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Re: delete-selection-mode (was: Put scroll-bar on right by defaulton UNI

From: Alan Mackenzie
Subject: Re: delete-selection-mode (was: Put scroll-bar on right by defaulton UNIX.)
Date: Thu, 18 Mar 2010 18:54:35 +0000
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.9i

'Evening, Drew,

On Thu, Mar 18, 2010 at 10:15:11AM -0700, Drew Adams wrote:

> > OK.  The penalty for that convenience is having your region explode
> > and disappear when you accidentally type a self-insert character (or
> > arrow key).  This might happen if you hit the x before the M in M-x,
> > or something like that.  Or, you might regionify a defun with C-M-h
> > for some reason and accidentally lose it. 

> The risk you describe exists in theory, and I suppose it occurs
> occasionally in practice. But honestly, my impression is that you
> simply have not used d-s-mode much or this would not be a problem in
> practice.

You are wrong.  I have used lots of proprietary products with d-s-m.
What is worst about it, for me, is not the "explosion" itself when it
happens, but the continual anxiety that it will.  It's like walking
through a minefield - even if you don't explode a mine, you simply cannot
relax and feel easy.

You're being very dismissive of my experience simply because you're
different and don't share it.  I am by no means unique - there will
certainly be lots of other people who suffer this feature likewise;
there're another one or two on this mailing list.  The degree of
suffering d-s-m inflicts on us far outweighs the slight increase in
convenience for you.

> 99.999% (no, no proof; just a guess) of computer users out there use
> this "risky" behavior everyday, all day long, without exploding (and
> without Emac's powerful undo as a remedy).

We do not know, since these users are forced into it without having a

> I submit that you see it as a problem simply because you are not used
> to it. If you don't treat the active region as, well, active, then yes,
> you'll probably step on your own toes a few times.

I use Emacs because it is (or rather, was) a stateless editor, as
contrasted to vi.  d-s-m adds in yet one more frivolous state-dependent
behaviour.  Even with transient-mark-mode, you can still (currently)
depend on `self-insert-command' to just work.  With d-s-m you can't.

However, with simple transient-mark-mode, the problem doesn't exist.
Even a naive newbie would very quickly learn to hit the <delete> key if
d-s-m weren't enabled.  Heavens, they do it already.  Do they complain
about it?

> > It's "obviously" useful to be able to type extra text into an already
> > "existing" region.  The region is used for many things other than
> > just being deleted.

> Not a problem. It is only when the region is *active* that typing
> replaces it.  Emacs gives you the best of both worlds: the region can
> be active or inactive.

Stop playing with my words, please.

> > we should never make something default in Emacs if it's likely to
> > provoke the angry reaction "How do I disable this *!£$ing thing?".
> > delete-select-mode falls into this latter category.  So does
> > transient-mark-mode.

> So we should remove t-m-mode as the default?

I would say yes, but that argument was settled some while ago.  It
wouldn't be a good idea to reopen it.

> We all agree that whatever the default behavior is we should do our
> best to let users know how to change the defaults.


> > Is there any evidence that delete-select-mode is instrinsically a good
> > thing, disregarding the fact that it has become common?

> Which do you do more often: (a) replace the text in the region or (b) set 
> mark,
> move somewhere else, and insert text?

How about addressing the question as put?  Is there any evidence
whatsoever for the intrinsic goodness of d-s-m?

My personal answer to your question is (c) something else.  I NEVER
"replace the text in the region".  I frequently do (b), though I don't
think of it in those terms.

> With d-s-mode, the former is simple and the latter requires that you
> hit C-g (to deactivate the region). Without d-s-mode, the latter is
> simple and the former requires that you hit C-w (or DEL/delete-region).

Yes.  Hitting C-g repeatedly is a horrible experience - it makes a noise.
Hitting C-w is simple, hitting <del> is obvious even to newbies, and
doesn't make any noise.

> You could say "six of one; half a dozen of the other - a toss-up". If
> you think that, then we're back to the argument about fit (by default)
> with the outside world. And that argument is not negligible.

> > One reason people might have come to Emacs is to escape the (to them)
> > deity-awful key sequences they've been forced to use up to now.

> That's an amazing statement, Alan. I've never heard anyone claim that
> people come to Emacs because the key sequences they use elsewhere are
> too difficult.

Not "too difficult" but "deity-awful".  You do understand that
distinction, I hope?

> It's usually the opposite we hear about Emacs: "What's with all the
> crazy C-M-S- contortions?"

All the "crazy" key sequences are part of Emacs's essence.  Without them,
it wouldn't be Emacs.  They're what make Emacs easy and efficient to use
(not to be confused with easy to learn).

> You've been inside Emacs so long that it's second nature to you. Take a
> look outside the window, and imagine that you're out there looking in
> at Emacs. This is about setting the default value. In particular, it's
> about picking a default that is helpful to new users but is also useful
> in general.

I remember learning Emacs well.  It was difficult and frustrating.
Slight variations on Emacs's default would not have changed that one

Alan Mackenzie (Nuremberg, Germany).

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