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RE: Info tutorial is out of date

From: Drew Adams
Subject: RE: Info tutorial is out of date
Date: Sat, 15 Jul 2006 10:07:01 -0700

    > In general (exceptions can be made), key bindings should not be
    > introduced until much later, and then they should be introduced as
    > shortcuts for functionalities the user already knows by then. It is
    > the functionalities that should be on the agenda, not the keys. The
    > emphasis is all wrong in this respect. You lose the forest of
    > functionalities because of all the trees of keys.

    I disagree with most of your posting.

I figured someone would ;-). The tutorial might have gotten where it is
mostly out of neglect, but I figured there might also be some active forces
involved. Someone wrote node `Help-Inv' (should be named `Invisible-Hell')
fairly recently, for example. Anyway, there's room for disagreement; it's
really I who's disagreeing with the status quo, after all.

    Mouse navigation remains an inefficient crutch compared to keys.

Generally true. We're on the same team here - I have no stock in mice (or
anything else, unfortunately).

The point is to ease the learning of Info. The most important thing to learn
is what Info is, what it has to offer, what you can do with it, why you
should be interested in it - that is, its *features*, not how you can most
efficiently use those features. *What* first, with an easy-learning-curve,
super-simple, obvious *how*, to help introduce the *what*. More efficient
*how* learning later, if at all.

If you want, the tutorial could be split in two: first "What Info Is" (with
simple how-to, to get the points across), second "How To Use Info
Efficiently". My point is this: first things first. If I don't understand
what Info is all about, why would I go through the effort of learning and
practicing its key bindings? I have nothing against recommending that one
learn to use keys for efficiency, but let's first get the main point across.

    It [mouse] is somewhat efficient for
    exact cursor positioning, but that still requires letting go of the
    keyboard.  Using info efficiently entails using the keys.

This is about learning - in particular learning what Info is, what it is
for, how it is laid out/structured, how to find information with it.

    Of course, this is doubly important on ttys or for disabled people,

Huh? Want to bet whether disability is better served by a single-point
device or a keyboard full of keys and chording? Of course, it can depend on
the disability. Think of all the jokes when the mouse first came out, about
how it was designed for a one-armed person with one finger. Using a full
keyboard, and chording especially, is hardly for everyone.

But really, if we're already reaching to the "disabled" to bolster an
argument here, then we're reaching for straws. The point is not about which
interaction with Info is most efficient for which group of people on which
equipment; it is about how to teach what Info is all about, how to give
people an initial access to the manuals (which is what Info is for), how to
get them comfortable with Info and have them see how it can be useful to

People find their own preferred ways to interact with programs and
equipment, and it's easy enough to find the keys that you and I both

I mentioned two ways those keys can be made more visible (more visible than
trudging through the current tutorial): 1) have `h' show a short list of key
bindings with one-line descriptions, 2) the menu-bar menu shows key bindings
at a glance. Both of these give an *overall* view of the important key
bindings, and they provide quick reminders. (`h' would mention SPC and DEL
also, which the menu-bar menu doesn't show.)

I also mentioned the need to have specific tutorial instruction for those
keys (e.g. SPC and DEL) that are *not* so obvious. Teaching `n' right away
is a waste of time, not because `n' is useless, but because there is an
obvious (if perhaps somewhat slower) way to do the same thing. The point is
to get quickly to the point, not to spend time teaching how to use the

As to the fingers-leaving-the-keyboard argument: That is not such a strong
argument for Info, where people are reading, not editing. Yes, using the
keyboard for SPC and DEL has no mouse equivalent (AFAIK); otherwise, you can
get by about as fast with the mouse as with keys, in Info. But I won't try
to win that argument, because it is not an important argument - what's
important is the argument over what we're trying to teach.

You know, touch typing is also much more efficient than (the "inefficient
crutch" of) pecking with one finger (though I've seen cases to the
contrary!). Should we start the Info tutorial with a lesson in touch typing,
because it is more efficient? This is about *getting information*; it's not
about teaching the fastest way to do that - that can come later.

    but in any
    case there is absolutely no sane rationale for futzing around with
    scroll bars when the space bar is fully accessible. And most scroll
    bars don't even allow you changing the direction of
    scrolling without having to move the mouse

Excuse me? Did someone mention scroll bars in this context? What is that all

On the contrary, didn't I say that SPC and DEL should be taught explicitly
(and early) in the tutorial, because they are not obvious (visible)? What
are you talking about wrt scroll bars?

Here's my criticism, in a nutshell:

1) teach what Info is about, first;

2) start using the obvious how-to (e.g. links, buttons, menu-bar), to teach

3) teach the non-obvious how-to (e.g. SPC, DEL) also;

4) don't bother teaching the obvious, if more-efficient, how-to (e.g. `n'),
except possibly as an efficiency booster, after getting the real message

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