Microsoft to build an 'Emacs.Net' text editor

Microsoft to build an 'Emacs.Net' text editor

Summary: Developers are puzzling over recent clues blogged by a few Microsoft employees regarding a new "Emacs.Net" tool the company is building.


Developers are puzzling over recent clues blogged by a few Microsoft employees regarding a new "Emacs.Net" tool the company is building.

Microsoft’s Connected Systems Division (the folks who developed the Windows Communication Framework, also known as "Indigo") is hiring developers to build a product that team member Doug Purdy described as "Emacs.Net." Purdy hinted that Microsoft will divulge its Emacs.Net product/strategy plans at the company’s Professional Developers Conference in late October 2008.

Emacs is a text editor used primarily by the Unix community (though versions of Emacs that work on Windows systems already exist). Richard Stallman is credited as the father of Emacs, the name of which was derived from "Editing MACRoS."

"Emacs is a text editor where a lot of the functionality is written in Lisp. It’s very easy to customize if you can write Lisp code. Maybe by Emacs.NET they mean an Emacs-like editor built on .NET languages (maybe with PowerShell integration) instead of Lisp," speculated Joel Spolsky, a former Softie and current CEO of Fog Creek Software.

Miguel de Icaza, the Vice President of Developer Platforms at Novell (and force behind Mono and the Linux port of Silverlight, known as Moonlight) also hazarded a guess: "Emacs.Net probably refers to a programming environment, that happens to have an editor, and they would probably replace Lisp with .NET."

Responding in comments on the Microsoft Channel 9 blog, Microsoft "Chief Modeling Officer" Don Box added a few more bits of information:

"There are two kinds of emacs users: those who start up emacs in a top-level window and use M-x shell to do shell work, and those who live in tcsh/ksh/bash and crank up emacs -nw to take over their console/terminal window.

"I was always in the former camp, and I believe that’s the design point for Doug (Purdy)’s project. If you look up and down our hallway, all other remaining emacs users are in that former camp as well."

No one has said anything about how the forthcoming Emacs.Net tool will work with Microsoft’s PowerShell, the Unix-like command-line interface and scripting shell that Microsoft is building into a number of its products, ranging from Exchange Server, to Windows Server 2008.

This article was originally a blog post on

Topics: Software, Apps, Cloud, Operating Systems, Software Development


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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