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Re: How to get rid of *GNU Emacs* buffer on start-up?

From: B. T. Raven
Subject: Re: How to get rid of *GNU Emacs* buffer on start-up?
Date: Sat, 27 Sep 2008 13:12:48 -0500
User-agent: Thunderbird (Windows/20080708)

Xah wrote:
am tired arguing with you Alan.

let's assume that there is a gab of knowledge between you and me, and
me having much higher knowledge than you.

That's a wildly unwarranted assumption. You should take up investment banking.

Then, what do i get in
teaching you thru exchange of messages? You know, when the knowledge
gab is too wide, it is basically impossible to argue with fruitful
outcome. Imagine, a math professor trying to argue some highschooler
who just learned calculus.

Of course, you maybe think the same of me. So, what can i do?

in comp.lang.lisp for example, i argued with lots of Common Lisper
morons, which often results in the same way. i.e. after several
threods of hundred or more messages, basically they think i'm a moron,
i think they are a moron, and it has become a impasse, as if we don't
speak the same language. So, what can i do?

Maybe you could humbly consider the possibility that you are indeed a moron of some stripe. (I don't believe this but it is obvious that in some subtle way you don't speak the same language. Research the topic of "Private Languages.") That should put the fear of God in you.

About 3 or 4 times in the past year i have written detailed essay
about the situation, and possible resolutions. I'm not going to spend
some 1 hour to dig them up and spend perhaps another 2 hours to
rephrase and reorganize them so it suites you here...

Your attempts at polishing your prose have not yet yielded any improvement that I can see.

 but basically i
proposed each arguer putting down money, hire accomploshied experts,
etc. The result is that, it doesn't help. They either ignore it, or
put their tails between their ass and disappear or say some friendly
words, or whatever ... suffice it to say that some these morons, still
think i'm the moron. (i do think, that many tech geekers, did see get
persuaded by my arguments.) (You can see a related article here:

How Shall I Respond

Research Harold Bloom's "Anxiety of Influence" and you will come to understand your ineluctable belatedness vis a vis the Emacs developers. Instead of nitpicking you should be grateful to them for providing you with such a useful and interesting tool.

So, what can i do with you or you with me? For sincerity and persuit
of truth, i am willing to pay $50 to have this argument about
*scratch* fully resolved. I propose, that each of us put $50 into this
argument. For nothing else, it is a reasonable proof of sincerity and
effort to get a real quality argument going. How do we carry it out?
that's always been problematic... but we can start, by , i send you
$50 thru paypal, and you send me $50 thru paypal. I trust you, and you
trust me. Then we start to argue really seriously. If in the end, you
find that my argument is stronger, you pay me $50 back. Same me to
you. What do you say?

You are a babe in the woods.

Also, we could get the money to hire a arbitator who is someone we
both agree to be UI expert and honest.... but this gets more
complicated as to choosing someone, the logistics of it, etc. But i'm
open to suggestions.

Vide supra

also, in good argument, we should formulate precisely exactly what we
are arguing... i'm too tired with this thread now i'm not gonna spend
any more minute to begin such a formulation... perhaps you might want
to start such a suggestion, or we can go with the above $50 exchange

You have already squandered most of the good will this ng felt toward you originally.

So, if you agree, i send you $50 thru paypal, and post the receipt.
So, once you get it, and others see my “payment sent receipt” posted,
you'd do the same. Then we begin.

Btw Alan, you guys are motherfucking morons, i say.

It's clear, to me at least, that your notion of high English writing style doesn't derive from George Orwell or others of that ilk but, more likely, from visiting brothels in the middle of the desert.

You guys, are
absolutely devoid critical thinking abilities, and lack of knowledge
of UI, and in fact blantantly ignorant plain facts such as emacs
utterly bad design with its keybindings. This paragraph is just so
that you (guys) know what my confience and my view of your guys are,
before we start a formal argument with money down. I want you to know
how cocky i am, so, if you lose at the end, you know you how really
asinine you people are relative to me. (btw, you could try to blame me
that by having this paragraph i wasn't really sincere about the $50
money down to start argument. I am sincere really. Just post a reply,
and if you really indicated that you want to go ahead with this,
you'll get my $50. And, also remember, morons, the final judgement of
who won the argument is not me. It is you. Quote: “If in the end, you
find that my argument is stronger, you pay me $50 back. Same me to

Born in the USA (yesterday).

btw, i didn't read your last 2 or 3 posts here, Alan. It's not worth
my time. I did spend maybe 10 seconds about the first few paragraphs.
I have exchanged perhaps 15 or more messages with you in the past 6
months. I know quite well what kinda things you'd say. However, if we
began this argument with money down to begin, of course i will read
every detail and think about about it.

But that element of UI is subordinate to efficiency in things
like Emacs or a modern airliner.

No. Many emacs ways are in fact inefficient to a very high degree. One
most obvious example is its keyboard shortcut system.


Perversely, you are right about some of your observations here but I suspect that I agree only because I myself am perverse enough to prefer dvorak to qwerty.

plain text version follows:
Why Emacs's Keyboard Shortcuts Are Painful

Xah Lee, 2007-07

A important aspect in designing a keyboard shortcut set, for a
application that has intensive, repetitive, prolonged human-machine
interaction (such as coding and text editing), is to consider
ergonomic principles. Specifically: allocate keyboard shortcuts for
the most frequently used commands, and, the top most frequently used
commands should have most easily-pressed keystrokes. For example, they
should be on the home row.

This article shows why Emacs's keyboard shortcut set is the most
ergonomically bad.
The Swapping of Control and Meta Modifiers

Emacs's keyboard shortcuts is very inefficient. The primary cause is
because, emacs's keyboard shortcuts are designed with a keyboard that
practically has the Ctrl and Alt key positions swapped.
Space-Cadet keyboard-2m

above: The Space-cadet keyboard. (Large Size: Space..._2.jpg
(2003x813)) (Source↗ 2008-07)

Remember that RMS wasn't and maybe still isn't a touch typist. If you are such a blazing fast keyboarder then maybe you should have Guy Steel's old job as Stallman's amanuensis. You would have to pledge strict unthinking obedience in advance. If by some remote chance he is amazed at your productivity he may have a closer look at your key bindings. This makes a lot more sense to me than swapping virtual $50 dollar bills via PayPal.

The common keyboard used around emacs era in the 1980s are those
keyboards from Lisp Machines↗. (see Space-cadet keyboard↗) The
keyboard on lisp machines have the Control key right besides the space
bar (similar to the position of Alt keys on PC keyboards), and Meta to
the left of Control. So, the Control key is the primary modifier, and
the Meta is secondary to Control. This is why, the shortcuts for the
most used commands in emacs involve the Control key instead of the
Meta key. (Example: The cursor movements: C-p, C-n, C-f, C-b, C-a, C-
e, the cut/paste/undo C-w, C-y, C-/, the kill-line C-k, the mark C-
SPC, the search C-s.) Lisp Machine's keyboards fell out of use alone
with Lisp Machines. Since the 1990s, the IBM PC keyboard↗ (and its
decedents) becomes the most popular and is used by some 98% of
personal computers today. The PC keyboard does not have Meta key but
have Alt instead. The Alt is placed right beside the space bar, while
Control is placed far to the corner.

Most of these don't matter with the exception of c, h, t, n, for cursor movement in the dvorak layout. I am not nearly as cavalier as you are about abandoning the mnemonic connotations of the keybindings as they have evolved under wise and prudent aegis of the developers.

Emacs did not change its keyboard shortcut bindings to adapt the PC
keyboard. Emacs simply remapped its Meta shortcuts to the Alt key by
default. (and kept on using the terminology Meta)

The tragedy of the Control/(Alt/Meta) swap made emacs keyboard
shortcuts very painful, and the frequent need to press the far-away
Control key creates the Emacs Pinky syndrome. (Many emacs-using
programer celebrities have injured their hands with emacs. (e.g.
Richard Stallman↗, Jamie Zawinski↗), and emacs's Ctrl and Meta
combinations are most cited as the major turn-off to potential users
among programers)

There is some truth to these observations but the solution probably lies in decommissioning the rodent. Ein genialer Vergleich would be to chop key-size pieces off of the space bar and assign them to left and right control. What's left of the spacebar should be cut in half and given over to backspace and forward space. These latter two keys will probably be the only ones pressed by the thumbs, at least for ten-fingered typists. The far right key on the bottom row could toggle the keyboard into mouse mode, enabling it to be used even for Autocad and Photoshop.

(For more photos of Lisp Machine's keyboards (all have Control as
primary), see: lisp_machine_symbolics_keyboard.jpg (photo by Rainer
Joswig↗. Used with permission), Symbolics keyboard PN 364000↗,
Symbolics keyboard PN 365407 Rev C↗ by Peter Paine )
The Choice Of Keys

The shortcut's key choices are primarily based on first letter of the
commands, not based on key position and finger strength or ease of
pressing the key. For example, the single char cursor moving shortcuts
(C-p previous-line ↑, C-n next-line ↓, C-b backward-char ←, C-f
forward-char →) are scattered around the keyboard with positions that
are most difficult to press. (these shortcuts all together accounts
for 43% of all commands executed by a keyboard shortcut) Of these, the
most frequently used is C-n (next-line), which accounts for 20% of all
shortcut calls, but is assigned to the letter n, positioned in the
middle of the keyboard, which is one of the most costly key to press.
Similarly, the second most used among these is the C-p (previous-
line), accounting for 16% of all shortcut command calls, is located in
a position above the right hand's pinky, also one of the most costly
key to press.

(Here we assumes the QWERTY keyboard layout. On the Dvorak layout, it
is about as bad.)
emacs cursor qwerty emacs cursor dvorak

above: Emacs's ursor moving keys on qwerty and dvorak.

See also, a newsgroup post on “comp.emacs”. “Re: effective
emacs” (2008-06-01) by Daniel Weinreb↗.

    «Emacs's default cursor moving shortcuts are “Ctrl+f”, “Ctrl+b”,
    +n”, “Ctrl+p”. The keys f, b, n, p are scattered around the
    and are not under the home row.»

    That's true.  At the time Guy Steele put together the Emacs
    key mappings, many people in the target user community (about 20
    people at MIT!) were already using these key bindings.  It would
    have been hard to get the new Emacs bindings accepted by the
    community if they differed for such basic commands.  As you point
    out, anyone using Emacs can very easily change this based on
    their own ergonomic preferences.

Outdated Commands

A significant portion of emacs's major shortcuts (those with M-‹key›
or C-‹key›) are mapped to commands that are almost never used today.

Never used by whom? By you?

Some of these occupies the most precious space (Home row with thumb:
For example: M-s (center-line), M-j (indent-new-comment-line), M-k
(kill-sentence)). Most programer who have used emacs for years never
use these commands. For example:

Depends on the programer, the language, the mode, the year.

digit-argument, M-1 to M-9
negative-argument, M--

move-to-window-line, M-r
center-line, M-s
transpose-words, M-t
tab-to-tab-stop, M-i

M-g prefix, M-g
indent-new-comment-line, M-j
tmm-menubar, M-'

zap-to-char, M-z
back-to-indentation, M-m
tags-loop-continue, M-,
find-tag, M-.

Difficult Keystrokes for Frequently Used Commands

Some commands that are used by every emacs user many times every hour,
such as Open (find-file; C-x C-f), Save (save-buffer; C-x C-s), Close
(kill-buffer; C-x k), Next Window/Tab (next-buffer C-x →) all require
multiple keystrokes with the difficult Control key.
Standard Name   Emacs Command Name      Keystroke
Open    find-file       C-x C-f
Save    save-buffer     C-x C-s
Close   kill-buffer     C-x k
Next Tab        next-buffer     C-x →
Previous Tab    previous-buffer C-x ←
No Employment of the Shift Key

For historical reasons, emacs does not use any keybindings involving
the Shift with a letter. (e.g. there's no “Meta Shift a”, or “Control
Shift a”) This is so because in early computing environment, Ctrl+Shift
+‹letter› cannot be distinguished from the non-Shift version, due to a
practical combination of ASCII↗, Computer terminal↗, telnet↗.

This limitation has been transcended.

Today, however, employing the Shift key as part of a shortcut with
other modifiers is common and convenient. For example, on Mac OS X,
Undo and Redo are Cmd+Z and Cmd+Shift+Z, Save and Save As are Cmd+S
and Cmd+Shift+S. On Mac and Windows, moving to next/previous field/
window/application often use the Shift key for reversing direction. In
text editing on both Mac and Windows, a modifier key with a arrow key
will move cursor by word/paragraph, and with Shift down will select
them while moving.

As Emacs continues to evolve some of your concerns will be addressed but most will be ignored. You are free to resolve them to your own satisfaction for your own private use.

Using the Shift key as a reverse operation is very easy to remember,
and doesn't take another precious shortcut letter. By not using the
Shift key, commands with a logical reverse operation necessarily have
to find other key space, and overall making the shortcut set more
difficult to remember, or scattered, or more difficult to press.
A Flaw in Keybinding Policy

Any major software, maintains a guide for the developers about the
choices of keyboard shortcuts, so that the shortcuts will be
consistent. Emacs has this in its Emacs Lisp manual: Elisp Manual: Key-

This guide, indicates that the only key space reserved for users to
define, are the function keys F5 to F9, and key stroke sequence
starting with Ctrl+c followed by a single letter key.

This is a severe restraint to the utility of customized shortcuts. F5
to F9 are only 6 keys. The key sequence starting with C-c followed by
a letter, is a difficult sequence to execute, and there are only 26
spaces there.

The function keys, F1 to F12, are very good candidates for user
defined shortcut space, similarly for the digit key shortcuts, 0 to 9.
These keys can be used with any combination of Control, Meta, Shift.
For example, a user might define them to insert various templates,
headers/footers, a system of customized HTML/XML tags. Or, she might
assign them to various special emacs modes such as dired, shell, ftp,
email, calendar, calc, *scratch*, make-frame-command (Open a new
window), insert signature.

It seems too drastic a policy, to limit user defined keys to only F5
to F9, and key sequence of Control+c followed by a single letter key.

The function keys, like the mouse, are too far away to be generally useful. They might be used for bindings that are rare and/or constructed on the fly.

Epilogue: Failure to Change

Today, most commonly used keyboard shortcuts have been somewhat
informally standardized. For example, C/X/V is for Copy/Cut/Paste. O
is for Open. S is for Save, Shift-S is for Save As. P is for Print. F
is for Find/Search. Tab is for next, Shift tab for previous. These are
common conventions today in every application across Microsoft Windows
and Macintosh (and in Linux too in general).

Irrelevant. It's more important to make Dvorak the default layout and to start teaching it to seven year olds.

These shortcut conventions are primarily brought about by Apple
Computer Inc's Human interface guidelines↗ and IBM's Common User
Access↗ in the 1990s.

In the early 1990s, DOS era software, each application has its own
scheme of shortcuts. The following is a excerpt from the Wikipedia
article on Common User Access↗:

    CUA was a detailed specification and set strict rules about how
applications should look and function. Its aim was in part to bring
about harmony between MS-DOS applications, which until then had
implemented totally different user interfaces.


        * In WordPerfect, the command to open a file was [F7], [3].
        * In Lotus 1-2-3, a file was opened with [/] (to open the
menus), [W] (for Workspace), [R] (for Retrieve).
        * In Microsoft Word, a file was opened with [Esc] (to open the
menus), [T] (for Transfer), [L] (for Load).
        * In WordStar, it was [Ctrl]+[K]+[O].
        * In Emacs, a file was opened with [Ctrl]+[x] followed by
[Ctrl]+[f] (for find-file).

    Some programs used [Esc] to cancel an action, some used it to
complete one; WordPerfect used it to repeat a character. Some programs
used [End] to go to the end of a line, some used it to complete
filling in a form. [F1] was often help but in WordPerfect that was
[F3]. [Ins] sometimes toggled between overtype and inserting
characters, but some programs used it for “paste”.

    Thus, every program had to be learned individually and its
complete user interface memorized. It was a sign of expertise to have
learned the UIs of dozens of applications, since a novice user facing
a new program would find their existing knowledge of a similar
application absolutely no use whatsoever.

Commercial software have updated themselves with time (or went
extinct), but emacs has not.

With good reason. Emacs developers are committed (as far as I can tell) to let usefulness and usability be their only guides.

If we take a survey of the market share of text editors (including
IDEs) among professional programers (as defined by those who make a
living by computer programing), then, it is my guess, that emacs from
mid 1980s to early 1990s, has more than 50% of market share, but
gradually declined. Today, perhaps less that 5% of professional
programers use emacs (possibly even below 1%). I think, part of the
reason being that emacs has not modernized (not in the sense of being
fashionable, but in the sense of keeping with hardware and software
changes in the IT industry). The other major reason, is because emacs
itself is not a IDE in a modern sense, and most programing development
using compiled languages such as Pascal, C, C++, Java, C#, have moved
on with IDE platforms integrated with these languages's compiler

As the internet, due to the orgulous exercitations of people like you, slowly goes out of fashion, Emacs will remain a very useful tool even after its umbilical cord has been cut.

See also: The Modernization of Emacs.

2008-07-15 Addendum: Thanks to Rainer Joswig↗ for some correction
about the history of the lisp machine's keyboards. .


Btw, I notice that you haven't been gracious enough to thank Chetan for providing a general solution to your difficulties. Why is that?

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