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Re: What's your favourite *under_publicized* editing feature ofEmacs?

From: Cthun
Subject: Re: What's your favourite *under_publicized* editing feature ofEmacs?
Date: Wed, 23 Feb 2011 10:39:27 -0500
User-agent: MicroPlanet-Gravity/3.0.4

On 23/02/2011 2:07 AM, Tim X wrote:
Cthun<address@hidden>  writes:

On 22/02/2011 9:33 PM, Rafe Kettler wrote:
On Feb 22, 9:06 pm, Cthun<address@hidden>   wrote:
On 22/02/2011 2:47 PM, Alan Mackenzie wrote:

There seems to be a contradiction between those last two paragraphs.
Saving buffers and finding files are relatively rare operations which
thus shouldn't be given very easy to press key sequences like C-s and

Where do you live where software never crashes and the electricity never
goes out? Most of us learn to save very frequently to limit how much
we'll have to do over again if the power goes out or whatever.

Emacs is really, really stable. My computer hasn't crashed in the past
6 months, either. The power hasn't gone out in 3 months or so here
(eastern US).

Save and open are relatively infrequent command relative to others
(actual typing, cursor movement, etc.).

Yeah, but for "actual typing" you only need the normal alphanumeric/symbol keys
(no ctrl- or alt- combos) and for cursor movement, the arrow/home/end/etc. key
group to the right of the main keyboard area. You've got loads and loads of
ctrl-letter and ctrl-number combinations still after exhausting all of these
more-frequent actions.

Unless you are a power keyboard user, in which case, lifting your hands
from the keyboard to the arrow keys et. al. or to use the mouse to
access menus, is annoying and slows you down.

I will interpret the above as if you had said "unless you are weird, in which case ..."

No-one I know finds having clearly labeled navigation keys annoying, or prefers goofy, difficult-to-remember crap like

C-n/C-p/C-a/C-e/C-o/C-j etc


And then not everyone lives somewhere where the power is that reliable.

Then a UPS would be the right solution

You're joking.

You would recommend that everybody blow $2-300 on an extra chunk of expensive electronics in preference to *having to type ctrl-S every couple of minutes to protect themselves from data loss*? Are you fucking nuts? Or maybe just stinking rich or something. Well then I've got news for you, buddy -- not all of us, or even anywhere close to very *many* of us, can just go rooting under the sofa cushions and come up with $300 worth of spare change anytime the whimsy strikes them to go splurge at the local Best Buy.

"But the people have no control-S bread!"

"Then let them eat UPS cake!"

Last person to so grossly overestimate the buying power of the general public in quite this manner got beheaded if I recall my history correctly. :)

And then not everyone is daft enough not to fork their file before doing
something truly drastic to it, especially large elisions.

Well, if their not using a version control system, especially when they
are so readily available and cost so little, they probably get what they

Who said we were necessarily talking about computer programmers here? Heck, with a decent language (i.e. a Lisp) with strong abstraction facilities (i.e. higher-order functions, macros) the amount of code you have to write is basically logarithmic in the complexity of the application, rather than linear. Good programmers don't actually need to do all that much typing, so much as thinking and designing and planning and of course testing and debugging. Bad programmers can go hang. Novelists, data entry clerks, and the like aren't using CVS/git/Subversion.

Of course, if they are using a good editor, it will automatically create
a backup file for them.

Good luck finding it, or in all likelihood even realizing that it even created one if there's no overt indication of the existence of the feature. (And if it's turned off by default, so much the worse.)

You'll wind up spending more time searching the filesystem for plausible names for this backup file than you'd have spent hitting control-S, unless it's right there next to the original with an only slightly altered name.

We should not restrict or constrain things to cater for a few who use
bad workflows at the cost of benefits for the majority who do the right

Ah, I'd recognize that overweening arrogance anywhere. You must be a comp.emacs regular rather than from comp.lang.lisp. You emacs fanatics really are all alike, arencha?

And then, of course, there's the tendency of operating systems to blue-screen,
laptops to overheat and hang, etc. no matter how stable the editor application

I guess that depends on your OS. I rarely see such problems - the last
time was due to a hard disk failure and these days with RAID, even this
is rare.

And what about the rest of us -- you know, the great plebian masses that can't afford to splurge a couple thousand bucks on a high end RAID system and have to make do with plain old ordinary hard drives? YOU may be both able and willing to spend more on your disks than on your actual computer proper but that's hardly something on which you can base sound advice for the rest of the world.

As for choice of operating system, here in the real world you either use Windows or you make yourself incompatible with a lot of applications and other stuff you can't get along in the world without.

Oh, yeah, that's right, you're rich enough to splurge on UPSes and RAIDs -- I guess you don't need to actually work for a living, handle office documents, run work-related software that is proprietary and not ported to anything but Windows, etc. Lucky you. Wish we were so fortunate.

If you are forced to use such unreliable setups, then you need
better solutions than just hitting save every few minutes.

Better solutions like what, a second antitrust suit that actually has some real penalties in it for Microsoft if they lose? A magic wand that will convince workplaces the world over to give up on Microsoft software (and another that will convince game companies to universally support unix)? Autosave features that either overwrite your files at bad times, or make their autosaves in dusty corners of the file system where you can't easily find them and may not even know they exist?

There is little justification for wasting valuable single depth key
bindings for saving and opening files.

If you're rich and can therefore afford UPSes, RAIDs, and to use a maverick OS that shuts you out of interoperating with any nine-to-five work stuff, perhaps.

I also suspect that those who use unreliable systems with unreliable
power supplies and adopt poor practices are also likely the type of
person who doesn't bother learning key stroke short-cuts and uses the
menu to save/open files. Using scarce single depth bindings would be
wasted on them.

What about people that are stuck with unreliable systems, unreliable power supplies, and unreliable operating systems and don't adopt poor practices?

It should also be noted that the selection of key bindings in emacs

Confirmed: emacs fanatic.

is not as arbitrary as it may seem. There is a pattern

Yes, maximum annoyance, confusion, and incompatibility with everything else in the known universe. Everyone who tries emacs quickly spots the pattern. Except maybe for a few assorted nuts and fruits.

and the single depth bindings have been worked out over many years
based on user experience.

By the Marquis de Sade.

While many people may find them alien because of what they have used
before, their efficiency is very good.

Alien and efficient at driving men mad. I think that confirms what we've always suspected: emacs is not actually a text editor at all, but rather a diabolical incantation slightly more complex than "Ia! Ia! Cthulhu fhtagn!" and arising from exactly the same source.

Yes, we here reports of people who have developed RSI using emacs

That's not "RSI", that's "Help my arms are turning into tentacles and my brain to mush -- gbl;aetisl;{}re22][d[ ... Ia! Ia!"

but I know many (including myself) who have used it for many years who
have never suffered any ill effects (I've used it pretty much daily
for over 18 years).

Some of us do consider wild, staring eyes, growth of chin-tentacles, and the shriveling of the genitalia to be "ill effects", you know.

I often wonder if those who are affected would have found any system
which used as many key bindings, regardless of what style, would have
suffered the ill effects anyway

More awkward ctrl-alt-etc. chording = less RSI? On what planet? Oh yes, of course, *that* one, from whence came he who lies dreaming.

At the end of the day, emacs, like any other bit of software is good
for some and not for others.

Most software is good for some humans and not for other humans, though.

If enough find it good, it will stand the test of time, otherwise it
will fade away and be forgotten.

Nah, it will just lie dreaming in R'lyeh, awaiting its next chance to rise from the deeps and cause mass insanity. ;)

At the end of the day, it isn't that important.

Except to its cultists, of course.

The good news of course is that nobody is forced to use emacs and for
those who do want to use it and don't like the bindings or want to bind
save-file to a single depth binding, then they can free up the binding
they want and use it.

If they can figure out how to remap keys before they run out of Sanity Points and get a Nonstandard Game Over, that is.

This is the real power of emacs - its not how it come 'out of the
box' but the extent you can make it what you want and not be forced
to adopt an arbitrary workflow imposed by someone else.

Except, of course, that until you figure out how and rebind all the keys, you're forced to adopt the arbitrary workflow imposed by the diabolical mind that crafted it while dreaming in R'lyeh.

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