🔰 Introduction

The name Eask came from Emacs Cask ; if you already know what Cask is and what it does, please skip this and forward to the next section.

(NOTE: Cask and Eask are interchangeable in this section)

Eask is the dependency management tool for Emacs Lisp. It’s like npm to Node.js; but it isn’t exactly the same since Eask has fewer tools than npm, plus their ecosystems are slightly different. Below is the link Why Cask? has a better explanation.

❓ Then why Eask, and not Cask?

A simple comparison table below:

Behind technologyCross-PlatformEmacs VersionSize
CaskBash, Batch, and Python (Windows)❌ Good on Linux and macOS, but it’s particularly bad on Windows24.5+3,000+ lines
makem.shShellscript❌ Doesn’t work on Windows by default26.1+1 file, 1200+ lines
EldevBash, Batch, and Powershel, etc✔ Good, but qutie slow on Windows24.4+4,000+ lines
EaskNode or Native Executables✔ Good, and it can be compiled to native executables26.1+3,000+ lines

(Table is copy and paste, please visit the site here)

Eask’s advantages came from the behind technology choice; it uses Node.js and not Shellscript, Bash, Batch, etc. It would require us to use Node runtime, but we can use pkg (big thanks to vercel) for packaging into native executable to avoid such a hassle.

I hope the needs to install Node.js and the extra step to call npm install are the only defect from Eask. So what are the GOODS stuff?

  1. Eask can be packaged into native executables; it should give you a better speed!
  2. It uses Cask’s DSL; it became very easy to adapt from Cask to Eask
  3. Eask-file is unlike Cask-file; it’s an Elisp file and functions similar to init.el (combined from Cask + Eldev)
  4. Use high-level programming language JavaScript; npm has a huge ecosystem. We can always fall back to the node layer if something doesn’t work inside Emacs (e.g. exec, init)
  5. Eask uses yargs as their CLI parsing library, which makes us only have to focus on the development
  6. Eask doesn’t require to call Emacs all the time; this is particularly good in Windows due to the fork operation is quite slow in the system (this is why I don’t recommend Eldev under Windows)
  7. Cross-platform and consistency; other alternatives don’t support Windows by default except for Eldev
  8. It’s easy to expand, and clearer project architecture; Cask, Eldev, and makem.sh have their files very huge, so it would be harder to maintain or add new features
  9. Global flag -g allows you to manage your Emacs configuration

Eask sounds good, but it isn’t perfect. Here are the BADS:

  1. Harder to get into the development; you will need to know JavaScript and npm
  2. Eask project structure follows 1 command to 1 file; people hate having multiple files everywhere
  3. The project is much more complicated (same as no. 2)

🧙‍♂️ Conclusion

After seeing and comparing all the alternatives; I would eventually pick Eask as my major management tool. Eask has more potential if we compare it to the others; on the other hand, I think JavaScript and npm are very easy to learn.

I have been using Emacs on Windows for 7 years; it’s quite painful. In general, many packages are either broken or doesn’t have a good user experience. I sometimes do have a good user experience but rarely. For example, magit, helm, is slow on Windows. Simple ping package eping doesn’t support Windows’ ping.exe. Last time installing docker.el doesn’t work on Windows (1 week ago). I know the fact is Emacs is just too slow on Windows, but that doesn’t mean that we couldn’t do anything about it! The fact is user experience is still bad on Windows, though! 😅

Many people seem to use Cask, but the majority of them don’t require tests on Windows. It’s simply hard and inconvenient. You would have to install Python, and Python is particularly bad on Windows (UX wise). Here came the Eask to be the savior. It’s compatible with Cask’s DSL and ensures the workflow’s consistency (no Python). Hopefully, everyone can use Eask to develop their elisp packages. Maybe someday Emacs can live better under the Windows… What do you think?

I’ve also learned Hugo; would love to share it one day!