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Upcoming loss of usability of Emacs source files and Emacs.

From: Alan Mackenzie
Subject: Upcoming loss of usability of Emacs source files and Emacs.
Date: Mon, 15 Jun 2015 14:22:37 +0000
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.23 (2014-03-12)

Hello, Emacs.

First, some definitions.

A @dfn{working character} is a character you use in everyday life - you
can type it easily on your keyboard for self-insert-command, and it is
displayed clearly and unambiguously on your screen.  As Emacs developers,
our working characters are basically ASCII, though each of us has his own
characters (e.g. ä, ö, ü, ß for me) which count as "private" working

By contrast, a @dfn{display character}, or @dfn{non-working character} is
a character which isn't a working character.  To insert it into a buffer,
you need to type its numeric code, or use (and remember) a C-x 8 ...
binding, or some other clumsy workaround.  It might or might not get
properly displayed on your screen.

Traditionally, Emacs sources have been written exclusively in working
characters (with the essential exception of some characters which stand
for themselves, such as some non-ASCII punctuation symbols used in
`sentence-end').  This makes editing our source files optimally

Recently, there has been a move, primarily by Paul, to introduce
non-working characters (specifically, LEFT/RIGHT SINGLE QUOTATION MARKs,
or (less shoutily) "curly quotes") into our sources and *Help* buffers,
not just marginally, but routinely into all our doc strings and error

Paul and I have had an extensive discussion on many of the issues this
raises, in the thread for bug #20707.  I am against these changes for
several reasons: basically, they will make our sources more difficult to
read and edit.  I am not even sure of the motivation for the changes,
though I think it is mainly that some people find the appearance of 0x60
and 0x27 as quote marks unaesthetic in some display environments.

My main objection is there is no option to turn this new "feature" off.
Some users are going to dislike these changes, possible dislike them a
lot, but we are going to be forcing the curly quotes on them.  This is
going to create much dissatisfaction.  For comparison, the fringe was a
new feature in Emacs-21 which had no way of being disabled.  Many users
hated it, and were up in arms about it until this was fixed in Emacs-22.

My view is that the curly quotes should not replace 0x60 and 0x27 in our
sources, but that the option to display them as curly quotes should be
made available to those that want it.

As far as I am aware, there has been no poll to gather and analyse the
views of Emacs developers on these changes, much less one for Emacs
users.  This is a Bad Thing.

What do people think?

Alan Mackenzie (Nuremberg, Germany).

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