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Re: Making Emacs more friendly to newcomers

From: Arthur Miller
Subject: Re: Making Emacs more friendly to newcomers
Date: Sat, 02 May 2020 17:52:19 +0200
User-agent: Gnus/5.13 (Gnus v5.13) Emacs/28.0.50 (gnu/linux)

Richard Stallman <address@hidden> writes:

> [[[ To any NSA and FBI agents reading my email: please consider    ]]]
> [[[ whether defending the US Constitution against all enemies,     ]]]
> [[[ foreign or domestic, requires you to follow Snowden's example. ]]]
>   > A game-changing release
> Thanks for showing us that.
> I see the logic of this -- but I think that trying to do this with
> Emacs would be a more drastic UI change than the one Blender made,
> because the keyboard is the principal interface rather than a
> secondary one.

Hope you don't take it personal but you are wrong about keyboard in 3D
applications. Both keyboard and mouse are primary input methods,
and 3D modellers/animators etc are very religious about their workflow
and habits. They are very habitual creatures to their shorctuts, just
like Emacs users.

> Emacs would be a more drastic UI change than the one Blender made,

Njah, they rewrote their GUI code almost completely. But anyway, would
that necessary be a bad thing?

You can still have Emacs traditional/classic/call-it-whatever
mode and other modes that emulate other text editors. It already exists
in Emacs, that is what evil & co does, there is CUA-mode etc.

Back in times, 1970-something, when you and your friends created Emacs,
there were probably no standard, world-wide, applicaiton-wide
terminology, workflow etc. At least it was different from what it is
today. Emacs is, like Blender, an application made before certain
standards even existed, but the world has changed, standards/habits has
become established and they are somewhat different than what Emacs uses.

It is just a surface anyway, and I am quite sure that veterans used to
Emacs would have no difficult time to keep their habits even if Emacs
changed some default terminology, shortcuts, looks and even interaction
mode. I know it is beating a dead horse, I have seen it being brought up
different times since I have started to use Emacs back in year '99 or there
around. It is just my personal opinion.

> At the same time I don't think we could get a lot of boost in usags
> from it.

Why? If you offerered a more polished "in-time" version of Emacs, I believe
Emacs is still superior as a tool to other editors/tools.

Emacs has quite some features that can be or are "killer" features,
that just has to be exposed a tad bit more. Shell/mail/dired/org are
probably ones, also a concept, search inteface to anything in Emacs
(pun intended - I think of anything/Helm as interaction model), easy
and tight integration with other tools and probably more.

All those things are already explorable and adaptable, ready to use,
but they need (somewhat) painfull and tedious assembling into the final
experience. Most people not familiar with Emacs are probably not aware
how to use it in more advanced way then just as a text editor with
"strange" keyboard shortcuts. They don't know what is available, what
they need to setup, and how, to get their imagined interaction model,
wofrklow, etc (iff they even have something already imagined).

I think Emacs is great, and choice is great! I value freedom foremost.
But as it is now, for many of modern features, choice is mandatory.

Emacs is already super-adaptable, it just needs a little bit more stuff
pre-integrated, turned on, and made a part of it and currage to make a
decision. Yes I love freedom, and I love to be able to tailor it to my
choice, but while I can make my choice between completion frameworks,
visual parts, shortcuts etc, people new to it have to look up all that
stuff, learn about it, search, spend time on configuring, testing
configuration and so on. It is that time consuming part that lots of
folks don't wanna do for various reasons.  It takes time to learn what
to setup and how to set it up. Many people are not willing or simply
can't spend that time.Many don't even care, they just want to have
something they can use. If their reserved words are blue or green, or if
symbol names are complited by language server or something else, they
probably don't care, people usually want just somethigni that works.

Make some more default choices, add some more modern functionality out
of the box, and let those who does not like defaults just re-configure
to whatever they want, they probably already do it anyway.

Question is also do you want those people who are unvilling to scratch
the surface and deep-dive into Emacs and spend time to learn it and
configure it, to use Emacs?

Well why not? More users means more momentum, more people contributing,
more cash to FSF (maybe :-)) etc, which results in Emacs and other FSF
software been even better, world realizing the power of open source
(I think it already did) and generaly promoting the FSF/Gnu ideals?
I believe that Emacs was, and probably still is the most advanced of
libre editors. Actually I don't see Emacs as a text editor longer,
but rather as a usefull tool for my every day computer interaction.

As a note, I know starter kits like Spacemacs, Prelude & Co are out
there, but somehow that does not seem to cut it.

> By contrast, there are already other libre text editors.

Why is that an argument if there are other libre text editors? Blender
was free to use for a long time before it become widely adopted. It wasn't
the kostenloss that made it widely adopted, it was when they turned it
into more in-time-with-standards (in combination with kostenloss) that
seems to helped most with wider adoption.

By the way, isn't evolution about adaptation? I mean even software has
to adapt, otherwise it becomes obsolete.

When we speak about Emacs and adoption, I think Emacs has actually got a
revival, compared to how I saw it used for 20 years ago, I think it is
quite a lot life about Emacs nowdays. There are people blogging, doing
videos, reddit seems quite active, the mailing list has become likea
spam :-), I don't remember it was active like this before, people are
writing new packages and so on. But compared to some other, slightly
less free offerings Emacs is not the most used/widespread tool. Yet :-).
Of course I dont' have any statistics, it is just a feeling I have, a
speculation based on what I see people talking about on the Internet.

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