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RE: Entering filenames with spaces

From: Drew Adams
Subject: RE: Entering filenames with spaces
Date: Fri, 12 Aug 2005 14:47:53 -0700

    > There is lots that is unexpected or new in Emacs, and much of it is
    > desirable because it optimizes ease of use - IOW, some Emacs UI
    > features are new to people, but they are good. It is better to help
    > new users to learn the Emacs way of doing things, _if it is better_,
    > than to cater to their inferior UI habits.

    Sorry, but are you saying that entering a space with the space bar is
    an inferior UI habit?
    Are you saying that consistency is an inferior UI habit too?

Sorry, but am I saying that? I ask you - what did I say?

Nothing was said in that paragraph about spaces or space bars or
consistency. And, even in the general context discussed there, I mentioned
(and _emphasized_) the conditional: _IF_ a GIVEN Emacs UI behavior is
superior, THEN it is better to encourage its use than to abandon it, even if
it is new to people.

I was making the general argument that it is not enough to say that
something is new or unexpected in order to consider it bad - that doesn't
necessarily make it a good candidate for the scrap bin. I was countering
your too-simple argument that unexpected implies bad. Unexpected implies bad
if all other things are equal (maybe). If you want to apply this general
rule to a specific case, you need to show that its equality condition is

I took the time to write the paragraph carefully (for you, not for me). You
can take the time to read it carefully, instead of taking the time to rebut
a straw-man of your own making.

Some features in the Emacs UI are not superior (still), alas, but many
features are superior. I raised the _question_ (not in the quoted paragraph)
whether using space bar to complete user input is a good idea. I suggested
that you take a poll (_if you_ want to change the status quo), and I gave my
personal opinion (not in the quoted paragraph): it _is_ a good idea overall
(and I gave some reasons). Just one vote.

WRT consistency - There are good, general reasons for sacrificing some
consistency between behavior in the minibuffer and behavior in the average
text buffer. The existing inconsistency does not end with using SPC for
completion - the minibuffer is _not_ your average buffer. (That is not, in
itself, an argument for arbitrary inconsistency; it is only an argument
against blindly weilding the sword of consistency.)

It is important to try to remain consistent _within_ a given context (mode
etc.); it is less important to impose consistency across all contexts. The
devil is in the details - a general, blanket Consistency Crusade is not
convincing. As always: IMO only.

    > The Emacs UI might seem odd, depending on what one is used to, but
    > that doesn't, by itself, mean that it is inferior.

    I think that's too big a discussion to start.

Being odd is not, _by itself_, proof of inferiority. Does that assertion
need a big discussion? My point is that you need to prove more than mere
oddness, to demonstrate weakness.

    The Space bar is something so basic, you shouldn't redefine it,
    at least not by default.

As far as Emacs is concerned, it is you, not I, who proposes to redefine the
space bar in the minibuffer. I'm happy leaving it as a word completor.

    > If we keep the default completion behavior, then we should
    > definitely let users know how to insert a space (C-q SPC or,
    > perhaps, C-SPC). This information should be up front, in the
    > Info discussion of completion. It could also be added to the
    > *Completions* buffer header whenever SPC is typed - that way,
    > a newbie who types SPC trying to insert it in a file name
    > will soon learn how to insert a space.

    Jesus - more stuff to read for users.  Great.

What is your problem? I said, IF we keep the present behavior, THEN it would
good to let users know how to enter a space - precisely because of the
possible confusion (inconsistency) that you point out. That is your only
argument (consistency), so far. I support you in that, as far as it goes,
and this is my suggestion for dealing with it. If you can summon reasons why
more drastic surgery is called for, then please do.

You don't want to keep the present behavior. Fine; that's clear. But IF
deciders (RMS, poll, Godot, OBL, Le Pape, Rumsfeld, the Great Pumpkin,...)
decided to keep it, THEN would you be against helping users learn how to
enter a space? You might not especially like reading (see above), but others
might appreciate a one-line tip: "To insert a space, use `C-SPC'".

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