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Re: Emacs terminology (not again!?) [was: Apologia for bzr]

From: Yuri Khan
Subject: Re: Emacs terminology (not again!?) [was: Apologia for bzr]
Date: Tue, 7 Jan 2014 19:13:58 +0700

On Tue, Jan 7, 2014 at 6:27 PM, Lennart Borgman
<address@hidden> wrote:
> "Tabs" is a UI thing. Calling buffers "tabs" would be very, very confusing
> for most new users.


The difficulty with Emacs that I had when I was a beginner Emacs user
and still have not completely gotten over, is the relationships
between buffers and windows.

In a typical $another_application, you have at the top level a window
or several windows. Each window may be split into panes, and each pane
may contain several tabs, each tab displaying a document. (In rare
cases, a tab may display a secondary view into a document that is also
displayed by another tab. Opening a secondary view is always a
conscious action on part of the user.) Closing the last view into a
document signals that the user is done with this document — this is
the time to ask any “would you like to save” questions. Otherwise, the
user is free to rearrange tabs between panes and windows. At every
point in time, there is a well-defined spatial position of each
document view — e.g. “the third tab in the upper pane of the window on
my left monitor”.

In Emacs, what you primarily have is a bunch of buffers which exist
without any permanent attachment with the UI. Then, you have frames
that may be split into windows, each window being a view into some
buffer. You cannot meaningfully talk about spatial positions of
buffers — they are essentially “everywhere” or “inside”. Or, if a
buffer is not displayed in any window, it’s “nowhere” and also

The model of Emacs is more flexible, but I find myself struggling with
it because I have to remember that there are hidden buffers and cannot
rely on the spatial model that my mind is accustomed to.

(Curiously, my other always-open application is Firefox that *does*
adhere to the spatial model. I end up opening a single window on each
monitor, and around a dozen tabs in each window. Then I have trouble
locating the tab I need since there are so many of them. So maybe the
problem surfaces when the number of entities exceeds my short-term
memory capacity, regardless of their organization.)

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