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Re: Beginning Hobbyist Programmer Question

From: Alan Mackenzie
Subject: Re: Beginning Hobbyist Programmer Question
Date: Fri, 18 Jan 2008 23:22:07 +0000
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.9i

Hi, signups!

On Thu, Jan 17, 2008 at 02:04:46PM -0800, wrote:

[ .... ]

> As I get more and more into programming, I get the sense that "real"
> programmers use emacs or vi, or some other editor that from my
> perspective, seems arcane and impenetrable compared to something simple
> like IDLE that comes with Python, or Scite, for example.

> Can anyone provide a cogent explanation for why I should take the time
> to climb that learning curve? What are the benefits, as you see them?

Unlike somebody else here, I think that's a perfectly reasonable way to
put your question.  Learning Emacs takes a _lot_ of time, so you want to
know before you put in the time what you'll get out of it.

In short, Emacs is just _NICE_.  It lets you do what you want, whilst not
getting in the way.  And you can customize it to do what you want, how
you want.

As an example of this niceness, compare how you would do searching in
Rotmed[*] compared with Emacs.

Rotmed: (i) <ctrl-F> ; A nasty dialogue box is splatted over your text so
    that you can't see it any more.
  (ii) You type in the string, character by character, you want to search
    for.  You'll probably make a mistake, since you can't see the string
    covered by the D-Box;  but you won't yet know you've made the
  (iii) You hit <CR>; You get a <beep> "String not found".
  (iv) You can't scroll your main text, because the D-Box is a so-called
    "modal" D-Box.  You can curse, though.
  (v) You correct the text in the D-Box, and go back to (iii).
  (vi) Eventually you'll find the string.  But it's not the occurrence
    you're looking for.
  (vii) You hit <F4> (or whatever) to go to further occurrences.  You hit
    <F4> too often though, and want to go back.  Damn!
  (viii) You type <alt>-u (or whatever) to reverse search direction.
  (ix) You type <F4> again.
  (x) You're there.  So you have to type <ESC> to get rid of that
    horrible dialog box.  Phew!!  Don't want to do this too often!

Emacs: (i) <ctrl-S>: The minibuffer (bottom line of your screen) is now
    ready to accept your search string.  You can see your own text.
  (ii) As you type in the string, character by character, the cursor
    moves to where it finds the "string so far".  As soon as you make a
    mistake, Emacs beeps, because it doesn't find that string.
  (iii) You type <backspace> to get rid of that erroneous character, then
    carry on from (ii) again.
  (iv) At any time during searching, you can scroll your main text up
    and down.
  (v) You hit <ctrl-S> to go on to further occurrences.
  (vi) You hit <ctrl-S> too often though, and want to go back.  No probs!
  (vii) You hit <backspace> to cancel out the superfluous <ctrl-S>.
  (viii) You're there!  Carry on editing!  So slick, you do it almost

At this point, Emacs hasn't forgotten where you started the search; you
can jump back there with <Ctrl-u> <space>.  There's a _lot_ more to
searching than I can say here.  For example, you search just the same way
in _ANY_ context; for example in lists of buffers, in indexes, anything.
Most Rotmeds don't do this, for whatever reason.

[ .... ]

> Thanks in advance.

[*] "Run of the mill editor"

Alan Mackenzie (Nuremberg, Germany).

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