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[Texmacs-dev] Re: Entering macros

From: Henri Lesourd
Subject: [Texmacs-dev] Re: Entering macros
Date: Mon, 28 May 2007 13:05:09 +0200
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686; en-US; rv:1.4) Gecko/20030821

Ralf Hemmecke wrote:


first a statement. I am on the free software side

The practical problem is not being on one "side" or another : it
is to find a way to *do* something. Perhaps its not perfect, but
the fact remains that in most Free Software projects, the one who
sees a problem is the one who fixes it. If some problem has not
been fixed before, it is because the other people who saw it before
did not considered it sufficiently important.

Then of course, in this context, the developers listen to the
users. But users say lots of contradictory things, and in any
case, one must prioritize tasks. In this respect, markup editing
in TeXmacs is quite good, although not very comfortable. If
you compare this feature to other features that are either buggy,
not finished, etc., you will conclude that the priority of improving
the markup editor is lower, although it would remain interesting
to do it.

Of course, if somebody says : "its important for me, *AND* I
want to do it", THEN we can do something more interesting. But
otherwise, I don't see...

and I wrote my last mail not because I wanted to say how bad TeXmacs is, but in the hope that telling my frustrations and their sources to the developers will be some help to improve TeXmacs. I don't think TeXmacs is utterly bad, it just is too hard to learn just from the tutorials.

If you just say that you are frustrated, it doesn't help very much :-(.

Just another suggestion. What about producing a movie for beginners?

It has been discussed last year on the mailing list. But nobody decided to
do it in a consistent way.

My fault : Shift-Tab is specific to the configuration for which I wrote
the tutorial. But if you add :
 ("S-tab" (toggle-preamble)))

Of course, as a beginner, I don't know where I should add this. I would guess that entering these two lines into a .tm document will not do.

Sorry, I forgot to tell that you should put this in your my-init-texmacs.scm (this file is located in the ~/.TeXmacs/progs/ ; if there is no my-init-texmacs.scm, create

Still, if I see the menu, I would have suspected to find that switch under "View". And, by the way, I find that having a menu item "View" and a submenu item Document|View a bit confusing. Unfortunately, I cannot suggest something better since I don't know TeXmacs so well.

Yes, these menus are not perfect, although they improved a lot some years
ago after a user survey of their design.

Another little detail. When I click (and release the mouse button again) on the menubar a pulldown menu opens. If I then click on another word in the menubar, the first pulldown menu closes, but the one that I just clicked upon, does not open. I need two clicks. Cannot that be changed, or is this deliberate design?

This should change, but it will take time, till we finish to completely revamp
the widget support in TeXmacs.

The possibility to redefine things is not the point. Only experts do this.

In practice, this is false : there are different levels of expertise, and different domains. As soon as the people which know how to do it start doing something, then they can listen to what completely non-experts say, and thus help everybody.

How task allocation can be done in an efficient way in a community of
software users has been very well studied in :
Mackay, W.E. (October 1990). Patterns of Sharing Customizable Software.
In /Proceedings of ACM CSCW '90: Conference on Computer-Supported
Cooperative Work./ Los Angeles, California: ACM.

Mackay, W.E. (1991) Triggers and barriers to customizing software.
In /Proceedings of ACM CHI '91 Human Factors in Computing Systems./
New Orleans, Louisianna: ACM/SIGCHI

But until one becomes an expert one has to live with what the developers think is a good

No. This is precisely what is shown to be false in the work above. Of course, there are communities where people are unable to go beyond the initial situation
where the developers do everything. But one can proceed otherwise.

No, this thing has to be explained, all the more because the very concept of active and inactive is an important concept of its

> own in computer science.

I have the feeling that you ignore what users/beginners of TeXmacs say.

There are concepts you *must* understand if you want to
be able to use a software, I am sorry !

Understanding the difference between data and what you
see when this data is displayed is one of the basic things
you need to know if you want to understand what you
do when you edit markup !

First, not everyone who wants to use TeXmacs will have studied computer science. Second, "active" / "inactive" are concepts that are not clear. I am not a computer scientist, but can you point me to the definition of these concepts in a ordinary computer science book?

Let's say that it is a very basic fact in computer science that
data is processed by programs, and also that almost every
data can be considered as a program of some kind. The concept
of active/inactive stems directly from this : you can always consider
any bunch of data as being some kind of computer code, and
if you consider only the code, this is the "passive" form of the
data (because this data is immutable, it doesn't change by itself).

On the other hand, if you consider what a --program-- is, you can
call it an active object, because it is something that changes over
time. Whether it is an UNIX program or a web page, this twofold
nature of things in Computer Science can be observed all the time.

That is what I said in my previous mail. In order to learn TeXmacs, one currently needs an expert sitting close.

No. What you need is people asking questions when they dont
know something, and using this knowledge to build their own

Yes, it is impossible to do it.

And why???

Because it takes time to implement this particular feature, and
because this time comes in conflict with the time we need to
implement all the other (more important) features !

Do you really believe I could do that? I think I have already contributed a bit to a better documentation. But I cannot write one myself, since I cannot work with TeXmacs. And as you probably saw from my last email, it is not so easy to even describe the problems that I have. You should convince someone near you (whom you explained how to use TeXmacs) to write such a documentation.

Then it will wait till somebody is available to do it. Currently, I'm not,
because I have several other tasks to complete first !

Best, Henri

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