# Atto Emacs
The smallest functional Emacs in less than 2000 lines of C.
Atto Emacs is inspired by MicroEmacs, Nano, Pico and my earlier project known
as Perfect Emacs .
> A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left
> to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
> -- Antoine de Saint-Exupery
## Goals of Atto Emacs
* Be the smallest fuctional Emacs in less than 2000 lines of C.
* Provide a rich level of functionality in the smallest amount of code
* Be easy to understand without extensive study (to encourage further
In Defining Atto as the lowest functional Emacs I have had to consider the
essential feature set that makes Emacs, 'Emacs'. I have defined this point
as a basic Emacs command set and key bindings; the ability to edit multiple
files (buffers), and switch between them; edit the buffers in mutliple
windows, cut, copy and paste; forward and reverse searching, a replace
function, basic syntax hilighting and UTF8 support. The proviso being that
all this will fit in less than 2000 lines of C.
## Why the name Atto?
The small Emacs naming scheme appears to use sub-unit prefixes in decending
order with each further reduction of functionality. Atto means 10 to the
power of minus 18. Logically Femto (10^-15) comes after Pico (10^-12).
However choosing Atto allows for the potential for **Femto** to be an Atto
based Emacs with a scripting language.
As of November 2017 Atto's big brother *Femto* can be found at
Atto is based on the public domain code of Anthony Howe's editor (commonly
known as Anthony's Editor or AE, ). Rather than representing a file as a
linked list of lines, the AE Editor uses the concept of a Buffer-Gap
[4,5,6]. A Buffer-Gap editor stores the file in a single piece of
contiguous memory with some extra unused space known as the buffer gap. On
character insertion and deletion the gap is first moved to the current
point. A character deletion then extends the gap by moving the gap pointer
back by 1 OR the gap is reduced by 1 when a character is inserted. The
Buffer-Gap technique is elegant and significantly reduces the amount of
code required to load a file, modify it and redraw the display. The proof
of this is seen when you consider that Atto supports almost the same
command set that Pico supports, but Pico requires almost 17 times the
amount of code.
## Comparisons with Other Emacs Implementations
Editor Binary BinSize KLOC Files
atto atto 33002 1.9k 10
pEmacs pe 59465 5.7K 16
Esatz-Emacs ee 59050 5.7K 14
GNOME GNOME 55922 9.8k 13
Zile zile 257360 11.7k 48
Mg mg 585313 16.5K 50
uEmacs/Pk em 147546 17.5K 34
Pico pico 438534 24.0k 29
Nano nano 192008 24.8K 17
jove jove 248824 34.7k 94
Qemacs qe 379968 36.9k 59
ue3.10 uemacs 171664 52.4K 16
GNUEmacs emacs 14632920 358.0k 186
## Atto Key Bindings
C-F forward Character
C-G Abort (at prompts)
C-L refresh display
C-M Carrage Return
C-N next line
C-P previous line
C-V Page Down
C-W Kill Region (Cut)
C-X CTRL-X command prefix
C-Y Yank (Paste)
M-< Start of file
M-> End of file
M-v Page Up
M-f Forward Word
M-b Backwards Word
M-r Search and Replace
C-<spacebar> Set mark at current position.
^X^C Exit. Any unsaved files will require confirmation.
^X^F Find file; read into a new buffer created from filename.
^X^S Save current buffer to disk, using the buffer's filename as the name
^X^W Write current buffer to disk. Type in a new filename at the prompt
^Xi Insert file at point
^X= Show Character at position
Del Delete character under cursor
Ins Toggle Overwrite Mode
Left Move left
Right Move point right
Up Move to the previous line
Down Move to the next line
Backspace delete caharacter on the left
Ctrl+Up beginning of file
Ctrl+Down end of file
Ctrk+Left Page Down
Ctrl+Right Page Up
### Copying and moving
C-<spacebar> Set mark at current position
^W Delete region
^Y Yank back kill buffer at cursor
M-w Copy Region
A region is defined as the area between this mark and the current cursor
position. The kill buffer is the text which has been most recently deleted
Generally, the procedure for copying or moving text is:
1. Mark out region using M-<spacebar> at the beginning and move the cursor to
2. Delete it (with ^W) or copy it (with M-W) into the kill buffer.
3. Move the cursor to the desired location and yank it back (with ^Y).
C-S or C-R enters the search prompt, where you type the search string
BACKSPACE - will reduce the search string, any other character will
C-S at the search prompt will search forward, will wrap at end of the
C-R at the search prompt will search backwards, will wrap at start of the
ESC will escape from the search prompt and return to the point of the
C-G abort the search and return to point before the search started
## Building on Ubuntu
When building on Ubuntu you will need to install the libcurses dev package.
$ sudo apt-get install apt-file
$ apt-file update
now search for which package would have curses.h and install it:
$ apt-file search curses.h
$ sudo apt-get install libncurses5-dev
## Future Enhancements and Collaboration
The priority now is bug fixes and keeping the code count below 2000 lines.
Bug fixes and optimisations are welcome especially if they deliver code
reductions which make space for further fixes.
## Multiple Windows or Not?
Atto supports multiple windows ! This was the hardest part of the project
to get working reliably.
The lack of multiple windows would have been quickly noticed as it is a
very visible feature of the Emacs user interface. It is very useful to be
able to look at some code in one window whilst editing another section of
the same file (or a different file) in another window. As more than one
window can access the same buffer the current point now has now to be
associated with the window structure and updated back to the buffer
structure whenever any gap or display code is called that accesses the
point location. The strategy I used in the end was to treat the buffer as
the master and update the window structure with copies of the critical
values (point, page, epage, cursor row & col) after each display update of
that window. This is because the display code does the calculations
necessary to reframe the sceen when the point scrolls up off the screen or
below the screen. Getting everthing to work correctly when displaying the
same buffer in more that one winow was a reall challenge and took arpund
15-20 hours to get it working.
A multi-window display issue (specifically evident in a buffer-gap editor)
was resolved in Atto 1.6. This is where you are editing a file that is
displayed in more than one window. Say you are in window1 and delete 3
lines, the current point in the other windows (if the point is below the
point in window1) have to be adjusted to take into account that thier
relative positions in the buffer have now shifted up. We do this by
tracking the size of the text in the buffer before and after each command.
At the start of the display function we can work out the difference and
adjust the other windows when they are updated. This mechanism works well
even when inserting a text file that means that the gap has to be
## Known Issues
Goto-line will fail to go to the very last line. This is a special case that
could easily be fixed.
Atto code is released to the public domain.
hughbarney AT gmail.com 2017
Ed Davies for bringing Athony's Editor to my attention
Anthony Howe for his original codebase
Matt Fielding (Magnetic Realms) for providing fixes for multi-byte / wide
characters, delete, backspace and cursor position
The Infinnovation team for bug fixes to complete.
 Perfect Emacs - https://github.com/hughbarney/pEmacs
 Anthony's Editor - https://github.com/hughbarney/Anthony-s-Editor
 MG - https://github.com/rzalamena/mg
 Jonathan Payne, Buffer-Gap: http://ned.rubyforge.org/doc/buffer-gap.txt
 Anthony Howe, http://ned.rubyforge.org/doc/editor-101.txt
 Anthony Howe, http://ned.rubyforge.org/doc/editor-102.txt