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Re: Proposal for an improved `help-for-help'

From: Eli Zaretskii
Subject: Re: Proposal for an improved `help-for-help'
Date: Sun, 25 Apr 2021 13:25:45 +0300

> From: Stefan Kangas <stefan@marxist.se>
> Date: Sun, 25 Apr 2021 04:30:04 -0500
> Cc: dgutov@yandex.ru, emacs-devel@gnu.org
> Eli Zaretskii <eliz@gnu.org> writes:
> > I don't see any good way around this.  This is basic Emacs
> > terminology, for which we did everything we could to document and
> > clearly explain what we mean.
> The way I see around it is to change that terminology.

So that everyone who used Emacs until now will have to re-learn?

When I see DEL mentioned in the Emacs documentation, I immediately
know what key that alludes to.  How would you propose to change the
documentation while letting veteran users still understand it quickly
and unequivocally?

> > You can't, because not every keyboard has that key.  And because users
> > still can confuse that with the BS (a.k.a. "C-h") key.
> I note that any keyboard I have ever seen or used has had a backspace
> key.  It is of course not interesting to me what exact control codes
> that key has been sending on various machines over the years.  When
> pressed, it has erased text backwards.

But it doesn't always erase backward, it sometimes _moves_ backward.

Besides, what exactly is your proposal?  Backspace vs DEL is not the
only such issue: we have RET vs Enter (how many keyboards did you see
with a key labeled "RET"?).  And on my keyboard (and most probably on
yours as well) I have a key labeled "Delete" and another one labeled
"Del" -- how do we make sure users will not be confused by that?
There's also Tab the function key vs TAB the ASCII control character
-- are we going to make that distinction explicit as well?

This deceptively "simple" issue is full of difficulties and underwater
rocks.  At the time, it took several non-trivial iterations to get the
text in the manual about that as clear and descriptive as it is.  If
you are serious with your suggestion, please propose how to treat this
complex issue in its entirety; it isn't enough to say let's replace
DEL with Backspace.

> Most other software seems to handle such keys gracefully and
> transparently.  Why can't we?

I think we already do.

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