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Re: Making Emacs more newbie friendly


From: Floyd L. Davidson
Subject: Re: Making Emacs more newbie friendly
Date: Sun, 20 Mar 2005 14:35:51 -0900
User-agent: gnus 5.10.6/XEmacs 21.4.15/Linux 2.6.5

ken <address@hidden> wrote:
>
>As a touch-typist, I avoid the arrow keys, as well as the
>PageUp, PageDown, and all the other keys in that section of the
>keyboard.  And I avoid applications which force me to use them.
>What I like about emacs is that I don't have to use these keys.
>They really get in the way of productivity.

A good point.

I learned long ago not to bind commonly used commands to
function keys.  First its harder to type them, but second and of
greater importance to me, they aren't always available (e.g.,
when logged in remotely, or on a partially configured system,
etc. etc.).  Being used to touch typing all of the common
commands using regular keys provides much better functionality
(in my case, and that may not be true for others).

But that also left the question of what to do with the function
keys.

I bind them, on a per mode basis, to locally defined or not so
commonly used commands.  The problem with that was not being
able to remember 50-100 function key bindings that changed.  So
I came up with a function to list only function key bindings.
All I need do is remember that a command exists, and that F2
will print a list of bindings to show how to access the command.

I'm using Gnus right now, so F2 prints a list that starts off
like this,

  f1              << help-command >>
  f2              fld-describe-fkeys
  f3              fld-bold-word
  f4              fld-italic-word
  f5              fld-underline-word
  f6              ispell-message
  f7              fld-fix-buffer
  f8              fld-picture-mode-toggle
  f9              dictionary-search
  f10             dictionary-match-words

It goes on to show every combination, such as shifted Fkeys,
C-fkeys, etc.  And if F2 is used with any of those modifiers,
the list is abbreviated to only show bindings with the given
modifier.

As an example, switching from the article buffer back to the
summary buffer changes to a new set of bindings, which begins
with this list:

  f1              << help-command >>
  f2              fld-describe-fkeys
  f3              fld-date-file-now
  f4              rfc-search
  f5              fld-gnus-date-timer
  f6              gnus-article-treat-html
  f7              gnus-summary-toggle-mime
  f8              gnus-summary-repair-multipart
  f9              gnus-summary-delete-article
  f10             dictionary-match-words


>> By arrow keys I also mean text selection with shift+arrow
>> keys, etc. It is  pretty standard in modern systems, so it
>> should be turned on by default.
>
>Same applies here as above.  If you like using these kinds of
>keybindings, why don't you simply use an editor that uses them.
>It sounds like learning something new is too advanced for you.

I would suggest that for people who are willing to select an
editor based on default key bindings (particularly key bindings
for function/arrow/ etc keys), emacs is far too complex an
editor...  ;-(

>>>> I may sound like a heretic, but I don't think a newbie should learn new
>>>> keybindings for cursor movement.

Well, certainly not if they have learned the *right* ones.  What
that is might be open to question, but for some of us the only
possible bindings are traditional Emacs bindings.  I believe
that is *exactly* what newbies should learn first.

>It's difficult for me to have any sympathy for someone who
>doesn't want to spend a half hour learning the basics of a new

Can anyone learn the basics of Emacs in half an hour?  Maybe our
definition of "basics" is different, but I'd guess maybe a week
of constant use might get close.  Most users don't even realize
what Emacs is with even that much use.

>application.  You don't sound at all like a heretic; rather, it
>sounds like you're just really lazy.  Emacs is a great editor
>(and a lot more).  But, yeah, you have to learn a few new things
>in order to use it.  Rather than wasting time and bandwidth
>whining about how *hard* it is (because it really isn't all that
>hard), why not just spend some time learning?

There is lazy... and there is lazy.  Lazy as in uncaring about
getting work done is one thing.  But lazy as in first working to
make work easier is is different.  Emacs is ideal to make work
easier.  But emulating inferior editors is not the way to do it.

-- 
Floyd L. Davidson           <http://web.newsguy.com/floyd_davidson>
Ukpeagvik (Barrow, Alaska)                         address@hidden


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