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Re: Failing to see the allure of Emacs

From: address@hidden
Subject: Re: Failing to see the allure of Emacs
Date: Tue, 04 May 2010 15:43:19 -0000
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv: Gecko/20100227 Thunderbird/3.0.3

I understand all the objections made to my saying that the emacs documentation is incomplete, not up to date, and not readily usable, and I don't feel like arguing the matter merely in technical detail. Some disagree. That's cool. I wish them well.

I have a relative who, before email, never wrote me. Once she had email, she became a very lively correspondent. Paper wasn't her medium, but email was.

Got the idea?

I can read source code and I do; but there's a lot of source code, and most of it is unrewarding reading. I can use info, but I don't like it. Please don't tell me "use info", because info is designed and intended not for reading, but for brief, casual online reference, and that is its cognitive organization. It's poor as a learning tool, at least for text-based and example-based learners like me. I'm a fast reader and I like hectares of well-indexed text with lots of bookmarks: that's my best medium.

If documentation is worth doing -- and I think it is -- then it's worth doing well, in a way that meets the needs of the people who'll actually use it. In that light, emacs documentation seems to me to hold up not too well.

Look through this newsgroup for all the places a response has said "Have you tried function such-and-such", or "that behavior is controlled by variable X except that the default is variable Y". If the documentation were better, much of that would disappear.

When a literate, conscientious user with decades of programming experience, decades of experience writing documentation, decades of using emacs, and decades of support for free software says something like what I say, trying to argue him down is unproductive. Of course I appreciate all the concrete help I've gotten here and in other such forums, but it sure would be good to have complete, up to date, readily usable documentation. (Smiling.)


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