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Re: Emacs learning curve

From: Stefan Monnier
Subject: Re: Emacs learning curve
Date: Mon, 02 Aug 2010 11:19:20 +0200
User-agent: Gnus/5.13 (Gnus v5.13) Emacs/24.0.50 (gnu/linux)

>> Is there a compelling reason to still use yank/kill, instead of 
>> copy/cut/paste?
> From the Emacs manual:

Maybe we should make a concerted effort to change the terminology.
If someone could go through the manual and docstrings to replace
yank=>paste (and kill => cut|copy), and also find new names for
variables, functions, and commands (which will need aliases so both the
new and old names work), that would be a good start.  I'd be happy to
review such a patch.

>> Why do we call the cursor the point?
> Because point is not the cursor.  The cursor only shows the position
> of point in the visible windows (and on character terminals, only in
> the single selected window).  We still need a term for the ``current
> position in the buffer''.

I'm not sure that's a good reason: most other applications don't bother
with this distinction, they just call both concepts "cursor" and then
rely on context to disambiguate.  So here as well, I'd be willing to
entertain the idea of changing terminology if someone were to send
a patch for it.

>> These relics of old terminology should be updated to the accepted modern
>> variants to make the documentation is more accessible for emacs newbies.
> And then they will be queuing up to start using Emacs, no doubt.

The idea (for me anyway) is not to lure new users (I have given up the
hope to understand what they need/want a lot time ago), but just to make
Emacs better.  And following standards (be they protocols, libraries,
terminology, behavior) is generally a good thing.  So the only reason
not to follow standards is when we have a better story.  In the case of
yank/paste and point/cursor, I don't think our story is that much
better: it's more a historical accident.

Changing such "fundamental" things might not be terribly easy given the
fact that Emacs's names have real effects on behavior (since users refer
to them in their .emacs, you can call them via M-x, etc...) but that
doesn't mean that they're features of which we need to be proud (not
that we should be ashamed of it, either of course: it's nice to remember
that had those things before they became standard).


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