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Emacs as an OpenACS IDE

emacs integrated development environment for OpenACS

emacs documentation:

Emacs uses major and minor modes that provide a UI context for editing various file types. Here are some useful ones for working with OpenACS:

CVS Mode Emacs with OpenACS

I use M-x cvs-examine to update and check in code when I am working with OpenACS. One thing that is a pain with CVS is that cvs diff does not tell you what you are going to get if you update, it only tells you what is changed in your local copy.

You can use M-x cvs-examine and then type "d e" next to any of the files in your checkout in the *cvs* buffer to open ediff mode and then interactively merge what's in CVS with your local changes. In ediff mode you use n/p to got to the next/previous difference. You can copy changes from the CVS buffer to your local copy using a/b to copy the the buffer marked A to B or B to A. Type ? on the ediff window to get a list of other commands.

OpenACS Mode for Emacs

See historical page describing oacs.el


Download: oacs.el.tar updated 2006-08-15 . The lastest version includes nXML mode support in addition to PSGML support. There are good installation instructions in the INSTALL.txt file. A quick install guide for Debian


sudo su -
cd /usr/share/emacs/site-lisp
tar xf oacs.el.tar
apt-get install psgml mmm-mode

# Alternatively compile manually
tar xfz psgml-1.2.5.tar.gz
cd psgml-1.2.5
make install
cd ..
tar xfz mmm-mode-0.4.8.tar.gz
cd mmm-mode-0.4.8
make install

After this login as the user who is doing the development and edit you .emacs file.

 (add-to-list 'load-path "/usr/share/emacs/site-lisp/oacs")
 (require 'oacs)
 (setq user-full-name "<yourname>")
 (setq user-mail-address "<your email>")
 (add-to-list 'auto-mode-alist '("\\.vuh" . tcl-mode))
 (add-to-list 'auto-mode-alist '("\\.adp" . html-mode))

For recent Emacs versions (> 2008), modify oacs-nxml.el in the downloaded tarball:

 line 30: (load "nxml-mode.el")  instead of (load "rng-auto.el")


Also, you may need to modify adp.rnc to the correct path to the xhtml.rnc schema on your installation. On OS X, for example, line 5 should read:

include "/Applications/" 


The following was written by Bart the author of oacs.el

OpenACS lacked a good Integrated Development Environment and as I use Emacs for almost everything it was only natural to fill the void. The Emacs OACS module is an extension to GNU Emacs, the extensible, customizable, self-documenting real-time display editor.

Development status

Emacs OACS's development is driven by the needs I encounter in my OpenACS projects. Development takes place in my spare time. At this stage the code is the documentation. I lack the time to write a proper article. However, as Emacs OACS addresses the issues described in articles XQL Document Type Definition and Replacing SQL bind vars in Emacs some background information can be found in those articles.

Forum thread: Beta Emacs OACS module available

Useful commands

Formating TCL

  • M-o ft to re-format Tcl code. See code for details.
  • M-o fh to reformat Html or Adp code.
  • M-o fs to reformat Sql code.
  • M-x oacs-format-separate-tags to separate adjacent tags. E.g. <tr><td>
  • M-x oacs-format-includes to place all include attribubtes on a separate line.

Code navigation

  • M-o oo to search for any custom regular expression.
  • M-o on to search the log for Notice oacs-dbg messages. That is a Notice level message created with the macro 'oddbg'.
  • M-o od to search the log for Debug oacs-dbg messages.
  • M-o oe to search the log for Error oacs-dbg messages. Etc for all other ns_log levels.
  • M-o op to browse Tcl libraries for procedure definitions. This is by far my favorite way of navigating a library!
  • M-o fp (find-file-at-point) to NSD error log mode.
  • M-o rl to revert the logfile
  • M-o ml to to open an error log file and monitor the changes to the log. 


Editing docbook xml


editing via Muse mode

editing via nXML mode


psgml mode


Developing with emacs

To make emacs display .vuh files similar to .tcl files, add to .emacs file:

 (add-to-list 'auto-mode-alist '("\\.vuh" . tcl-mode))


To make emacs display .adp files similar to .html files, add to .emacs file:

 (add-to-list 'auto-mode-alist '("\\.adp" . html-mode))


Common command shortcuts

Minor Modes

 M-x global-font-lock-mode highlights syntax using colors
 M-x transient-mark-mode   shows a highlighted text region
 M-x show-paren-mode       shows matching parentheses (and when the do not)

Move, Search and Replace

 M-x goto-line             go to a specific line in a file
 M-x goto-char             go to a specific character number in a file
 M-C-f                     search forward for matching brace
 M-C-b                     search backward for matching brace
 M-x replace-regexp        search/replace using regular expressions
 M-x query-replace-regexp  query/search/replace using regular expressions
   note \\( and \\) for start and end subgroups
 M-x grep                  grep creates new buffer with results
                           for fast loading/editing search hits

Useful "sleepers" (not found in many shortcut sheets)

 fg<cr>                    restart a suspended emacs session from commandline
 C-q <key press>           add a key without emacs interpreting the key binding

You can configure emacs to create 4 spaces when you press the tab key--important for meeting coding standards. Add this to your .emacs file:

(setq-default tab-width 4 indent-tabs-mode nil)

other useful quicksheets

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