When comparing Spacemacs vs GNU Emacs, the Slant community recommends GNU Emacs for most people. In the question“What are the best IDEs for C++ on Linux?” GNU Emacs is ranked 3rd while Spacemacs is ranked 8th. The most important reason people chose GNU Emacs is:
Emacs can be controlled entirely with the keyboard.
Ranked in these QuestionsQuestion Ranking
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 Above average documentation quality
Documentation is mandatory for each new configuration layer and can be accessed directly within the editor in Org format.
Pro Community-driven configuration
Spacemacs is the biggest community-driven Emacs starter-kit.
Emacs runs on Gnu/Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows.
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 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 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.
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 Manage many code bases easily
Pro Great note-taking and agenda "app" built-in
Allows for great organization applications that can be saved in future-proof format, plain text, can be integrated with LaTeX, markdown, HTML, Literate Programming and be committed to source control.
Pro Remote file editing
Files can be edited in Spacemacs remotely.
Pro Offers a number of practical features
Spacemacs has some great features for taking notes, tracking to-do lists, and tracking time.
Pro Works well with Common Lisp
Pro LaTeX support
LaTeX allows for auto-completion, syncing, and more.
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 Manage R files easily
Pro Great CFEngine support
Syntax highlighting and org-babel extensions
Pro Keyboard-focused, mouse-free editing
Emacs can be controlled entirely with the keyboard.
Pro Infinitely customisable
Customizations can be made to a wide range of Emacs' functions through a Lisp dialect. A robust list of existing Lisp extensions include the practical (git integration, syntax highlighting, etc) to the utilitarian (calculators, calendars) to the sublime (chess, Eliza).
Pro Completely free
Licensed under GNU GPL.
Pro Works in terminal
You can use Emacs' command line interface or graphical user interface.
Pro Self documenting
Emacs has extensive help support built-in as well as a tutorial accessed with C-h t.
Pro Has turn-key packages for IDE work
Packs like spacemacs make it easy to get started and bring the learning curve down from an infinitely regressing spiral to something more manageable.
Pro Has Vim emulation
Evil-mode makes Emacs actually usable as an editor.
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 delayed auto-loading of packages in unpredictable order, different modes for different file types, 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 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 Slow 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.
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 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 Learning curve is steep
While it's better than it used to be, with most functions being possible through the menu, Emacs is still quite a bit different from your standard editor. You'll need to learn new keyboard shortcuts.
Con Non-standard keyboard commands
I'm editing this in Chrome, but I could be using Firefox, Edge, or any other browser, or Notepad, or even Libreoffice or Microsoft Word, and in ALL of those cases, keys would work exactly the same way, including how to jump around by word, select words, cut/copy/paste, etc.
Pretty much all modern editors share the same basic key combinations, from Visual Studio to Sublime to Atom to VS Code to Xcode. Becoming an Emacs expert means you need to mode-shift between code editing and editing in your browser; adding Emacs modes to SOME apps means you need to remember which key bindings to use where. The cognitive load added by switching between Emacs and other text editors is not worth it, especially since all the advantages of Emacs are now available in free editors elsewhere.
Con Chorded keyboard combinations can be baffling
For example, for navigation it uses the b, n, p, l keys. Which for some people may seem strange.
Con Not set up as an IDE by default
Requires customization to get IDE-like features. Luckily a few features such as compilation, debugging, and syntax highlighting are included.
Con A UI designed before anyone had a clue about UI design
I've used Emacs extensively, and it positively is NOT a well-designed user interface. Its design dates back to the time when all microwaves still needed instructions and VCRs universally displayed a flashing 12:00 because no one could figure out how to operate them. Many modern editors have 100% of the power of Emacs with none of the hassle.