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Re: Default Emacs keybindings (was: Re: Menu suggestion)

From: Alan Mackenzie
Subject: Re: Default Emacs keybindings (was: Re: Menu suggestion)
Date: Mon, 26 Apr 2004 13:44:42 +0000 (GMT)

On Mon, 26 Apr 2004, Per Abrahamsen wrote:

>Richard Stallman <address@hidden> writes:

>> Why do you think the traditional Emacs bindings are harder to learn
>> than these bindings?

>The are two possibilities:

>1. Emacs is not the first computer program the user learns.

>In that case, chances is that the user already know and expects the
>CUA bindings. 

>2. Emacs *is* the first computer program the user learns.

>In that case, learning the next computer program will be harder,
>because the next computer program will use CUA bindings.


>In that last decade, a (rough and partial) consensus on key bindings has
>been building.  A user can switch between MacOS, MS Windows, Gnome, and
>KDE applications, and still expect a certain level of consistency
>between the bindings.

The point of these bindings is surely ease of learning rather than ease
of use:  "Just hold down the <shift> and move the cursor!"

>I believe it would be in the best long time interest of our community,
>if Emacs joined that consensus.  In practice, the CUA bindings (not the
>CUA code) should be default, and the documentation should reflect that.
>A very visible and complete "traditional" mode would be needed though,
>at least as good as CUA mode, just doing the opposite.

I can't agree there.  Emacs is very solidly in the "easy to use, a pig to
learn" camp.  If you make make CUA bindings default so as to make it
easier to learn superficially, you'll make it harder to learn "properly".
The result will be masses of users learning it only superficially, and
thus not getting the full benefit of Emacs.  We'll have a product which
is still a pig to learn, but no longers has such good reasons to do so.

[I'm taking it for granted here that the Emacs standard bindings are
vastly superior to the CUA bindings.  If anybody disagrees with me on
this point, please don't use this mailing list to try and change my mind.

>In my day job, I write a text based scientific application.  I use Emacs
>to edit the setup files and run the application myself, of course.  But
>when I teach people to use the application, I cannot in good conscience
>teach them to use it with Emacs.  The course is "nitrogen dynamics in
>soil", not "Emacs 101".  Instead I pick a lesser editor, one they
>haven't used before, but which they can pickup in no time because it
>stays within the consensus UI.

With all due respect, Emacs is no program for casual users.  It's for
serious programmers or other writers, who're going to be spending
thousands of hours writing/hacking, and for whom the ~hundred hours
learning time is a very sound investment.  Even if Emacs was equipped
with CUA bindings, it still wouldn't be a good tool to give nitrogen
hackers.  Something easier to learn, something more NOxious, like
[proprietory product name deleted] is better here.

Alan Mackenzie (Munich, Germany)

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