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Re: Making Emacs more newbie friendly

From: David Kastrup
Subject: Re: Making Emacs more newbie friendly
Date: Sat, 19 Mar 2005 17:22:49 +0100
User-agent: Gnus/5.11 (Gnus v5.11) Emacs/22.0.50 (gnu/linux)

PT <address@hidden> writes:

> On Sat, 19 Mar 2005 16:33:37 +0100, David Kastrup <address@hidden> wrote:
>> PT <address@hidden> writes:
>>> The newbies I met usually used a "visual" editor before. Like
>>> SlickEdit,  Eclipse or Visual Studio.
>> Strange concept of a "newbie" here.
> Of course, I meant an Emacs newbie... One who used other software
> before, but not Emacs.
>> So the vetoing power should stay with those that have an interest
>> of keeping Emacs as their working editors for decades.  If we can
>> improve the first month of a newby without souring the last decade
>> of a seasoned user, we will by all means do so.  But bending over
>> backwards for the sake of people that are unlikely to stay with
>> Emacs in the long run, anyway, is a waste of effort.
> The question is: is more people using Emacs a good thing at all? Or
> is it only an additional burden (more clueless people on the help
> forums, etc.)?

You are trying to frame loaded questions.  What is "a good thing"?
More people using Emacs is not a worthwhile objective per se.  If it
were, we should replace Emacs by toiletpaper, and its user base would
explode.  A worthwhile objective for a developer is to have Emacs
become a more productive tool for his work.  This is not unrelated to
the size of its user base, since developers usually tend to start out
as users.  Nevertheless attracting newbies at any price, in particular
the price of making Emacs less suitable for sustained productive work,
is not a worthwhile goal.

One has to keep in mind that Emacs is principally more an editing and
text manipulation framework rather than a single application.  And
that means that every developer has _lots_ of areas within the
contraption called Emacs that he is not familiar with.  Accessing that
functionality puts him on equal footing with a newbie, except for one
thing: he is already acquainted with the "Emacs way of doing things".
And so that this actually buys him something, consistency within Emacs
is more important than consistency to other applications.  This "Emacs
way of doing things" is rather pervasive: maneuvering around it tends
to complicate rather than simplify things.

Making Emacs more similar to other applications is a long-winded
process with high associated costs for developers, and also previous
users.  Newbies don't have an inherent right to be treated in
preference to more experienced and dedicated users.

> We should answer this question first, because if attracting more
> users to Emacs is not really a priority then this thread is
> completely pointless.

If priority means "should overrule all other considerations" then it
is my opinion that it should not be a priority.

And I am one of the most involved people regarding usability on the
Emacs developer list, and maintainer of the Emacs-based projects
AUCTeX and preview-latex that have their main focus on productivity
and usability.

Does this tell you something?

David Kastrup, Kriemhildstr. 15, 44793 Bochum

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