Emacs Basics: Using the mouse

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Emacs Basics

You can download the MP3 from archive.org.

Transcript:

I’m Sacha Chua and this is an Emacs Basics episode on using the mouse. The best way to use Emacs is to master the keyboard shortcuts, but when you’re starting out, don’t worry about them yet. You might find yourself using the mouse a whole lot more than you used to, but over time, you will learn more and more keyboard shortcuts as you get used to Emacs. So let’s say that you’re just starting out. What are some of the things that you can do right away to get the hang of using Emacs?

The Emacs tutorial is a great place to start. You can get to that by clicking on the Emacs tutorial link on the splash screen. If you’ve done the tutorial before, it will offer to let you resume at that point. If you don’t have the splash screen handy, you can also get to the tutorial from Help > Emacs tutorial. Go through this and you’ll learn a lot of the common keyboard shortcuts that will come in handy.

The toolbar and the menu will also give you quick access to a lot of common commands. If you’d like to create a new file or open an existing file, you can click on the New file icon located in the top left. You can specify the file, and if the file doesn’t exist yet, it will create it. To save the file, click on the Save icon. If you’d like to close a file, just click on the X mark. You can open the file again using the toolbar icon.

To copy and paste, use your mouse to select a region of text, then copy or cut it. Then you can paste it wherever you want. You could also search for text. Click on that search button and start typing what you’re looking for. It will highlight the search results. Press Ctrl+s to search for the next instance. Press Enter to stop searching.

The menus also offer a lot of other commands. For example, you can insert a file. You can save the current buffer with another file name. You can split your windows so you can see more than one file at the same time. If you’d like to close a window and go back to having one file across your entire screen, you just have to use File > Remove other windows. To switch between the files you have open, use the Buffers menu. Explore the menus for other options.

One of the interesting things in Emacs is that you can copy or cut multiple things and then paste them without having to keep copying or cutting each time. For example, if I copy this, then Paste will paste that. But you could also access the things that you copied or cut previously. Just click on Edit > Paste from kill menu, then select the item you want to paste.

There are lots of other tools that are available in Emacs. The availability of these tools may depend on what else you’ve installed. Again, for more information, check out the Emacs tutorial or read the Emacs manual.

Have fun!

 

Things I’m learning about sharing other people’s knowledge, or why you should show me what you’ve been meaning to teach others

Many conferences don’t record sessions or share videos promptly, so I was delighted to find that the Emacs Conference 2013 was not only going to be recorded but also livestreamed. Jon (the venue contact) even brought a small camera for recording close-ups. Since the zero-budget conference didn’t have a professional videographer, I volunteered to process the videos and get them out there. I also took sketchnotes and shared them during the conference itself.

It’s important to me that people who weren’t able to make it to the conference can still learn from it. So much knowledge evaporates into nothingness if not shared. Besides, it  would be wonderful for people to get a sense of the people in the Emacs community, and that’s something that’s hard to pick up from just slides or transcripts. I had selfish reasons, too. I wanted to be able to go back and remember what being around a hundred Emacs geeks is like. (It was awesome!)

It took me 8.5 hours spread over a week to process and upload the videos from the conference. It was an excellent use of that time, and people have been super-appreciative. I’m planning to transcribe John Wiegley’s talk on Emacs Lisp development because it was full of great tips. I may transcribe the other talks (or coordinate with other people?) if that’s something people would find really, really useful too.

There’s a lot of good stuff in people’s heads, and most people are really bad at getting things out there where other people can learn from them. There’s the fear of writing or public speaking, of being wrong, of not being an expert, of embarrassing yourself. I write a ton, and I’m comfortable giving presentations. (Both skills are really useful introvert hacks.) It’s easy for me to share what I know, and I’m learning even more each day. So that’s good – but it might be even more interesting to pick other people’s brains and help them get their thoughts out there. I suspect that even if I spend the rest of my life sharing just what other people know, that would still be a great way to make life better.

I’m getting the hang of amplifying the good ideas that people have, helping them reach more people. Sketchnotes, videos, transcription, writing, podcasts and video chats, screencasts, blogging, visual book reviews… I get to indulge my curiosity, help other people learn, get conversations going.

This is good. This means I don’t have to stress out about being original or being an expert. I can be a conduit for other people’s ideas and lessons, while inevitably creating something of my own along the way. I’m sometimes divided on this. Shouldn’t I use my 5-year experiment time to pursue my own ideas instead of just channeling other people’s thoughts? But I learn so much by helping people share, and I get to see the interconnections among so many different things. And then ideas bubble up – things I haven’t read or heard, things that I do differently that I notice only when people ask – and these ideas demand to be created and shared. The choice isn’t one or the other. By helping people share what they know, I can get even better at making new things. =)

Anyway, on to lessons learned:

What worked well?

  • Sketchnoting and sharing during the conference itself: Great way to help people in person and online. Because there were lots of abstract topics to cover and I was helping with technical issues as well, my live notes were pretty text-heavy. I edited the sketchnotes after the event in order to add highlights and extra information. Tech-wise, I used WinSCP to upload the images in the background, and then used NextGen Gallery’s rescan folder feature to pull them in. This meant that I didn’t have to fuss with web server errors.
  • Using multiple tools for recording my presentation: I remembered to set up recording audio on my phone, recording video on my tablet, and recording my screen using Camtasia Studio. The audio recording worked, and both video recording and screenrecording failed. (Sigh.) But at least there’s audio of the keynote! I might recreate the presentations if people think that’s valuable.
  • Copying the conference videos before leaving the venue: Soooooo much faster than downloading them over the Internet
  • Volunteering to handle the videos: Because otherwise it could take forever (or it might not have happened). Besides, I really like Emacs, and helping out with this is a good way to build the community.
  • Setting aside time to follow up: It was great to have the space to work on this here and there instead of getting caught up in other work.
  • Splicing in secondary video: Jon took close-up videos of many of the presentations, which I added using Camtasia. This was great because the screen was difficult or impossible to read over the livestream.
  • Separating rendering from publishing: In the beginning, I used Camtasia Studio’s YouTube support to publish videos directly to the Internet. This broke after the first few videos, so I used to save the videos from the error dialog and then upload them myself. When I switched to producing the MP4s directly, then uploading them to YouTube using my browser, uploading was around five times faster. Uploading videos through my browser also allowed me to process the next video instead of tying up Camtasia Studio during the publishing process.

What would make this even better in terms of sharing knowledge from conferences?

  • Doing a livestream tech check and having guidance for speakers: The keynote wasn’t livestreamed because we had technical issues, and many of the presentations were unreadable because of the glare from a white background. Coordinating with the venue to do a technology check beforehand might help us avoid these issues in the future, and it’ll also tell us what we need to work around when we prepare our presentations.
  • Asking the venue organizer which files had the livestream video: The livestream videos were confusingly named with a .ps extension, but Alex found them by using the file command.
  • Bringing a personal video camera and a tripod: That might make travel a little more difficult, but it’s good to have more video backups, and the quality might be better too.
  • Editing the videos using a proper video editing tool instead of Camtasia Studio and Windows Movie Maker: Might be more reliable, as Camtasia occasionally crashed.
  • More hard disk space: I can move processed videos to secondary storage knowing that I have YouTube or Vimeo as a backup.
  • Bringing a large USB drive to conferences: Great for efficiently transferring files between computers. (Good old-fashioned sneakernet!)
  • Making sure Camtasia Studio doesn’t crash next time I want to record my presentation: This probably had something to do with not having audio sources. If I can reliably reproduce this and figure out how not to reproduce it, that should be good.
  • Learning how to cut: Editing to pick out highlights or make things flow more smoothly can help me save other people time and make information more accessible to people who can’t sit down and listen to something for an hour. I’ve done a little audio editing to remove ums and ahs before, but it might be interesting to do more radical cuts. I don’t particularly enjoy doing this yet because I vastly prefer visual/verbal learning over auditory learning (and used to regularly fall asleep in class, although I managed to graduate somehow!), but maybe that’s just a matter of practice, familiarity, and material. We’ll see. After I learn how to cut, maybe I can learn how to make audio and video even more engaging with music and effects. Someday!

I love it when evolving skills and interests come together coherently and become a platform for going from strength to strength. I started blogging almost eleven years ago as a way to learn more effectively, and now I see how I can scale that up even further. I wonder what this will look like in a decade.

Here are a few ways you can help me get even better at sharing what you and other people know:

  • Ask me questions. =)
  • Teach me what I should ask you so that I can learn a lot from you.
  • Suggest ways I can organize or share things even more effectively.
  • Tell me where I’m on the right track, and what “even better” might look like.

This is fun!

Related:

Made my largest sketchnote ever! Painting the MaRS Lean Startup Day banner

This video doesn’t cover everything – there’s a gap in the middle when we started painting. I have to figure out how to reliably do time lapses with my phone or computer. =) This was fun, though!

Nathan Monk and Jennifer Marron reached out to me with this cool idea – in addition to sketchnoting Lean Startup Day at MarsDD on Dec 3, why not sketchnote the banner as well? I told them I’d never worked on anything that big, but they were up for the experiment and I was too. They rounded up canvas and paint, booked the boardroom, and away we went.

I started by drafting possible layouts using pencil and paper. They suggested some ideas to feature on the banner, and I added quick sketchnotes: an unfinished robot for the minimum viable product, arrows for “pivot or persevere”, and so on. I copied key elements of the first draft onto a second draft, and that was good to go.

Based on the proportions of the paper, we cut the canvas to roughly 68” by 120”. Coming from years of sketchnoting on a laptop screen (and doing the occasional blackboard/easel pad), it was certainly quite a new experience! It was so tall that I had to stand on a chair to reach parts of it. Glad to see that the proportion lessons I’d taken in art class paid off, though – I found it easy to work with the large space.

We started by taping the canvas to the wall and chalking outlines. I used my measuring tape to find the center and scribe a circle around it (hooray for high school geometry!). Then I lightly chalked the outlines of the MaRS logo and the sketchnoted quotes while Nathan and Jennifer chalked in the partner logos.

After chalking the layout, we stepped back to see what it looked like. It looked great! Then the duct tape gave way (canvas is heavy!), and we unanimously decided to move it to the boardroom table for the actual painting. If it collapsed that way while painting, we’d suddenly have an abstract art piece on our hands! We spread plastic wrap all over the boardroom table and the floor, set out the paints, and got going.

While Jennifer focused on the partner logos, I painted the MaRS logo, the Lean Startup Day arrows around it, and the sketchnote-style concepts surrounding the logo. We completed the banner in around 4 hours – about 1.5 hours to design and chalk it, and 2.5 hours to fill everything in with paint and touch up with white to cover up mistakes. The materials cost less than $200 – maybe $150? – and that was with way more paint than we needed, since none of us had any idea what to work at that size. I couldn’t get a good picture of it, but once it’s up on Dec 3, I’ll be sure to.

That was fun!

Lessons learned:

  • It’s okay to not get things exactly right, so don’t worry about not having a projector or other tools.
  • Chalk lightly and with a light colour so that it’s easy to brush off mistakes!
  • Have lots of small brushes on hand for detail work.
  • A little paint goes a long way.
  • So does a sewing tape measure.
  • White (or something close to your background colour) makes a great cover-up.

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Capturing my sketchnotes with Camtasia Studio Pro; organizing the digital workflow

People often want to sit beside me to see how I’m drawing my sketchnotes, so I thought I’d record one session and put together a short video. Here’s how I drew yesterday’s sketchnote. In this video, I zoomed in so that you’re not distracted by all the other controls I have open. =)

Most of the sketchnote artists I know work on paper – sketchbooks, large sheets of paper, whatever. A few use iPads or Android tablets. Few people use tablet PCs, possibly because most designers like using Macs and Apple’s not keen on the tablet PC / stylus combination. I love how I can use my Lenovo X220 Tablet PC to sketchnote, and I want to share what I’ve been learning along the way.

Working on the computer, it’s easy to:

  • colour-match logos
  • paste in pictures and templates
  • draw over a light grid for alignment and spacing
  • move things around, erase things, resize things
  • draw without worrying about blurring or smudging
  • export to different resolutions
  • publish immediately after an event, which is great for following up and for catching the wave of interest on Twitter and blogs
  • capture my sketchnoting process and turn it into a speed-drawing video

I use Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. If I want to record my sketches while I’m doing them, I turn on Camtasia Studio as well. I used to use ArtRage for drawing and animation, and I’ve produced 1-minute animated sketchnotes using that, but it’s not as responsive and pen-friendly as Autodesk Sketchbook Pro is.

Working on a tablet PC is so different from working on paper or on a digitizing tablet like those small Wacom ones. On paper, you can use your peripheral vision to keep the big picture in mind as you’re working on some detail. With digital sketchnoting, I zoom in so that I can draw legible letters, so I don’t have that sense of space – but I can work at various zoom levels using very similar motions, so I can be more consistent. The ability to sketchnote an event in person without needing a special table or access to a power outlet allows me to put the spotlight on all sorts of events, while a digital workflow lets me publish things right away and spread the ideas even further.

Some organizational tips if you’re heading down this path as well:

Invest the time in developing your templates. I’ve been experimenting with different aspect ratios. Lately, I’ve been using a 7.5”x10” template at 300dpi, which means that I can print my sketchnotes on letter-sized paper, and they still look decent at 11×17”. I also have templates for a square grid and for credits so that I don’t spend time lining up my name, Twitter handle, and URL just so.

Save the colours and your favourite brushes to your palette. Make it easy to switch between colours by adding them to your palette. Experiment with the right brush widths too, and save those.

Pay attention to how you name your files and save your images. Exporting files with descriptive names saves me lots of time when it comes to filing and searching them afterwards. I sketchnoted more than a hundred 1-hour talks last year, and I often find myself using Evernote to dig up a specific sketch.

Lots of people tell me they’d love to learn how to do things like this. I want to help people improve their visual communication skills. What kinds of questions do you need answered? What would help you get started?

Emacs: Chatting with John Wiegley about the cool things he does with Emacs

John Wiegley – June 26, 2012 from Sacha Chua on Vimeo.

Transcript: http://sachachua.com/blog/2012/07/transcript-emacs-chat-john-wiegley/

Read more context for John Wiegley’s thoughts on the GPL. Note from Sacha: The WordPress folks seem to have figured out how to earn money with premium themes, plugins, and training, so it’s not incompatible with the GPL… =)

John Wiegley is one of my Emacs heroes. =) Check out John’s Emacs configuration and other tools on Github. John occasionally posts Emacs-related things at newartisans.com. You can find him on Twitter as @jwiegley. Enjoy!

IgniteToronto video: The Shy Presenter

I’m giving up on getting the organizers to update the incorrect abstract and bio on the page, but anyway, here’s the 5-minute video from my “Shy Presenter” talk at IgniteToronto:

Ignite Toronto 3: Sacha Chua – The Shy Presenter: An Introvert’s Guide to Speaking in Public from Ignite Toronto on Vimeo.

Minor miscalculation: shy or introverted presenters-to-be are not actually likely to come out to a bar with 200 people to watch an Ignite talk. Ah well. ;) Here’s to fellow introverts who would rather catch the replay!

The Shy Presenter If you’ve ever struggled with small talk, felt overwhelmed in crowds, or wondered how to speak up at work, this talk’s for you. In five minutes, you’ll pick up quick tips about discovering what you have to say, how to say it, and why it’s worth braving the spotlight.

Bio: Sacha Chua spent grade school to grad school hiding in computer labs and libraries. She prefers bookstores over bars, close friends instead of crowds, and silence over small talk. Blogging and public speaking turned out to be excellent ways to learn, though. Today, tens of thousands of people have viewed Sacha Chua’s presentations, attended her keynotes, and read her blog (LivingAnAwesomeLife.com).