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Re: Changes for emacs 28

From: Ihor Radchenko
Subject: Re: Changes for emacs 28
Date: Tue, 08 Sep 2020 12:13:54 +0800

> Speaking of which, it would be useful to sit down with a new user just
> trying Emacs and see what perse actually complains about or requests.
> If several people do this, it could give us useful ideas of what changes
> would actually make Emacs more appealing to new users.

There are three main things I spotted when guiding a new
(non-programmer) user getting started with Emacs (for org-mode):

1. The welcome screen has too much information and new user simply
ignores it

2. CUA mode is not offered by default and it is not easy for a new user
to know about its existence (because of previous point)

3. File opening dialogue is completely throwing the new user off -
people are too used to pop-up file opening dialogue listing all the
files. The message area is even not noticed.

More details and my suggestion on what can be done in my earlier

I will also attach the message texts below for convenience:

Message 1:

While I agree that the existing Emacs defaults are reasonable in
general, I do not think that they are good for users coming from an
arbitrary background.

Emacs is a very versatile tool and can be used for programming, creative
writing, research, note-taking, todo management, and many more different
fields. I do not think that a single set of defaults can satisfy users
aiming for every single use-case. Moreover, changes required to tweak
Emacs towards a specific use-case are often much more than "just takes a
moment". No surprise that we have a whole spectrum of Emacs startup kits,
which offer predefined set of tweaks for different styles of using

I do think that the existing Emacs defaults are a good starting point
for a new user with unknown workflows. They are generic enough to tweak
Emacs in any possible direction. However, I believe that it would be a
good option to have several sets of defaults, which would better fit
some common use-cases, like programming, note-taking, tramp, git, etc.
Then, the existing defaults will represent "Generic" use-case, but a new
user (who may or may not have programming background) might easily
select other set of defaults, which is more suitable for the user's
background and expected use-cases.

Message 2:

> It would be nice if people came up with
> an idea as to how exactly this functionality is to be implemented, 
> and a
> set of better usecases than just 'programming' or 'note-taking' or
> 'TRAMP' or 'git'.

As one possibility, we can try to extend "A guided tour to Emacs" and
make it more interactive.

Some thoughts:
1. The link to the tour in the welcome page is not easy to spot for a
new user. There is too much information. I might be better to show it by
default on first startup after installation.
2. Currently, the tour is one long web-page, which is not very easy to
read. I imagine that a presentation-like style (with prev/next buttons
on each page) showing one concept at a time would be easier to read.
3. The tour may as well include interactive customisation. For example,
'Migrating to Emacs' part of the tour may as well contain a clickable
element to turn on CUA mode by default.
4. The tour might ask user questions if the user is going to work with
source code, email, web-browsing, shell, etc. If the user is not
planning to work with certain things, they may as well be hidden from
menu and customisation pages. By hidden I don't mean completely hidden,
but rather "folded" - the user should be able to show them back.
For a newcomer, Emacs offers very too many different options. I believe
that it makes more sense to restrict the customisation and menus to what
user explicitly plans to do. It should be already more than enough to
start learning.
5. Similar guided tours may be created for most popular Emacs features:
   - working with source code
   - org-mode
   - version-control and collaboration
   - remote file access
   - mail
   Those tours might also offer some initial customisation, so that the
   user may disable/enable some features which are not relevant to
   his/her workflow.
   The guides should be easily accessible from menu.
6. Some new users might be confused by default file open dialogie
involving mode-line. I believe that similarly to CUA-mode, Emacs can
emulate more standard approach by offering dired as a way to open files
(not enabled by default, but offered as a customisation together with


Richard Stallman <rms@gnu.org> 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. ]]]
>   > If you don't want these features yourself and nobody else in the project
>   > wants them either, the only way I can think of making a compelling
>   > argument for people to develop those feature is to ask real people and
>   > get real responses. I am fairly confident that if you had a testimony or
>   > user-test from actual people stating that a feature is missing, then
>   > people here would help develop that feature.
> I agree.  Before we put time into developing a feature, we should verify
> that many people would like it.
> Speaking of which, it would be useful to sit down with a new user just
> trying Emacs and see what perse actually complains about or requests.
> If several people do this, it could give us useful ideas of what changes
> would actually make Emacs more appealing to new users.
> -- 
> Dr Richard Stallman
> Chief GNUisance of the GNU Project (https://gnu.org)
> Founder, Free Software Foundation (https://fsf.org)
> Internet Hall-of-Famer (https://internethalloffame.org)

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