Emacs 27.1 Adds Native JSON Parsing
Written by Kay Ewbank   
Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Emacs has been updated with native support for JSON parsing, built-in support for arbitrary-size integers, and text shaping with HarfBuzz.

Emacs is the GNU project’s text editor. It can be extended and customized, and comes with an interpreter for Emacs Lisp. GNU Emacs was created  in the 1980s by Richard Stallman as a free software alternative to the proprietary Gosling Emacs. It is based around a Lisp interpreter and has been under constant development for over 30 years. It was last updated in 2018.


The improvements to the new release start with the native support for JSON parsing. This comes as part of the support for version 13 of the unicode standard, and while you could get JSON support in Emacs before this, it is now enabled by default, and there are some new JSON functions for serialisation, insertion, parse string and parse buffer, all of which are much faster than the equivalent Lisp predecessors.

The second improvement is a move away from ImageMagick for basic image transformations to using HarfBuzz, which is a tool that is also in use in GNOME, KDE, and Android for text rendering. Using the HarfBuzz library allows programs to convert a sequence of Unicode inputs into properly formatted and positioned glyph output. ImageMagick has also been dropped for displaying images due to 'security concerns'. Instead, Emacs now supports standard transformations without the library., though users of GNU and Unix systems will need to use either Cairo or the XRender extension to be able to perform image transformations. 

Cairo, GNU's vector graphics library. has been moved to be the default drawing tool rather than being experimental. Elsewhere, Emacs now works with arbitrary-size integers, and uses the GNU Multiple Precision library GMP by default. There are also new commands in the editor for easier working with the tab bar and lines.

The final change of note is that Emacs now supports the XDG convention for init files, and has added support for an early init file that can be used to customize how your package system is initialized.



More Information

Emacs 27 Release Announcement

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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 25 August 2020 )