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Re: Making Emacs more newbie friendly

From: Floyd L. Davidson
Subject: Re: Making Emacs more newbie friendly
Date: Sat, 19 Mar 2005 09:10:35 -0900
User-agent: gnus 5.10.6/XEmacs 21.4.15/Linux 2.6.5

jasonr (Jason Rumney) @ wrote:
>PT <address@hidden> writes:
>> This would include for example keybindings which are familiar for new
>> users:
>>      F1 for help, F2 for save file, F3 for load file, etc.

What an absurd set of bindings...  ;-)

Mine are F1 for help, F2 shows function key bindings, and all of
the rest change depending on the mode.  (And doing it that way
was a mistake on my part, because I *never* use F1 to get help,
so that is where the function key binding list should have
gone.  Some day I'll fix that...)

>Where do these come from? What users would be familiar with them?
>In every application I've come across recently, F3 is "next match"
>for search operations.
>The problem with any suggestion like this, is that the idea of a
>single "standard" set of keybindings is mythical.

Nooooo!  The *EMACS* keybindings are the only ones that make any
sense at all for an Emacs editor.

>Beyond a few very
>basic bindings, there is no genuine standard. People come to Emacs
>from any number of inferior text editors, and the way to make them
>happy is an emulation mode for the editor they are coming from. We

If newbies want to use inferior editors, they should stay with
what they have.  If they want to learn how to use a superior
editor, *that* is exactly what they should do.  Trying to dumb
down Emacs is not only dumb, it is *impossible* as far as making
it match every single one of the multitudes of inferior text
editors.  Emacs cannot be all of them at once.

And I just fail to see how an emulator for an inferior text
editor is in any way helping a newbie to learn Emacs.  They
don't need to be retaining old, bad, habits.  What they need is
a good crib sheet, with all of the most useful commands on it,
so that they can start using them.  That's the way to *learn*
commands, and learning commands is the way to learn Emacs.

>already have emulation modes for several other text editors, can you
>suggest (or better, contribute) other popular ones that are missing?

My first emacs was Perfect Writer on Kaypro in the early
1980's.  I put a sheet of paper over the (significant) unused
areas on the keyboard, cutout slots to match the keys, and
trimmed it to fit the edges.  I taped that down solid, and then
hand wrote as many key bindings as I could on it.  Soon enough
there were a bunch that I didn't need help remembering, and I
made a new one.  Each time I did that it was a little neater and
had more key bindings listed.  Eventually I had something like
200 (i.e., it had virtually every command not positively
memorized).  Perhaps a year later I didn't really need it.

Emacs is way too complex, at least for me, to ever remember anything
like all possible commands.  But still, learning a set of 300-500
commands is 1) not trivial, 2) *very* useful, 3) can't be done using
some other set of commands instead.

Floyd L. Davidson           <>
Ukpeagvik (Barrow, Alaska)                         address@hidden

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