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Re: Emacs: a 21st century text-editor

From: Alan Mackenzie
Subject: Re: Emacs: a 21st century text-editor
Date: 15 Mar 2005 01:07:40 +0100
Date: Tue, 15 Mar 2005 00:11:16 +0000
User-agent: tin/1.4.5-20010409 ("One More Nightmare") (UNIX) (Linux/2.0.35 (i686))

Christopher G D Tipper <address@hidden> wrote on Tue, 08 Mar 2005
20:04:02 -0000:
> Emacs: a 21st century text-editor

> I have been using emacs for over a year now, and value its power and
> flexibility. However, I cannot get used to some idiosyncrasies ....

Congratulations on spelling that word correctly!  I'll bet you can write
"supersede", too.  ;-)

> .... of its behaviour which seem to me to be artifacts of its heritage,
> rather than components of a piece of modern software. What I am talking
> about is nothing to do with any superficial features, such as the
> complex interface nor its architecture. It just seems to be stuck in
> the 20th century with no sign of any attempt at modernisation.

Hmmm.  Not all answers to that are polite.  Possibly the best is that
Emacs doesn't follow fashion, it follows functionality.  Not everything
modern in user interface design is good, not by a long chalk.  Not
everything that is good for a casual user is good for a power user.
Emacs is optimised for power users.

> 1 Text-wrapping. Text wrapping is a limitation, and it would be nice
>   to scroll past the edge of the screen. This is particularly acute in
>   my case editing XSLT scripts where line-breaks become a
>   presentational issue. Sometimes I actually need to compose documents
>   with 250 columns, and I don't appreciate emacs telling me otherwise.

I think you mean it would be nice to be _able_ to set up to scroll past
the edge of the screen.  Some people prefer long lines to wrap on the
display (i.e. without newlines), some prefer auto-filling (i.e. with
newlines).  There's various settings you can set for this.

> 2 Shell open. Emacs really ought to be able recognise when the shell
>   is requesting it to open a file. Gnu-client should be unnecessary in
>   a modern application.

> 3 Tabbed buffers. Open buffers should be easily visible in a tabbed
>   layout below the menu, in the manner of XEmacs.

Again, this is personal taste.  Such a feature would be of no help to me,
and I strongly dislike such distractions on my screen.  But I agree that
such a feature as an option would be a good thing.

>   A proper history list would help here so that documents are
>   persistent across sessions.

What do you mean by a "history list", and what does "proper" mean.
desktop.el does a not too bad job.

> 4 File Dialogs. I use dlgopen.el on Windows, which gets rid of the
>   most serious interface issue of all, the lack of modern file
>   dialogs. It wouldn't be rocket-science to adapt the interface to
>   support this. XEmacs file dialogs are unusable IMHO.

Why is that a serious interface issue?  How are modern file dialogues
better?  Too me, dialog boxes are like explosions in my face, so I
disable them as much as possible.  What's wrong with what Emacs currently

> 5 Paste replaces edit.


>   This idea that when I paste I end up with both the replacement text
>   and the old text does not belong in the modern idiom.

What do you mean by "the old text" when pasting?  Do you mean that you
want to mark some text, then replace it with some other text with a
single key-sequence?  How is this better than deleting text then yanking
other text?  It seems to me more a matter of personal taste.  Many
"modern" proprietary programs drive me to distraction in that moving the
cursor to a field on the screen marks its contents in such a way that
pressing any key within reach of the home position deletes the entire
field.  As for "not belonging in the modern idiom", I thank my deity and
RMS (not necessarily in that order ;-) that Emacs retains tried and
tested old stuff.  

> This is a real versioning issue ...

What do you mean by "versioning issue"?

> ... when the replacement text scrolls past the bottom of the screen. I
> think this is just an old-fashioned feature that never got updated.

The thing is, there are _lots_ of different ways people work.  What is so
obviously the Right Thing to you is absolute purgatory for others (like
me).  I use Emacs, by choice, on a 134 x 41 character console screen
rather than a GUI, so as to avoid mice, dialog boxes, menus, scroll-bars,
as well as not having to mess with fonts and so on.  The solution is to
provide enough different ways of working so that everybody can find their
optimum setup.  I have a feeling that Emacs can be customized nearer to
what you want than you've so far found out.

> Best wishes,
> Christopher Tipper

And to yourself, Sir!

Alan Mackenzie (Munich, Germany)
Email: address@hidden; to decode, wherever there is a repeated letter
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