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Re: OS X: Change default key bindings of CMD and ALT

From: Anders Lindgren
Subject: Re: OS X: Change default key bindings of CMD and ALT
Date: Sat, 2 Jan 2016 07:02:43 +0100


I've decided to let the question rest -- we clearly can't agree on a layout that suits everybody and we're not allowed to make the change for Emacs 25.1 anyway. I think it's unfortunate, since 1) the default configuration of Emacs is unusable in large parts of the world and 2) the "ns" and the "mac" implementation will now have different defaults.

This functionality is not called "compose", and it's confusing to
refer to it as such. "compose" is an X11 feature where you can type
something like "compose, a, a" for å.

I used that term (within quotes) to distinguish between the "alt" key and the function of the key. If you have a better term to use in this discussion, feel free to suggest it.

> I've read a number of bug reports, questions, and comments regarding
> this. The motivation behind the proposed change is for Emacs to
> provide a decent default behaviour so that it doesn't scare away first
> time users. (Power user can easily reconfigure the keys using the
> `ns-xxx-modifier' variables.)

The whole point of having command mapped to super is to allow for
key bindings that first time users expect. I think your proposal
would scare away more first time users than the current behavior.

I don't object to that -- it would have been great to provide keys both normal operating system keys as well as the keys for normal Emacs use. However, the situation is that on OS X, we're one key short (at least on European keyboards).

We have four normal modifier keys: Shift, Ctrl, Alt, and Cmd. (In addition, there is the Esc key.)

The following functions are wanted: Shift, Ctrl, Meta, Super (bound to common operating system keys), and "compose".

Clearly, Shift and Ctrl should have their normal meaning. In my opinion, the same goes for the Alt key as it's used to write normal characters.

This leaves the Cmd and Esc with two contenders: Meta and Super. Meta is so important that it needs a proper modifier key, which is why I suggested binding Cmd to Meta.

On Windows and Linux only the right-hand Alt key (called "AltGr")
performs this function in the first place, so I'm not convinced that
it would be as surprising as you think it is.

I'm aware of it, but it's uncommon in the OS X world.

Are there any common keyboards (let's start with if there are any
sold by Apple - I think people who use third-party PC USB keyboards,
particularly that are not full 104/105-key keyboards, can be
considered "power users") that lack left and right option/alt keys?

Older Mac laptops don't have a right Alt. However, they have a keypad return key in that place, which can be mapped to Alt using other tools, so we can ignore them for the sake of this discussion.

From what I can find, even their "compact" keyboards, i.e. laptop
keyboards and the Magic Keyboard, have command and alt/option on
both sides, though they lack a right-hand control key).

Initially, I also considered the following:
    Right Alt - "Compose"
    Left Alt - Meta
    Cmd - Super

However, I decided against it as it didn't feel right to bind the left and right keys differently.

    -- Anders Lindgren

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