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Name MicroEMACS
Version OS/2: 4.0 (Jan 2000)
Win32: 5.00 (Feb 2009)
Author Dave Conroy
Steve Wilhite, George Jones
Brian Straight (Manual)
Daniel Michael Lawrence
Licence Public domain / Shareware
WWW http://www.aquest.com/emacs.htm

MicroEMACS is a compact extensible multi-platform programmers editor written by Dave G. Conroy in 1985, its small size, public domain status and relative portability due to isolation of machine/OS dependant code into a single module, meant that it was ported to most OS architectures in the late 80s and early 90s.

Note that despite what many people think MicroEMACS is not compatible with Emacs and in fact not strictly related, and nota bene pre-dates the GNU edition of it. EMACS was a name used for various collections of macros (Editor MACroS) for an editor called TECO, the name is a variation of an earlier macro set called TEMACS or TMACS (Teco MACroS), these became better known than the editor itself and by 1981 there were a few editors out there that had names similar to EMACS that did not have anything to do with either TECO or any of the EMACS macro collection, but rather loosely worked in a similar way or how people thought "EMACS" works. While MicroEMACS has some similarities to the Gosling EMACS that later became GNU Emacs, they are entirely superficial and commands and keywords are different for instance.


The development of MicroEMACS by Mr Conroy stopped fairly early on but Steve Wilhite and George Jones made fixes in the latter half of the 80s when porting it to the Amiga and released their changes back to the public domain. Brian Straight wrote a MicroEMACS manual in 1987, and we ended up with a collection of patches in 1988 bundled with Straight's manual that was referred to as "Version 3", although it was more more like a version 1.3, the differences from the original version not being that great. That same year Daniel M. Lawrence (1958 - 2010) started issuing patches that he named as 3.x branches (e.. 3.1, 3.2 and so on).

Around 1990 Mr Lawrence issued a version 3.7 that changed the terms of the license from a public domain code and text to a copyrighted shareware by adding a copyright notice and no commercial usage clause, alongside the 3.7 version he released a shareware spell checker he had written called MicroSPELL that interfaced directly with MicroEMACS. This change in copyright status alongside changes in the code that were made in preparation for a commercial release of an announced DOS and OS/2 version (that never saw the light of day) irritated many of the users of the package and a number of forks appeared. Furthermore since the change was not announced but merely was a fairly small change in the accompanied text many people working on ports of the editor to other operating systems continued to issue ports of the package without realising that the software was no longer in the public domain.

This did in the long term a huge damage to the popularity of MicroEMACS, smaller makers of programming tools had been shipping versions of the editor as part of their IDE and had released versions of ME 3.7 or later without realising it was contravening the new terms and knew nothing of the matter until a cease and desist note appeared in their mail. Most either replaced it altogether or reverted back to version 3.6 and forked it, and so did a number of open source advocates, the resulting forks started to diverge over time and as people started to change the code they stopped referring to it as MicroEMACS, and the DOS vendors in particular started making it look and function more like a Microsoft or Borland product, most people will probably not realise that the DOS editor they used as part of package x or y was actually a version of MicroEMACS.

This remarkably quick erosion of the MicroEMACS "trademark" and thus its value as a commercial offering, and the release of number of forks under the GNU GPL v2 License‎ that Mr Lawrence saw as "theft" of his public domain code in addition to him viewing the GNU's grab of the Gosling EMACS code as somewhat dishonest, all became a great irritation to the ME author and led to public spats on USENET and especially email lists between him and GPL advocates in particular, and just about anyone in general which did not make for good public relations material, even if he was not wrong in all cases.

The ME editor was probably in the 88 to 91 time-frame either the most used editor in the world or a close second behind the bundled DOS editor, and certainly the most used programmers editor, with a number of vendors shipping it as standard. By 1995 it had become more or less unknown and sales of it all but disappeared, the only place it was still seen as the standard editor was with Microware's OS-9 but that OS was disappearing fast as well. This lead to slowed down release cycle from three releases a year to only four or five in the last 18 years of the products lifetime with a few minor patches in-between, the author stopped distributing the source and executable for MicroSPELL altogether, making later versions available only as commercial add-ons, and ports to other systems were greatly reduced. In addition some of the changes made to the version 4 branch were unpopular amongst long time users making version 3.12 the most often chosen amongst the people still using the package.The last version (5) was only released as a 32 bit Windows package and never progressed beyond a public beta.


  • 3.11
  • 3.12 (Apr 1993) - 32-bit versions available from Hobbes
  • 4.0 (Jan 2000) - me400os2.zip


Products based on MicroEMACS

  • Vile - A variant of MicroEMACS with vi like keyboard controls.
  • Zortech C++ - The supplied editor was based on ME, the company that developed the package offers their version as a free download, but no OS/2 version.

A number of companies forked the older public domain licensed versions of MicroEMACS and shipped them as rudimentary IDEs for their products, amongst the more notable were the editor included with Zortech C++ and Mike, an editor Microway shipped with some of their tools.