[ESS] Care to critique some Emacs-ess slides?

Thompson,Paul Paul.Thompson at SanfordHealth.org
Thu Aug 23 17:05:40 CEST 2012

I have read your nicely formatted beamer presentation.

I have used emacs (xemacs and gnu-emacs) for probably 30 years. I enjoy emacs, and am quite intuitive about how I use it. I think that your tone is odd in some places. Rather than say "There are two ways of doing things in emacs" and putting the menu-approach and the keystroke-approach side-by-side (which you do), you seem to be trying to persuade people that the keystroke approach is bad. 

I would guess that most who come to emacs begin with menus and move to keystrokes. After all, menus are slower. I can do cntl-a or cntl-e with my eyes closed (and for sight-impaired users, this is important) and very very quickly too. Using the END or HOME takes more time, since I can't touch type on those.

So, my thought would be to modify your tone slightly to make it more neutral. Indicate that most proceed by 1) finding the right menu (and we all know how limited the menus are for the huge library of emacs macros). 2) getting used to the menu behavior and 3) determining after a while that the little key sequence mentioned in the menu could be faster.

You do not cover macros. Odd, since emacs is a macro editor. That's the main power. I would include a short discussion of macros. If you want to be really innovative, you can talk about writing macros, naming them, saving them to files, and that stuff. Probably the second lecture, however.

You also don't talk about apropos. I would certainly mention that.
-----Original Message-----
From: ess-help-bounces at r-project.org [mailto:ess-help-bounces at r-project.org] On Behalf Of Rodney Sparapani
Sent: Thursday, August 23, 2012 9:41 AM
To: ess-help at stat.math.ethz.ch
Subject: Re: [ESS] Care to critique some Emacs-ess slides?

On 08/22/2012 06:22 PM, Paul Johnson wrote:
> I told the students they have to use Emacs, and decided to write up
> slides for that.
> http://pj.freefaculty.org/guides/Rcourse/emacs-ess/emacs-ess.pdf
> Title "Emacs Has No Learning Curve."
> I argue against the general option, which seems to be that Emacs is
> too difficult and we all need to use RStudio or other IDEs that are
> designed to run on cell phones.
> I think the Emacs tutorial and most Emacs help sheets are causing a
> problem.  They try to teach people how to use Emacs without a mouse or
> arrow keys or page down keys. At the current time, It is simply not
> necessary for many users to remember how to change the active buffer
> with a keyboard.  The mouse&  menu approach is good enough for most
> people almost all the time.  If we put a few properly chosen settings
> in .emacs, Emacs can be just about as convenient as any other editor
> in the modern desktop world, and it is many times more powerful.
> I wonder if this theme is bothersome to you?  If you were learning
> Emacs today, would you really try to memorize keyboard navigation
> keys?  Ex: C-v to go to the "next screen" (that's the first thing in
> Emacs tutorial). I don't think somebody who finished high school after
> 1990 has even the slightest idea of what "screen" means in a terminal
> context. Just hit "page down" and forget about it!
> If you have ideas for more ESS highlights, please let me know. I think
> the C-c C-d and C-c C-l trick is the neatest feature ever.  But most
> of the other ESS stuff is pretty obvious from the GUI layout. I did
> not write anything about using gdb with C functions inside R packages.
> If I ever master that, I suppose I'll have to write another slideshow.
> pj

Hi Paul:

Very nice!  I agree with quite a lot of what you are saying.  What a
lot of people don't seem to get is that RStudio is
just for R.  The great power of emacs is/are modes.  We need to do all
kinds of things besides R for which there are wonderful modes like
C/C++, LaTeX, etc.  This is not meant to be a knock on RStudio as I
really like what they are doing.  I have even more complaints
about Eclipse and Xcode; they do allow plugins for other
languages; but, they are really clumsy to use:  for those who have
a hard time installing ESS try to get one of these other IDEs to
work with a plugin!

I want to put this link on the ESS web page.  Is that OK?

Just a couple of minor comments on the slides...
Slide 13: Alt = Meta is not a given.
Slide 16: actually, I think there were function keys around at the
time that emacs was invented since it started on Dec hardware which
are famous for their function keys.
Slide 21: the web page got put together with the last word in the 1st line

Slide 28:  This is a big digression...
I have been fond of IBM's Common User Access (CUA) for Cut/Copy/Paste
which don't conflict with Emacs at all.
Copy region: C-Insert
Cut region:  Sh-Delete
Paste region: Sh-Insert
Unfortunately, I don't have a simple prescription for setting these,
and my reading of the cua-mode documentation doesn't mention them.
It seems to me that cua-mode is not really CUA at all.  Rather, it
appears to be mimicking Apple's Human Interface Guidelines

Slide 45: if you hover over the beginning of the modeline, then you
will see that you can toggle read-only by clicking the 4th character

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