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Re: Using proportional (variable-width) fonts in Emacs23


From: Pascal J. Bourguignon
Subject: Re: Using proportional (variable-width) fonts in Emacs23
Date: Wed, 30 Mar 2011 15:30:38 +0200
User-agent: Gnus/5.13 (Gnus v5.13) Emacs/23.2 (gnu/linux)

Uday Reddy <address@hidden> writes:

> On 3/30/2011 3:47 AM, rusi wrote:
>
>> By reducing these questions to habits, the implication is that say for
>> younger folk who only know 'modern' technology (like Word) things like
>> emacs will be suboptimal and in fact make no sense.
>
> No, I didn't imply that.  Monospace may be better for the younger folk
> too.  Or, maybe it isn't.  They will have to try out for themselves
> and figure out which works better.  I am afraid I don't have a theory
> of monospace.  You are probably looking for one ;-)
>
> On the other hand, the notion that proportional fonts are easier to
> read will have plenty of takers.  So, everything Emacs can do to
> support proportional fonts will be very welcome.

Yes, for text.

For programming languages, even if indentation is correctly impleented,
the situation is more difficult.

Program readability is often a 2D affair, where you want things to align
in columns to stress on the homogeneity of the structures.

For example, this first declaration block is more readable (use a
non-proportional font to read my messages!):

    var
        m:              integer;
        i:              integer;
        color:          integer;
        sizeOfTheBox:   cardinal;

than this other one, where I simulate proportional font with a different
number of spaces:

    var
        m:  integer
        i: integer;
        color: integer;
        sizeOfTheBox: cardinal;


Another example:

This is less readable:

    doSomething(object1,arg1,arg2forObject,arg3);
    doSomething(o2,arg1,a2o2,arg3);

than:

    doSomething(object1,arg1,arg2forObject,arg3);
    doSomething(o2,     arg1,a2o2,         arg3);

because in the later we see immediately that only the first and third
arguments change, while in the former, you need to parse it and give it
more attention.  Unfortunately, Editors with proportional fonts don't
have indenting and formating algorithms sophisticated enough to render
code like in the later example (that would require even more than
understanding the program!).

So proportional fonts are hoplessly useless for programming.


Now of course, emacs has a sizeable user community amongst the
novelists and literature authors, not counting the technical writers
editing software documentation, for whom proportional font support is
nice.

-- 
__Pascal Bourguignon__                     http://www.informatimago.com/
A bad day in () is better than a good day in {}.


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