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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 15:14:08 +0300

> From: Stefan Kangas <stefan@marxist.se>
> Date: Sun, 25 Apr 2021 06:49:46 -0500
> Cc: dgutov@yandex.ru, emacs-devel@gnu.org
> 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.

In which major mode(s)?

What does Backspace do in Info, for example?

> > 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.

Other software doesn't need to deal with all the different kinds of
terminals and keyboard drivers that Emacs tries to handle in a unified

> 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
> with.

Complex problems rarely if ever have simple solutions, and if they do,
those simple solutions are at best only 85% correct.  In most cases,
there's no easy way around complexity.  Therefore, the fact that the
solution is complex is not necessarily an indication that it is wrong
or sub-optimal.

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

DEL is not a key, it is a character, ASCII 127.  By default, the
Backspace function key has the same effect as ASCII 127.

> 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.  :-))

I know the feeling.  Don't give up, at least not yet.

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