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Re: Enabling Transient Mark Mode by default

From: Jason Earl
Subject: Re: Enabling Transient Mark Mode by default
Date: Wed, 20 Feb 2008 16:15:21 -0700
User-agent: Gnus/5.13 (Gnus v5.13) Emacs/23.0.60 (gnu/linux)

David Kastrup <address@hidden> writes:

> Jason Earl <address@hidden> writes:
>> The alternative, as the manual points out, is to enable
>> transient-mark-mode and have Emacs work like most newbies
>> would expect a text editor to work.
> You are presuming that enabling transient-mark-mode makes Emacs work
> like most newbies (or people) would expect a text editor to work.
> I disagree strongly with that presumption.  Other editors have marked
> regions that are _independent_ of point.  Emacs doesn't.
> Transient-mark-mode merely introduces some artifacts of typical text
> editor regions, but because point is by necessity one region end, the
> side effects are quite obnoxious and the result in no way leads to a
> behavior typical for the work flow of other editors.

Yes, I agree that transient-mark-mode works somewhat differently than
most text editors.  However, without transient-mark-mode Emacs is
*remarkably* different than other editors.  More importantly,
transient-mark-mode helps give the newbie clues as to how setting the
region works in Emacs.  Think of it as training wheels for region

Without those visual clues it is easy for even the experienced Emacs
user to forget where the mark is.  Of course, the experienced Emacs user
has read the manual and knows about C-x C-x and friends.  The newbie, on
the other hand, doesn't have a clue about these keystrokes.  As far as
they are concerned Emacs is simply too old-fashioned to do something
sensible like highlight the region they are marking.  To make matters
worse the new user is in for a surprise when they try to actually use
the "invisible" region that they are trying to mark because, as you
point out, it is likely to work differently than they expect.  At least
with transient-mark-mode Emacs gives the user some visual clues that can
help the new user figure out what just happened to their text.

Marking regions in Emacs *should* be different than how it is done in
other editors because the way Emacs marks regions is better :).
However, it is not likely to *seem* better to the uninitiated if they
have a hard time telling what parts of the text comprise the region.

Just for fun I fired up gedit to see how that particular editor dealt
with regions.  As you pointed out it didn't work even remotely like
Emacs, but the fact that I could see the region that I marked did make
it easy for me to quickly deduce how it worked.  I think that Emacs
should extend the same courtesy for newcomers.  For those of you that
don't want training wheels turning the feature off is very


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