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Re: [Groff] Status of the portability work, and plans for the future

From: Jon Snader
Subject: Re: [Groff] Status of the portability work, and plans for the future
Date: Tue, 9 Jan 2007 13:29:42 -0500
User-agent: Mutt/

On Tue, Jan 09, 2007 at 12:03:14PM -0500, Eric S. Raymond wrote:
> Your thinking is intelligent and cogent -- but your factual
> premise is wrong, leading you to an incorrect model of my
> assumptions.  On my usual desktop arrangement, rendering man
> pages in a browser *would* in fact have the cost of popping up
> a browser.  It is indicative that I don't have one up right
> now.

I stand corrected on your desktop set up, but I'm willing to
concede only half the point.  With your desktop, calling up a man
page from your editor would cause a browser to pop up.  That's a
little distracting, perhaps, but not nearly so much as having to
switch desktops.

> >                   One could argue, I suppose, that this just
> >                   shows that ESR is correct and we should
> >                   stick to a single window, but there's a
> >                   whole bunch of us who disagree.
> Heh.  For the record, "ESR" himself wouldn't make that
> argument. :-)

I was a sloppy here.  What I meant is a single *virtual desktop*,
not a single application window.

> You skipped a step.  You have a good point about calling up
> manual pages within an editor, but not all character-cell
> displays are equivalent; it doesn't follow from this that
> man(1) through xterm has any value that lynx(1) through xterm
> wouldn't.  I'll be interested to see if you can make that
> argument, especially since Gunnar ducked it.

I think someone made (almost) that argument earlier.  That person
posted that man with less was more convenient and powerful (?)
than a browser because of navigation and searching issues.
Regarding man/less vs. lynx, I would have to agree.  Let's face
it, lynx navigation sucks and the only benefit that I can see is
that you get hyperlinks.  I'm not sure (admittedly because I
haven't had the ability) that hyperlinks make up for the loss of
easy navigation and searching.  But, really, I think that misses
the point.  I doubt anyone would prefer lynx/xterm over, say,
firefox for viewing man pages.  The question is whether there are
some situations in which a traditional man page rendered in a
character display makes sense.  For me, and I think many others,
getting a man page in an editor window does make sense and I
wouldn't want to lose that ability.  When I'm looking at a man
page for, say, bogofilter, then a browser based display would
probably be preferable because I'm not already in my editor.

> Until somebody meets that challenge, I'll stick with my
> diagnosis of arrested development.

It's not arrested development to prefer to retain a useful
capability (man pages in an editor) rather than move to a browser
based system whose main benefit is hyperlinks.  Especially if you
don't think hyperlinks are particularly valuable for the types of
man pages you typically bring up in an editor.

> It's not one I make casually -- I've been thinking *hard* about
> Unix UI, from a position deep within Unix culture, for half a
> decade now.

I know you have; let me say again that I approve of this project
and appreciate your efforts on its behalf.


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