Emacs Starter Kit for the Social Sciences
Emacs is a very powerful
editor but it is less useful out-of-the-box than it might be, in part
because many convenient settings and modes are not activated by default.
The starter kit is a drop-in set of nice default settings. The idea is
for you to be able to download GNU Emacs, put the starter kit into
~/.emacs.d/, and get to work. If you already use Emacs and have a
.emacs file or
~/.emacs.d directory, the starter kit is designed to
replace them, while leaving a place for you to easily append your own
The starter kit is designed to be used with GNU Emacs. Version 24.4
(released October 2014) or later is required. It will not work with
modification. More detailed commentary and documentation is provided
inside the kit's
Before you Begin
If you want to use the tools that the starter-kit works with—LaTeX, R, Git, Pandoc, and all the rest—then you will need to install them on your Mac. The ground floor is Apple's own suite of Developer Tools, which allow you to compile software yourself and include things like Git. The most straightforward way to get these tools is to install Xcode. Xcode is what software developers use to write Mac and iOS applications. As such it comes with a bunch of things we are not so interested in, but it makes it easy to install what we do need. It's available for free via the Mac App Store. Once downloaded, launch Xcode, go to Xcode > Preferences > Downloads and install the Command Line Tools for Xcode. At that point you can quit Xcode and never use it again. Alternatively, go to Apple's Developer Site, login with your Apple ID and download the Command Line Tools for Xcode package by itself, without the Xcode application.
If you have used Emacs before and already have a
.emacs file or
.emacs.d directory, back them up and then delete them. See below for
details on how to add customizations to the kit.
Getting the Starter Kit
You have two choices. You can download a
.zip file of the
This will give you a static snapshot of the most recent version. But if
you want to keep up with changes to the kit, you should clone the source
code using git rather than simply copying a static version of it. You
should be using version control on your plain-text documents anyway, so
I recommend this second option.
0.1 Get Emacs. The starter kit requires Emacs 24.4 (released October 2014). Download Emacs here. Alternatively, if you are comfortable with Homebrew, compile and install it.
0.2 Install a Modern TeX Distribution and the Skim PDF reader. If
you are using OS X, download MacTeX
here and install
it. The kit is set up to use the Skim PDF
reader to display PDF files created
.tex files. You can use other readers, but will need to modify
the setup in the
0.3 Install R and Pandoc. These are not strictly required for the installation to work, and you can skip this step if you like. But you will probably be using them anyway, if you're not already. If you're doing statistical work you will probably want to use R or Stata. R is free and you can download it here. Pandoc is a very useful utility that lets you convert easily between many different forms of plain-text markup (such as Markdown, HTML, LaTeX, and others). Get Pandoc here.
0.4 Note your user name or the name of your computer. If you don't know either, open the Terminal application and do
for your user name and
for the system name. You will need to know your login name to activate the final customization file properly. You can use the system name as well (or instead).
1. If you downloaded a
.zip file of the kit, you must uncompress
it, move the resulting folder to the top level of your home director and
.emacs.d. Assuming the downloaded zip file is in your
~/Downloads folder, open a Terminal window and do this:
$ cd ~/Downloads $ unzip emacs-starter-kit-master.zip $ mv emacs-starter-kit-master ~/.emacs.d
Alternatively, if you are using git (the preferred method), then clone the starter kit from github. Open a Terminal window and do this:
$ git clone git://github.com/kjhealy/emacs-starter-kit ~/.emacs.d
2. Inside the file
kjhealy.org, change the paths to any BibTeX
databases as described at the top of that file.
3. Rename the starter kit's
kjhealy.org file to that of
%your-systemname%.org, based on the
information you noted in 0.4 above. This is where you can add in any of
your own further customizations to Emacs.
4. Launch Emacs.
When you first start Emacs after installing the starter-kit, it will try
to contact several package repositories, so make sure you have an
internet connection. The kit will download packages mainly from the
official GNU ELPA
repository and the MELPA
Repo. Each package will be fetched,
compiled by Emacs, and stored in the
~/.emacs.d directory. This
process is sometimes prone to hiccups as packages are fetched from the
servers, so please be patient with it. If it doesn't get everything
first time around, quit and relaunch Emacs, and it will try again. If
the problem persists—especially if you get a message saying "The package
'auctex' is not available for installation"—you can manually install
packages as follows. Open Emacs, do
M-x list-packages and in the
resulting buffer search or scroll down the list to, e.g. Auctex, mark it
for installation by pressing
i and then install it (or them) by
x. With the packages in place, restart Emacs and the starter
kit will finish setting itself up. Unfortunately, I can't control these
intermittent installation errors. They seem to have something to do with
the way Emacs talks to the GNU ELPA package server.
5. (Optional.) Once Emacs is up and running, do
M-x starter-kit-compile to byte-compile the starter-kit's files, for
slightly faster loading.