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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 23:05:57 -0500
User-agent: MicroPlanet-Gravity/3.0.4

On 23/02/2011 6:54 PM, Jason Earl wrote:
On Wed, Feb 23 2011, Cthun wrote:

On 23/02/2011 2:22 PM, Jason Earl wrote:
On Wed, Feb 23 2011, Cthun wrote:
This runs into trouble if you do something drastic you later want to

Actually, Emacs warns you before it makes drastic changes to an autosave
file.  This at least gives you the opportunity to do something about it.

Oh, wonderful.

Do you know what I'd do if I was in the middle of typing some stuff
into a text editor after just having deleted a bunch of stuff and then
suddenly a box popped up saying something about autosaving and drastic
changes and yadda yadda yadda but I didn't have time to read it before
one of my enter keypresses (intended for the actual document I was
typing into when the box interrupted me) triggers one of the dialog's
buttons (which?) and it disappears again (and does who knows what to
my hard drive?).

I'd delete that editor and go get a new one, that's what. :)

So would I, but, of course, that's not what Emacs does.  It just turns
off auto-save and warns you in the mini-buffer.

In other words, instead of actually warning you, autosave just quietly and unobtrusively stops working and unless you look in a particular spot on the screen for some reason you won't know about it. Hardly a good alternative, Earl. In fact, if the popup's default button was Cancel, Earl, at least the popup scenario would cause you to realize that *something* had happened.

In the modern age we have something nifty and newfangled called tray notification, Earl. Also these amazing new gadgets called "sound cards". It is possible to alert a user to a status change without stealing the input focus, Earl. All too few application designers take advantage of that to both ensure that a message gets the user's attention and avoid undesired focus theft, though, Earl.

And, like all things Emacs, if you do not like the default you can
change it easily.

For values of "easily" that might make sense to a quantum physicist, Earl.

The solution, of course, is to manually save *before* the fork.

Yes, but the reality is that people will sometimes forget to do so, or
in that order.

It would seem to me that you would basically have to be the sort of
person that *relies* on the auto-save feature to do things in any other

What does your classic erroneous presupposition have to do with Lisp, Earl?

If I am manually going fork a file then it seems like I would
want to make sure that I forked from a known good spot.

You might think of it only after making a large selection and beginning to type over it, Earl, if the drastic alteration that occurred to you was a spur-of-the-moment thing. Not everyone takes a careful, measured, chess-game-like approach to text editing, Earl.

I used to work on a help desk and my experience says that most people
don't even know that their editor has an auto-save (or how to get the
auto-save files it creates) until something tragic happens.

Precisely one of my points, Earl.

They certainly don't expect their editor to magically save the correct
state of a file that they didn't manually save.

Precisely my *original* point, Earl. Thus manual save should be easy and painless, Earl. Thus manual save should be bound to ctrl-S, Earl.

I real life I don't think that this is much of a problem, especially
with Emacs which has infinite undo

Infinite undo? On what planet? When I experimented with it, back in
college, I found the undo to just toggle undo/redo like Windows
Notepad's. (I ended up experimenting also with LSD and mescaline and
decided on none of the above.)

I thought it was infinite undo, but according to the manual the default
limit is 12,000,000 bytes.  Needless to say, I have never actually ran
out of undo information.

When the actual behavior is to just toggle between the two most recent document states, Earl, you'd have to be deleting most of a massive log file to hit that limit.

What's more, Emacs is flexible enough that you can easily set up
whatever sort of auto-save functionality that you think you want.

If you're a computer programmer with time to spare reprogramming the
editor instead of actually doing your job, perhaps.

I'm just saying that, if you care about auto-save as much as you seem to
care about auto-save, that Emacs gives you options that other tools do

Options a quantum physicist might manage to successfully use, Earl.

Personally, other than changing where Emacs saves its auto-save
files I just stick with the defaults.

Since you are indubitably not a quantum physicist, this is probably a wise course, Earl. Of course, "not using emacs" would probably be a wiser one.

I personally think that Emacs' superior auto-save features would be a
strange reason for choosing Emacs, but who am I to judge.

What does your classic erroneous presupposition have to do with Lisp, Earl?

Emacs can do that.  It has an auto-save-hook that you can add code to

and ten million ways to subtly or drastically-but-irrecoverably fuck
things up if you make some subtle mistake doing so, no doubt.

Thanks, but no thanks.

Obviously any time you are writing code you have the opportunity to code
something that doesn't work.

This is why most of us prefer our applications' developers to have done that work for us, Earl, instead of leaving the job incomplete and us to finish the last little bit of it. That way the whole user base gets the benefit of one developer's work and testing and debugging, Earl, instead of each one separately reinventing the wheel and many coming up with a square one.

On the other hand, computers are far less likely to "forget" a step
than you or I are.  Automation is generally a good thing.

A good argument against not leaving features missing that your users will have to either work around or use your application's internal scripting language to implement, Earl.

Sequences of numbered files used to risk filling up the filesystem,
too, but not with text files in this day and age.

On the bright side Emacs can be made to do whatever makes you the

Can it be made to cut itself, scream like a thing tortured, and then
die? ;)

That seems like an odd thing to want from a text editor, but yes, you
can teach emacs to do that.  I even tested it.

A text editor inbuilt scripting language is not going to have sound card APIs, Earl, so this statement is highly implausible.

(defun scream ()
   (message "Arrgggh!"))

Hardly a real scream, Earl.

Very few other programs have anywhere near that sort of flexibility.

If I want that much flexibility I'll look at that Russian mail-order
catalog. There *is* something to be said for structure and stability
in fundamental, daily-use tools. And standards-adherence.

Emacs has been adhering to the same standards almost as long as I have
been alive.

What does your classic unsubstantiated and erroneous claim have to do with Lisp, Earl? Emacs adheres to no standards; it is an iconoclast in virtually every way.

For most folks, however, the defaults are what they want.

Wait a minute. I thought you just said that the Emacs defaults are
what most people want. But that's clearly impossible, so I can only
presume that your post got garbled in transit. Care to repost whatever
you'd said at this point?

Emacs' defaults for auto-save are what most people want.

Emacs itself is not what most people want, Earl, or Emacs would have market share to rival that of Windows. This is clearly not actually the case, though, Earl.

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