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RE: Key bindings proposal

From: Uday S Reddy
Subject: RE: Key bindings proposal
Date: Fri, 13 Aug 2010 17:07:58 +0100

Drew Adams writes:

> > the wikipedia page on the windows key says that [treating the
> > windows key as meta] is *freqently* done.
> On what basis does Wikipedia say that?  Do you believe it is true?
> Why?

I am by no means an expert on the low-level keyboard issues.  So,
people can correct me if I am wrong.  

Alt is "hyper" and the windows key is "super".  PC keyboards don't
have a "meta".  Therefore, the systems that want a meta-key map one of
these to meta.  It looks like desktops such as KDE and Gnome map the
windows key as meta, and their users, who presumably contributed to
the Wikipedia article, say "windows key is also known as the
meta-key".  They are not exactly right, but I admire their diligence
in countering the Microsoft corporatization of the everyday keyboard.
Such spirit seems to be sadly lacking on this mailing list :-(

> I would even guess that most Windows users never use the ALT key in
> a Windows-specific way (except for CONTROL-ALT-DELETE) and never use
> the Window key at all.  For one thing, most are not programmers
> (another guess), and most interact with Windows using the mouse most
> of the time, not the keyboard.  And my guess is that _very_ few
> (proportionally) users of Windows use menu accelerators.

I think the issues of "most Windows users" are not relevant here.
This is emacs-developers mailing list after all.  We are only
interested in Windows users that also use Emacs.  And, these users can
learn key bindings if they think they are useful.

> Being able to use menu accelerators or use the Window key as Meta
> (or as Control or Super or Hyper or...) as an _optional_ behavior is
> one thing.  AFAIK, no one has objected to that, so if that is all
> you are arguing about then the story should be over and done.

That is indeed what we are arguing about, because Yidong has said (on
8 Aug):

> Even for non-default usage, putting Emacs in charge of the Windows key
> seems unacceptable.  This is the domain of the operating system.

Both Lennart and I have clarified many times that we are not arguing
about defaults.  We are arguing about capabilities.  Emacs, at the
moment, does not have the capability to treat the windows key as
meta.  Lennart knows how to do it, and he can possibly be persuaded to
provide a patch, but welcoming his idea a bit more warmly on this
mailing list would be a good first step.

> And ALT as Meta in Emacs is as old as the hills and as common as
> their wildflowers.  What does Wikipedia say about that?  Does it
> tell you that using ALT as Meta "is *frequently* done" in Emacs?

Come on.  Meta keys existed before Bill Gates learnt to program, and
Emacs has existed long before the PC keyboards came on the scene.

Treating ALT as meta on PC keyboards was a natural choice because they
were free modifier keys.  Nobody is faulting Emacs for having done
that.  But, the current position is that enough keyboards have the
windows/super key and Microsoft has unlocked it on Windows, according
to Lennart.  And, using the windows/super key as meta provides
significant advantages in enabling keyboard access to the Emacs

> Do not be afraid. ;-) But do show the logic please, if there is any.

I just stated it above, for the umpteenth time.  

The rest of your post is not relevant because it is talking about
defaults, which we are not.  You can read it again and note that it is


> > For better or worse, Microsoft has ended up providing us with a
> > good pair of modifier keys.  Now, let us put them to good use!
> ALT as Meta key is definitely put to good use by Emacs.  On all
> platforms.  Out of the box.  Always has been.  You can easily move
> among platforms and keyboards and change nothing about how you use
> the ALT key.
> Well, on Windows you might need to first set a variable or two to
> prevent Windows from grabbing ALT for its own use in some cases.
> But other than that using ALT in Emacs is pretty transparent across
> platforms.
> If you want to argue that Emacs should by default grab ALT for Meta
> in all cases (including for example `(w32-register-hot-key
> [M-tab])', then go for it: make the argument.  Personally, I
> probably would not object to such a change.
> The Window key, on the other hand, is not available for non-PC
> keyboards.  There is no special reason to give it any default
> behavior in Emacs.  Leave it open, for users to bind as they wish.

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