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Re: Enabling Transient Mark Mode by default

From: Evans Winner
Subject: Re: Enabling Transient Mark Mode by default
Date: Wed, 20 Feb 2008 12:02:48 -0700
User-agent: Gnus/5.13 (Gnus v5.13) Emacs/23.0.60 (gnu/linux)

I am not an Emacs developer, but am an avid user, and
thought my input might be useful.  It strikes me that
enabling hand-holding features by default in Emacs may not
actually be a favor to new users.

Very early on in my learning to use Emacs (several years
ago) I found out how to enable transient-mark-mode.  I
enabled it blindly on somebody's advice, in essence, because
I didn't know about or understand the actual use for which
the mark is designed.  I didn't question the feature because
it mimics one that I was used to from other applications.
It was only as a result of reading this thread that I looked
into the use of the mark and have begun to understand what I
have been missing.  So, my experience is similar (though not
identical) to that of someone new to an Emacs in which
transient-mark-mode is enabled by default.

On the other hand, at that time, I was one of those who had
the idea that GUIs are for wimps, so I also disabled
menu-bar-mode and tool-bar-mode.  The result was as
intended: I was forced to learn the Emacs way of doing many
things and now, though there was a bit more initial
investment in learning, I am very happy I did it.  I believe
the time invested has paid off, even though I no longer have
any objection to GUIs (if designed well), and even though I
leave those features turned on now.

One principle of teaching is that learners tend to strongly
favor the first mental model of something or method to which
they are exposed.  From Wikipedia: `` `Unteaching' wrong
first impressions is harder than teaching them right the
first time.''[1]  In general, tools or systems designed to
do something really well require a greater initial outlay of
time or money to use, but pay off over the long term.

I won't bother advocating that menus and tool bars and
scroll bars be deactivated by default, but I would at least
suggest that the right principle is that if a feature would
make it actively more difficult to use Emacs in the way that
it is fundamentally designed to be used, then that feature
ought not to be active by default.


[1] Wikipedia; Principles of learning; Primacy

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