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Re: Getting more info on a variable in Customize buffers

From: Robert J. Chassell
Subject: Re: Getting more info on a variable in Customize buffers
Date: Thu, 6 Jan 2005 15:26:22 +0000 (UTC)

As Per Abrahamsen <address@hidden> said

   Unfortunately, expert users are much more likely to provide
   feedback then casual users.  Therefore, free software user
   interfaces tend to ... cram way to much information and
   functionality into the UI, scaring off beginners and casual users.

Or, sometimes `experts' push too much the other way.  This happened
with Gnome a year or two ago.  The `simple' interface did not let me
configure it as I liked.  (I don't know whether the bug still exists,
since I have not used that window manager since.)

The solution is straightforward:  always provide an `Advanced
customization' option.

After you have created a non-expert interface, which can only be done
by asking at least five non-experts to sit down and work with the
interface, you can provide a more advanced option.

(No one on this list is non-expert enough, not even me.  I don't know
five non-experts who would be willing to sit down.  Employing
non-experts is the kind of action I had expected some large company
that sells hardware or services to fund, but none have except for Sun
with one of the interfaces.  This befuddles me, since it is clearly in
companies' profit-oriented interest to increase the value of a
`complementary product'.  I do not understand MBAs.)

Since the customization commands are designed for Emacs novices and
for experts who mostly modify their .emacs files but who may prefer to
have it modified for them in occasional cases, as with faces, the `M-x
customize' interface and its siblings must be clear and easy.

  - It should show how everything is related, so novices can learn.

  - It should tell novices that the interface writes to their .emacs
    file (and of course the name should be one of the top
    customizations, even though most will not use it -- this is part
    of the educational task that customization has).

  - It should tell 
        the default for each item, 
        the various theme values, if any, 
        the previous value, if any, and 
        the current value.

Speaking of `expert friendly software', Per went on to say

   Which is fine in general, expert friendly software is very important.

Yes, very true.

   ... Drew Adams feedback seems to build on the mistaken belief that
   Customize is the preferred way to customize Emacs.  Which is far
   from the truth.

I am not sure Drew thinks that, but Per is right about the mistaken
belief.  A better way to customize Emacs is to write Emacs Lisp.  The
customize feature is supposed to be only a help for people who want to
see automatically written Emacs Lisp code in their .emacs file.

    Robert J. Chassell                         
    address@hidden                         GnuPG Key ID: 004B4AC8
    http://www.rattlesnake.com                  http://www.teak.cc

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