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A new user perspective about "Changes for emacs 28"

From: Nicola Manca
Subject: A new user perspective about "Changes for emacs 28"
Date: Mon, 7 Sep 2020 18:45:59 +0200
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:68.0) Gecko/20100101 Thunderbird/68.12.0

Dear Emacs Developers,

I'm probably one of the newest emacs users in thin ML, I started using it since about one year. I decided to write this email hoping that my opinion as a "new emacs user" could add something to the ongoing discussion about emacs defaults.

I started using debian at high school, 20 year ago, as my only
operative system. This mainly for political agreement with the free software movement. Since then I tried to start using emacs several times, but I always gave up, despite my motivation towards free software in general.

Today I'm not a programmer, I'm a scientist and I never understood why I should spend time learning to use a software that I could barely shuth down (typically with a "pkill -9 emacs"). Last year a friend of mine spent few hours convincing me that emacs worth another try. He explained me the logic of keybinding (Meta is Alt, really?!?) and then the org-mode was the game-changing feature. I then did the tutorial a couple of times, copied something from his .emacs and then moved to stackexchange or reddit to look for more. First, I installed org-superstar, to have nice bullets, and then
learned how to change the default theme to dark one with decent
contrast and colors (sanityinc-tomorrow-night). Yes, sorry, I have to tell you that these are the priority for a new user: feel comfortable, so that he/she is motivated to spend time in something...

Now I use emacs on a daily basis. My .emacs is about 500 lines,
similarly to my TODO.org. By spending a non-negligible amount of time I managed to have a python environment comparable to other graphical editors (Spyder) and latex nicely configured in a similar way to TexStudio. I even manage to have two dictionaries working together thanks to a discussion in this ML, super cool!

However, how many people have the opportunity and the will to spend tens of ours to just do in emacs what they already did in texstudio or spyder? I don't know if cry or laugh when I read that switching to a dark theme is a "radical change". I would love to see much more radical changes. There are a lot of low-hanging fruit that could make emacs appealing for new users and provide the enthusiasm required to overcome its steep learning curve.

These are just the first examples that came up in my mind:
- undo-tree-mode
- which-key-mode
- beacon-mode
- ido-mode (everywhere)
- helm-M-x

I'm aware that there are probably copyright or technical problems to make these defaults (together with a nice shiny theme). However, this should be the main objective of the development activity. In particular packages as WK or helm-M-x are very good for learning keystrokes. Humans learn by trials and errors, not by reading the manual, and these packages are great for this.

I bealive that the final goal should alwasy be to attract new users, otherwise non-free software will always have a larger userbase. So far, I've not the technical skills to do this, maybe someone out there can and want. However, my feeling is that there is not much push in this direction (maybe in the opposite) and this may results in lack of enthusiasm.

I want to thank Ergus for trying, and all the developers for the great software. May it become even better!

best wishes

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