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Re: How to type when using Emacs?

From: Florian Beck
Subject: Re: How to type when using Emacs?
Date: Sat, 12 Jul 2008 00:34:18 +0200
User-agent: Gnus/5.13 (Gnus v5.13) Emacs/23.0.60 (gnu/linux)

harven <address@hidden> writes:

> Hi,
> I am typing on a laptop keyboard. Switching the control and
> caps lock key really was a big relief for me.

For me too. I rediscovered Emacs about a year ago, and I am almost
exclusively working on my laptop. Using the former CAPS key for CTR
means I only have to move my little finger *one* position from home row
(as opposed to one to the left and two down for the former CONTROL.) I
wouldn't outright dismiss Xah's recommendation, though: it really
depends on your keyboard – if Xah can press CONTROL with his palm, his
keyboard is very different from mine.

So, how to type - that *also* depends on your keyboard. In my case,
CONTROL is almost home row, just left of the »a«. What I would recommend
is to distinguish between commands you use during editing and all other
commands. Command *frequency* is not really the issue. It is more about
work flow. Everything I use when I write has to be near home row, modulo
CTR and META. I use C-j for return (which is *three* steps from home
row) and have bound C-h to backspace.

In my setup, the control keys are somewhat asymmetrically, the right one
being below »_«. This is something you get used to quickly, I think. I
use them pretty much like the SHIFT keys.

Also, I would recommend not to waste home row keybindings on convenience
commands. Even if you are using them as often as once per minute (help
for example), moving my fingers does not hurt in this case. I bound all
convenience commands to ESC (alias C-ü in my case), eg »ESC f m« for
setting the default font to monospace.

So, my recommendation is: learn touch typing, perhaps move your control
key (depending on your keyboard) and rebind any key you feel is awkward
to reach.

Oh, by the way: if you have a non-US keyboard and you do a lot of
programming you might think about switching back some keys to the US
position, or some other convenient one (e.g »{» or »[»). Other keys I
have thought about rebinding are the number keys: nicely placed,
(relatively) rarely used and duplicated on the numpad.

Finally, if you are using X, you should definitely make your keyboard
use ALT, SUPER, HYPER and COMPOSE. (Probably not for editing, though, I
use ALT for »viewing« (e.g. ALT-u outline-up-heading), SUPER for
rearranging (transposing paragraphs) and reserve HYPER for my window

> Another spot that some people consider is right to the side
> of the space bar. This is however the standard position for
> the meta key on many keyboards, and a perfect position for it.
> I use now the meta key as much as I use the control key.
> I think that this will be the case for you as soon as your
> emacs skills improve. These two modifiers are really meant
> to work together e.g. to reach some point on the line, first
> jump over words with M-f then move into the word with
> C-f. The combination of the two modifiers also gives
> you access to powerful commands -- try for example
> C-M-f or C-M-k in front of a parenthesis group.
> A well-balanced use of the meta and control
> modifiers makes for faster editing and halves the use
> of the control key.

Definitely. I placed my meta key just above CONTROL (i.e. where the tab
key was – which swapped which whatever was above it). Do not be afraid
to heavily modify your .Xmodmap.

> Finally, if you want to learn touch-typing, you may want
> to have a look to the dvorak layout.

I would love to, but I cannot change my keyboard.
Florian Beck

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