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

Vitalie Spinu spinuvit at gmail.com
Thu Aug 23 19:28:37 CEST 2012

Thanks Paul, 

I also enjoyed your cheerful presentation, and I finally leaned that
C-w stands for wipe :). 

  >> Sven Hartenstein <lists at svenhartenstein.de>
  >> on Thu, 23 Aug 2012 17:49:16 +0200 wrote:

  > Definitely! I admit that during the first months or years of emacs
  > usage, I thought C-n and C-p to be a bit silly since we have arrow
  > keys. But now I find it so much easier and faster so not move my hand
  > to the arrow keys. I use C-n, C-p, C-a, C-e, C-f, M-f, C-b, M-b and
  > more all the time.

Emacs shortcuts may be hard and plenty, but they are unbelievably
fast. Here is the difference: 

   1) press C-a    vs.


   1)  Take your eyes form the screen 
   2)  Focus on a keyboard
   3)  Find Home key
   4)  Stretch 
   5)  Press Home key
   6)  Focus back on the screen
   7)  Find the position your eyes were before
   8)  Recall what you were doing.

It's a very cognitively demanding process. I find surprising that this
is what you call "comfortable". Imagine doing that thousands of times a
day. I bet you can use the time and energy lost for something much more

As Paul (Thompson) noted, I also would be very cautious about
advertising this usage. We all know that brain is a lazy beast, and
always looks for easy ways.  Trying to replace the learning process with
easy cheating inevitably ends with never-getting-and-all-forgetting

Besides that, continuous frustration that you can never learn it is
worse than anything else.  And all that is for the simple reason that
people don't have the courage to cut their keyboards in half and through
all the home-end-arrow keys in the garbage bin (I erased all my keys on
my first keyboard, and that was an idea from heaven!).

There is also an another downside of the recommendation you give. While
I agree that the tone and cheerfulness of the presentation will most
certainly encourage some lonely souls to try emacs. I think that the
reference point which you set, (that emacs is easy and intuitive etc)
might actually make more bad than good. Having a low difficulty
expectation, students will very fast realize that Emacs is not that fun
and happy-going as professor Johnson advertised, but ugly, stupid and
damn hard to learn. Conversely, higher difficulty expectations might
actually make students try harder.

Finally, whenever someone asks me for an advice of how to start
learning Emacs, I usually give one answer: C-h i and click on Elisp
intro. Read 4-5 chapters in 1-2 days, and you will never leave emacs
again. Emacs is not what it is because of the shortcuts, tailing
windows or tons of features, it is emacs because of its heart -
elisp. And that is what every newbie should start with. Nobody told that
to me. And when, after 1 year of frustration, I finally read first 4
chapters  I've never looked back again.

Finally a couple of comments on the content. 

The discussion of buffers, windows and frames is confusing. Window
cannot hold more than one buffer,  only one, and only one is the current
one. Frames indeed can display several windows. I guess that is what you

>From ESS 12.03, yank supports double argument C-u C-u for cleaning the
pasted text. That is, copy any R output, form an mail, book etc, and C-u
C-u C-y will paste only the commands.

  > (I am in the progress of changing file manager from mc to doublecmd;
  > what I am most missing in doublecmd is C-n and C-p to move to
  > next/previous file!)

Have you looked at sunrise-commander in emacs?


  > Am 23.08.2012 01:22, schrieb Paul Johnson:
  >> 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

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