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

Paul Johnson pauljohn32 at gmail.com
Thu Aug 23 20:17:24 CEST 2012

Thanks for the feedback. You are exactly the person I need to get
reviews from, since you use the keystrokes and I don't, and I don't
even really understand much about why you do that.

I'm asking you for some details below, because I don't understand. I'm
not arguing. I literally don't understand.

On Thu, Aug 23, 2012 at 10:05 AM, Thompson,Paul
<Paul.Thompson at sanfordhealth.org> wrote:
> 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.
I think that *may* be right, although I'm not certain it helps my
theme that Emacs has no learning curve :)

> 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.
Here I just don't understand at all. I'm trying to get across the idea
that people can happily use Emacs and ESS for programming WITHOUT
writing Lisp macros. How does this help me?  (To me, Emacs is editor
macros, macros that other people create and people like me use,
without writing new macros.  I'm afraid writing macros is makes Emacs
seem like a "huge learning curve" to the students.  Maybe I'm too
cautious there.)

> You also don't talk about apropos. I would certainly mention that.

Can you supply me with some example usages where apropos helps you
find out something you need to know?  Treat me like an idiot. Tell me
what you want to find out and how it is useful.   I don't ever find my
way to helpful information in it.  It pre-supposes I already know the
Emacs terminology for topics, or so it appears to me. If you could
write down just a couple of examples, it would help me a lot.

If you think new users can benefit from the items in Emacs Help menu,
can you provide some examples?  I can't ever find what I need to know
in there.  I just have to Google. The Help menu seems to pre-suppose I
know I'm looking for an option, command, an value, and so forth, when
I just want to know "how do I change the indentation" or "how do I
select all of the text after the cursor's current position"?  Know
what I mean?


> -----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.
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_User_Access#Description
> 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
> https://developer.apple.com/library/mac/#documentation/UserExperience/Conceptual/AppleHIGuidelines/KeyboardShortcuts/KeyboardShortcuts.html
> 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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Paul E. Johnson
Professor, Political Science    Assoc. Director
1541 Lilac Lane, Room 504     Center for Research Methods
University of Kansas               University of Kansas
http://pj.freefaculty.org            http://quant.ku.edu

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