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

From: Xah Lee
Subject: Re: What's your favourite *under_publicized* editing feature ofEmacs?
Date: Thu, 24 Feb 2011 08:43:02 -0800 (PST)
User-agent: G2/1.0


On Feb 24, 6:43 am, fortunatus <address@hidden> wrote:
> On Feb 23, 12:15 pm, Rafe Kettler <address@hidden> wrote:
> > You must be a Windows user. You must also not be an Emacs power user,
> > because you think it's acceptable to use the arrow keys as cursors. If
> > you don't, please use C-b, C-f, C-p, and C-n in place of the arrow
> > keys. It dramatically improves speed.
> Don't go down that path: "vi" has a way-better key binding for cursor
> movement!!

it should be noted, that vi's jkl; is not optimal. Better is ijkl in
inverted T shape.

also, note that vi's Esc is FAST route to RSI. See:

〈Left Wrist side-to-side Motion Pain; vi Esc key Syndrome〉

also note, emacs keys and vi keys, are not out of much conscious
design. Like unix tool bags, they are piled on over the years without
much thinking. It was good enough, at the time. In fact, most things
in life are like that. They are not anywhere close to optimal in any

The following is a quote from Daniel Weinreb ( ,
2008-06-01, on comp.emacs newsgroup. Source.

    That's true. At the time Guy Steele put together the Emacs default
key mappings, many people in the target user community (about 20
people at MIT!) were already using these key bindings. It would have
been hard to get the new Emacs bindings accepted by the community if
they differed for such basic commands. As you point out, anyone using
Emacs can very easily change this based on their own ergonomic


〈Keyboard Hardware's Influence on Keyboard Shortcut Design (How Emacs
and vi keys came to be)〉

〈Why Emacs's Keyboard Shortcuts Are Painful〉

This “design” by evolution applies to Keyboard hardware itself. As it
is, it's the worst shit possible. It was good enough in the 1970s,
where there are just a handful of programers in the world. And today,
but vast majority of people (mom & pop, who occasionally chat online
or write email), it's good enough! Even for most programers, who's
finger actually dance on keyboard perhaps no more than accumulated 3
hours a day, it's good enough! But for data entry clerks, or
programers who seriously type a lot or write docs all day, it's hello
RSI. That's why we have so many problems on keybinding debates,
radical input device designs, dvorak advocacy, and RSI is a serious
medical problem. See:

〈Keyboard Hardware Design Flaws〉

this also applies to key layouts. e.g. we all know the story of qwerty
and dvorak. But in my study, i found that it's just not that. Most
international layout are ergonomic garbage. See:

〈Idiocy of Keyboard Layouts: QWERTZ, AZERTY, Alt Graph〉

〈Dvorak, Maltron, Colemak, NEO, Bépo, Turkish-F, Keyboard Layouts

also note, in the programing industry, if there is one software that
induces most cases of RSI, it is emacs, by far. See:

〈Celebrity Programers with RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury)〉

the emacs's keybinding, in my assessment, of all possible keybinding
systems one could devise, with the PC keyboard as given constraint, i
rate it near the bottom. Better than random assignment, but not much.

One thing damaging is that GNU Emacs has a tendency to refuse change,
much like most unix-bag. Emacs's keybinding today is pretty much
identical to emacs of 1970s. But, the landscape of computing has
changed tremendously in past 30 years.

why most emacs people don't see this but in fact advocates emacs
keybinding? My guess is that most people have not studied the issue.
There are tens of thousands of things in life, we learned and use
daily by habit, but never thought about it seriously. If you are
interested, i think if you actually start to study keybinding, say, in
the next 30 days, your job is to research keybinding design 8 hours a
day for 30 days, i think you'll have a changed view. (no, i don't mean
to brag about how many hundreds of software you've used in past n
decades. Me too bro. I mean: stop dead and spend 8 hours a day for the
next 30 days to do nothing but study keybindings. Yours truely have
done so.)

 Xah ∑

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