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Re: Have you all gone crazy? Was: On being web-friendly and why info mus

From: Paul Eggert
Subject: Re: Have you all gone crazy? Was: On being web-friendly and why info must die
Date: Mon, 22 Dec 2014 17:41:01 -0800
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:31.0) Gecko/20100101 Thunderbird/31.3.0

Yuri Khan wrote:

the HTML version “feels like” an electronic
version of a well-typeset printed book. The Info version feels like an
electronic version of a samizdat book typed on a typewriter.
*Readability counts.*

This is a fair point. It's partly because the process we use to generate an Emacs distribution still uses Texinfo 4 to generate the info files. We should at least use Texinfo 5, so that the info files have proper quotes, which would be an improvement (although, unfortunately, it would not address your other points, where our info readers indeed have problems).

Improving the Emacs display engine might provide a
better reading experience. But the search scope issue requires an
all-encompassing Web search engine.

I agree that better use of search engines would be a big improvement. Others have argued in this thread that our manual indexes suffice, but I'm afraid my experience is otherwise.

Just today, for example, I needed to come up to speed on how composite glyphs work in Emacs, a topic I knew little about; at first I didn't even remember what they were. I hardly ever use the Emacs manuals' indexes due to my unsatisfactory past experiences with them, but since they're a current topic of discussion in this thread I thought I'd try them again. I went to the Emacs manual in info mode and typed 'i composite RET'; the response was "No `composite' in index" (complete with those amateurish circa-1980 not-really-quotes -- "samizdat", I'll have to remember that description :-). Since I'm supposedly expert I switched to the for-experts-only Elisp manual and typed 'i composite RET', and got sent to an irrelevant page about composite types. In short, the info-mode indexes were utterly a failure for this example. Which isn't surprising, since none of the Emacs manuals talk about composite glyphs anywhere. (I verified this by using other tools, as this was faster than using info mode would have been.)

In contrast, Google searches were reasonably helpful. The search '"composite glyph"' quickly got me up to speed on the general topic, and '"composite glyph" Emacs' gave me helpful bug reports that let me intuit relevant issues reasonably well.

If one prefers a traditional manual, the use-Google approach can be *really* annoying, as it tends to throw up all sorts of trash, and I understand the annoyance. Really, I do. But what can I say? It often works way better, and we should be exploiting this technology rather than limiting ourselves to the not-particularly-successful tactic of asking people to send us bug reports and fixes for our manuals.

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