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Friday, June 13, 2014

The Sorry State of Emacs Lisp Package Archives

GNU Emacs 24 (released in June 2012) introduced official support for packages, that is, a way of installing extensions from a remote repository. This was a huge step forward for Emacs, as it not only allowed users to easily find and install extensions, but it also made it possible for extensions to build upon other extensions without having to tell the user “great you want to install this, just install this extensions and those five other ones, too.” It used to be that many extensions each re-implemented common functionality just to get around this problem. Now, we have a number of general-purpose libraries.

Two years into the age of packages, there are three (four) major package archives available, but they all have some serious problems, making none of them even remotely as useful as, say, Python’s PyPI.