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Re: Tutorial incorrectly thinks emacs -Q uses customizations. Alarmist a

From: Lennart Borgman (gmail)
Subject: Re: Tutorial incorrectly thinks emacs -Q uses customizations. Alarmist and confusing tutorial intro.
Date: Sun, 28 Jan 2007 02:37:30 +0100
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv: Gecko/20061207 Thunderbird/ Mnenhy/

Drew Adams wrote:
emacs -Q
Help > Emacs Tutorial

You see this, in red, at the top:

 NOTICE: The main purpose of the Emacs tutorial is to teach you
 the most important standard Emacs commands (key bindings).
 However, your Emacs has been customized by changing some of
 these basic editing commands, so it doesn't correspond to the
 tutorial.  We have inserted colored notices where the altered
 commands have been introduced. [More]

This is wrong - nothing has been customized in emacs -Q.

It is a bug. I have noticed it and have a fix for it, but I have not had time to send it to the list yet.

The wording is also bad: "standard Emacs commands" are not the same
thing as "key bindings".  So already we're teaching the vocabulary

Could you please propose a better text?

Anyway... Clicking [More] then shows this:

 The following key bindings used in the tutorial had been changed
 from the Emacs default in the TUTORIAL (English) buffer:

   Key       Standard Binding            Is Now On   Remark
   <M-backspace> backward-kill-word      <C-backspace> more info
   <backspace> delete-backward-char      DEL         more info

 It is OK to change key bindings, but changed bindings do not
 correspond to what the tutorial says.

This is also wrong: "had been changed" is incorrect grammatically
here.  Perhaps "have" was meant.

I am not quite sure "had" is incorrect here. The state of the TUTORIAL buffer may have changed since the link was created. Is not "had" the correct word then? Or how would you say it?

 What is the point of "from the Emacs
default in the TUTORIAL (English) buffer"?  Buffer?  English?  Why is
TUTORIAL uppercase?  I don't understand this sentence AT ALL.

Would it be more understandable like this

   from the Emacs default in the buffer "TUTORIAL (English)":

"TUTORIAL (English)" is simply the name of the tutorial buffer.

Or maybe it is better just to say

   from the Emacs default:

Even if this is more inexact it is actually not incorrect.

are we trying to say here?  And why are we telling the user that s?he
can change bindings? (during the tutorial? in the future? in the past?)

These text should only be showed if some of the key bindings used in the tutorial have been changed. In other words they are only showed when the tutorial does not work.

We discussed what to do in this case earlier. We decided then that the best way to handle it was to tell the user about the problem. Other alternatives was to refuse to run the tutorial or to change the key bindings in the tutorial buffer so that they matched the tutorial.

The help shown from clicking [More] is also not aligned well, as can
be seen above.

Some more work can be done on this. It fails with very long names if I remember correctly now. But I felt this was good enough.

It is also unclear: What does "Is Now On" mean?  What is now on what?
Does it mean that the Standard Binding (command), which is the second
column, is now on that key?  The order seems backward (German? ;-)).
The order should be:

Command             Current Key    Standard Key (emacs -Q)
-------             -----------    -----------------------
backward-kill-word  <C-backspace>  <M-backspace>

Or, better perhaps (depending on what the intention is - I'm lost):

Key mentioned in tutorial  Key in your Emacs  Command
-------------------------  -----------------  -------
<M-backspace>              <C-backspace>      backward-kill-word

In any case, however this is done, it is bound to confuse.

I am not sure what is best. Of your proposals I like the first one best. What do others think?

Another bug, unrelated to the tutorial: Clicking `delete-backward-char' does
not show its binding (DEL).  The doc string needs to mention this.

This is disturbing but maybe a bit hard to fix right now. I would rather put that in TO-DO for after the release.

Clicking either of the "more info" links leads to further incorrect

Please tell what the incorrect information is.

Most importantly:

Do we really need this?  What is the point of scaring users with a
huge red "NOTICE", and inviting them to click for more information
that details ALL of the bindings that are different from the default
bindings.  (Not to mention that it does so erroneously.)

This was my idea so I guess I have to say something about it.

Yes, I believe we need it. The idea is simply to tell the user let the user run the tutorial even though some things have changed, but inform the user what has changed. I think without this the user may get very confused when the tutorial does not work.

Whether this is the best way to handle the problem with changed key bindings that affects the tutorial is another question (see above).

This is crazy.  This is the FIRST thing that a newbie will see, when
trying to learn about Emacs.

If no key bindings have been changed the user will not see this. (When the bug has been fixed.)

Please, let's drop this or redo it completely.  If we keep it, it
needs to be 1) simple, 2) unalarming, 3) obviously of secondary
importance.  A tutorial should hold you by the hand in the beginning,
not scare and confuse you.

IMO this is the wrong level to discuss it on. We should rather discuss the GUI instead and how that can be used to teach the user Emacs. After the release of course.

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