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Re: Interactive guide for new users

From: Eli Zaretskii
Subject: Re: Interactive guide for new users
Date: Sat, 12 Sep 2020 13:58:27 +0300

> Date: Sat, 12 Sep 2020 10:35:06 +0000
> From: Gregory Heytings <ghe@sdf.org>
> cc: casouri@gmail.com, emacs-devel@gnu.org
> >> SCREEN 2: "Set the color theme", with a clickable list containing the 
> >> (currently) 16 built-in themes.  A short code snippet above that list 
> >> illustrates how code is displayed with each of these themes.
> >
> > The snippet will only be able to show the buffer text appearance.  For 
> > other UI elements you will need an image.  Would using an image be 
> > better here?
> What do you mean by "other UI elements"?

The mode line, the scroll bars, the menu and the tool bar.

> >> [It would be nice to have a way to select a default font here, but I 
> >> don't know if that feasible.]
> >
> > I don't think I understand what you mean by that.  Selection of the 
> > default font _is_ possible, we have in the Options menu.
> Yes, but what I meant is to have a list of font names in the buffer, and 
> choosing a font by clicking on the font name.

Why?  The Options menu item I've mentioned pops up the system's font
selection dialog, which is way nicer than selecting a font from an
Emacs buffer.  To say nothing of being less work.  What am I missing?

> >> 2. disable tool-bar-mode
> >> 3. disable scroll-bar-mode
> >
> > I'd object to these two.  We have just established that the former is 
> > important for newbies.  Scroll bars are presented by many applications, 
> > so why is it important to offer to turn them off here? let the users 
> > decide about these two.
> >
> It's just an option.  In the video by Yuan Fu ( 
> https://youtu.be/0qMskTAR2aw ) you'll see that this screen is a list of 
> checkboxes that the user can tick.

My point is that we should not put there unimportant options, let
alone those which we recommend not to change from the defaults.

> >> 10. save-place-mode and desktop-save-mode
> >
> > desktop-save-mode slows down startup, so it might not be suitable for 
> > users who start Emacs many times a day.
> >
> Again it's just an option, but again it's someting that users might want 
> to enable because it's a behavior that is common in text editors.

There are thousands of options in Emacs that users might want to
enable.  This initial guide should only show those which are very
important, recommended, and usually expected.  Options that don't
satisfy these criteria should IMO not be in the list, because the list
must not be too long, or you will lose many newbies who don't have
enough patience.

> >> 11. (setq uniquify-buffer-name-style 'forward uniquify-min-dir-content 
> >> 1024)
> >
> > Why? what's wrong with the defaults here?
> >
> This has been discussed earlier in another thread, but the current 
> defaults (uniquify-buffer-name-style set to post-forward-angle-brackets) 
> is puzzling to most users, to say the least.  A complete file name is what 
> most users would expect here.

A complete file name takes too much of the screen space on the mode
line, IMO.  You'd need to make the font used by the mode-line face to
be much smaller, and even then it will steal too much space.

> >> 14. icomplete-mode (or fido-mode?)
> >
> > Not sure this is a good idea, these modes present complex and 
> > potentially confusing UI.
> >
> Users expect to see completion mechanisms in a modern editor.  Enabling 
> completion in programming modes would be a too complex task for such an 
> initial greeting, but with this the user would become aware that 
> completion mechanisms exist in Emacs.

Then perhaps we need to develop a new completion mechanism.  Which
IDEs show completion like icomplete-mode?

> I use icomplete-mode myself, and don't understand what you mean by 
> "complex and potentially confusing UI".

Type "C-x C-f" and try to look at the result with the newbies' eyes.
First question I have is "how to go on?"  <RIGHT> arrow doesn't work.
If the font shows the bold letters distinct enough, I'd wonder what do
the bold letters mean.  The order in which the files are shown doesn't
necessarily make sense, nor does the fact that it mixes directories
with files.  Etc. etc. -- the stuff I'd wonder about goes on and on.
This is not the completion I find, e.g., in a Web browser, so prior
experience will not help.

> >> SCREEN 6: How to find help.  Short explanation about C-h C-h, C-h m, 
> >> C-h p, C-h k / C-h w / C-h a, C-h l.
> >
> > This misses important help commands, we should consider the list 
> > carefully with newbies in mind.  IMO, the various apropos commands are 
> > much more important for them than other help commands.
> >
> Well, C-h C-h gives the complete list, and C-h a starts apropos.

There are several apropos commands, and they are all very important
for discoverability.

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