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

From: Stefan Kangas
Subject: Re: Proposal for an improved `help-for-help'
Date: Sun, 25 Apr 2021 06:49:46 -0500

Eli Zaretskii <eliz@gnu.org> writes:

>> 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.

I don't understand what you mean here.  Perhaps we use different
terminology.  What I mean is that if point is on X in "fooX", I press
backspace and end up with "foX".  This is true for any machine I have
used, and I suspect that is the case for most people.

> 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?

Please forgive for speaking frankly, but I think this is all a bit of a
mess.  Other software I use don't have any problem with any of this:
backspace is backspace, delete is delete, return is return, etc.

I do appreciate that there are historical reasons, the question of
different keyboards, terminals, features that no one else has, and what
have you.  But to me, as an end-user, it looks like a very complicated
tapestry for a couple of keys that no one else seems to be struggling

And in this case it boils down to the unfortunate situation that
"backspace" is described as "DEL" in our documentation.

(With regards to a numerical "DEL" key, it's been a while since I had a
key like that.  But I guess my very informally expressed expectation is
that it should do the same thing in Emacs as it does in e.g. Firefox.)

> 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.

I appreciate the hard work that went into this, of course.  I'll put
looking into this properly on my list of things to work on.  I am
currently already spread too thin with my many Emacs ideas, so I can't
promise to look into this any time soon, unfortunately.

(I'm also not so sure I am not already in over my head here.  :-))

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