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows.
Pro Above average documentation quality
Documentation is mandatory for each new configuration layer and can be accessed directly within the editor in Org format.
Pro Great support from the community
The community surrounding Spacemacs is very active and there is a welcoming gitter chat for users to ask questions.
Pro Great note-taking and agenda mode built-in
Allows for great organization applications that can be saved in future-proof format, plain text, can be integrated with org, LaTeX, markdown, HTML, Literate Programming and be committed to source control.
Pro Offers a number of practical features
Spacemacs has some great features for taking notes, tracking to-do lists, and tracking time.
Pro Completely configured out of the box
Stuff like version control, file management, good default theme are all configured out of the box.
Pro Mnemonic and consistent keybindings
Space-lead key bindings are organized in mnemonic namespaces. For instance, buffer actions are under
SPC b, file actions are under
SPC f, project actions are under
SPC p, search actions are under
SPC s, and so on. Keybindings are consistent across the whole distribution thanks to a set of conventions.
Pro Lowers the risk of RSI by using the spacebar as leader
Spacemacs got its name from the fact that it is uses the space bar as a default leader key. The key was chosen because it is easy to press and to hopefully lower the risk of RSI.
Pro Fast-paced development
New functionalities and fixes are added to Spacemacs every day, while release cycles are short.
Pro Remote file editing
Files can be edited in Spacemacs remotely.
Pro Easily extended with community plugins
Pro Manage many code bases easily
Pro LaTeX support
LaTeX allows for auto-completion, syncing, and more.
Pro Works well with Common Lisp
Pro Can work in terminal mode
Sometimes you only have terminal access, over ssh or something.
Pro Daemon support
Has great daemon support, which can mitigate the issue of slow startup.
Pro Great CFEngine support
Syntax highlighting and org-babel extensions.
Pro Manage R files easily
Pro Great Clojure support
Pro Excellent support for Elixir programming language
Elixir layer which uses the Alchemist package is the best way to edit Elixir code out there.
Con Can be quite glitchy at times
Spacemacs combines many packages from many different authors that were never designed to work together. Sometimes they interact in unexpected ways, and things randomly break as one package interferes with another's features. This combined with frequent package updates and necessary customization by selection of layers and packages, can make these glitches hard to reproduce. It takes a lot of emacs know-how to fix these problems. Fortunately there is a very active community willing to help with these problems, but it might take a while.
Con Complex learning difficulty
You must be familiar with either Vim or Emacs. In addition, you should be familiar with the unique features of Spacemacs. The Layer concept of replacing Emacs settings is still difficult and abstract compared to modern editors.
Con Functionality layers of complicated configuration
To configure Spacemacs, settings for Emacs/Evil/Spacemacs may need editing. It's not always clear which need to be changed or how to change settings globally: sometimes hooks are needed, other times Spacemacs provides options.
Con High CPU and unresponsive at times
There are occasions when Spacemacs would suddenly consume a LOT of CPU and then other times would become completely unresponsive. This instability took place only 6 months or so ago. Restarting Spacemacs can fix it for a while but perhaps this issue is already fixed in newer versions.
Con Relative low startup time
Although configuration is heavily loaded, the starting time of Spacemacs is usually between two and five seconds. Emacs can be run as a daemon though which reduces the client's startup time to a few milliseconds. Still not as bad as other editors though, especially Electron based ones like VSCode or Atom.