You can make Emacs automatically indent newlines without having to hit tab by putting this in ~/.emacs:
(global-set-key "\\C-m" 'newline-and-indent)
Only took me a half hour to figure that out. I made the mistake of trying
C-h a indent (i.e. apropos indent). Emacs gives me no less than 35 results to wade through:
align-newline-and-indent, back-to-indentation, backward-to-indentation, comment-indent, comment-indent-new-line, default-indent-new-line, delete-indentation, forward-to-indentation, indent-according-to-mode, indent-code-rigidly, indent-for-comment, indent-for-tab-command, indent-new-comment-line, indent-pp-sexp, indent-region, indent-relative, indent-relative-maybe, indent-rigidly, indent-sexp, indent-to, indent-to-column, indented-text-mode, inferior-slime-indent-line, lisp-indent-line, move-past-close-and-reindent, newline-and-indent, paragraph-indent-minor-mode, paragraph-indent-text-mode, reindent-then-newline-and-indent, slime-fuzzy-indent-and-complete-symbol, slime-indent-and-complete-symbol, slime-reindent-defun, slime-repl-newline-and-indent, slime-update-indentation, whitespace-toggle-indent-check
(Personally I'm a fan of
indent-relative-maybe which sounds like Emacs may indent if it's in the mood but then again don't get your hopes up.)
Of course none of those options tells me how to bind the right function (
newline-and-indent in this case) to pressing Enter on my keyboard. But it's nothing massively excessive amounts of googling and reading wiki and blog entries can't solve, I suppose.
Also I found out that one of the reasons my Emacs looked so horrible is that color themes can force-set font faces, overriding my font choices. Particularly, the color theme I was using was making certain bits of text bold, and in spite of my best efforts I found no way to tell Emacs what font I want to use for bold text. Xft fonts in Emacs in general are apparently still experimental and not officially stable, which may have something to do with the difficulty of figuring out how to set fonts. I find this to be a bit behind the times, but I suppose I should feel grateful that Emacs isn't using Motif for its GUI any longer.
I found out today that
C-h K will look up what a keybinding does. However it doesn't seem to be able to look up Slime keybindings, only the official Emacs ones in the Emacs manual. I'm still a bit confused about major modes and minor modes and inferior modes, i.e. I have no real clue what the heck those terms mean beyond a vague sense that they set keybindings and maybe syntax highlighting and have some relation to filetypes similar to Vim filetypes. I read as much of the manual as I can but there are only so many hours in a day that one can devote to learning a text editor.
font-lock, which appears to do something useful because I have it in my .emacs from way back the last time I tried to learn Emacs, but what it does I couldn't tell you (the manual says that "text is fontified as you type it". Fontified? Verbifying nouns doesn't help with my understandingification.) It certainly doesn't lock fonts, whatever that would mean, so I must assume the term "font-lock" is a clever riddle which will lead to Zen-like enlightenment once I figure out its meaning. Well done, Emacs devs.
Is it that Emacs has so many options that the devs ran out of English words and phrases that made sense, and had to start making up gibberish? Or is this simply a secret language that Emacs devotees speak in each other's presence, like a thieves' cant?