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RE: C-x C-v considered harmful

From: Drew Adams
Subject: RE: C-x C-v considered harmful
Date: Thu, 2 Jul 2009 08:17:59 -0700

Problem statement:

>>>> I often invoke vc-dir in the *shell* buffer,...
>>>> but sometimes type "C-x C-v d RET" instead...
>>>> I haven't let go of the Ctrl key fast enough.

Proposed solutions:

> >>    1.  Bind find-alternate-file to something different.  
> >>    2.  Add a "[Confirm]" step if nonexistent, as for 
> >>    selecting files or buffers with
> >>    confirm-nonexistent-file-or-buffer set to t.
> >>    3.  Do not bind find-alternate-file to anything at all.
> > 
> > How  about:
> >   4.  Make find-alternate-file use a yes-or-no-p 
> >   confirmation prompt if the buffer has no associated file.
> >   My guess is that the vast  majority of uses of
> >   find-alternate-file are replacing one file buffer with
> >   another, and that intentionally replacing "special"
> >   buffers is very rare.
> > 
> >   If there are specific modes or buffers for which "replacement"
> >   _is_ commonly used, then there could be a variable to tell
> >   find-alternate-file not to confirm that buffer (and 
> >   a user could set the global default value of that variable
> >   to turn off all confirmation)
> The specific mode that leaps to mind is Dired.  I often use C-x C-v in
> Dired buffers to visit a different directory, just as I do in file
> buffers.  So how about:
> 5. Make find-alternate-file use a yes-or-no-p confirmation 
> prompt if the buffer has an associated process.  This would
> cover *shell* buffers.

This is like saying that we should change the behavior of `C-x C-f' so that it
asks for confirmation, because if you don't release the Control key fast enough
you get `C-x f', which sets the fill column. Or similarly, for `C-x C-b' or `C-x
C-c' or `C-x C-d' or ... There are tons of key combinations that exhibit the
same "problem".

I disagree with all of the above "solutions". The problem is not the behavior of
`find-alternate-file' or its binding to `C-x C-v'. If there really is a problem,
it is the too-similar binding of `C-x v d'.

`C-x C-v' is much older than `C-x v d', and my guess is that it is still more
widely used. And `C-x v d' has narrower focus, being specific to the context of
change control.

If a particular user has a problem finger-confusing `C-x v d' with `C-x C-v',
then s?he can use a different key for one or the other. End of problem.

If many, many users have the same finger problem, then `C-x v d' should be moved
to a different key for everyone. But please don't change the behavior of
`find-alternate-file' just because some other key can be confused with `C-x

Of the "solutions" mentioned above to the "problem", #5 from Kevin R is
preferable, being the least restrictive on the behavior of
`find-alternate-file'. But there should be no reason to restrict its behavior at

Fix `C-x v d', if you feel you must, but leave `find-alternate-file' alone. It's
been just fine for a third of a century, thank you. It should not be forced to
move or change its behavior just because a newcomer to the neighborhood chooses
a similar phone #.

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