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A lesser Emacs?

2004-11-06
2013-03-07
  • David Filskov
    David Filskov
    2004-11-06

    THE is not made for advanced users. But it doesn't hold any design concepts that make it less efficient than Linux, Windows and MacOS for advanced users. On the contrary in fact. But its humane design will of course by far benefit basic users mostly - advanced users have learned the current modal applications and OSes and are able to use them very efficiently. But there are no reason why advanced users shouldn't enjoy the non-modal humane design.

    |I don't get why the shift key is necessary

    THE is written for a keyboard that makes use of BOTH your thumbs contrary to normal keyboards which uses only ONE single key for BOTH thumbs. In this case using the shift key on normal keyboards is a substitue for a new set of thumb keys to avoid modes (which is believed to be more important to avoid than sparing one of your pinkies). You should read the documentation on THE to understand it better. THE avoids ANY mode at ANY time. This means that no matter what you see on the screen anything you do will ALWAYS work as you expect. The only thing you need to look at the screen for is to see the content you create and the OS feedback. You should'nt need to look on the screen to know HOW to do what you want.
    In any other OS today you must know which state/mode (also called application) the OS is in before you do anything. Today's OSes can be in thousands of states/modes where the keys you hit or the mouse movement will almost never produce the same result. If you just sit down at a PC and do something without looking at the screen the outcome is pretty unpredictable. You probably know how much visual feedback you need when you help your parents over the phone (what do you see? Can you see this and that?). With THE you'd ONLY have to make sure that they are not holding down any keys or clicking the mouse (which is higlhy unlikely anyway). You only have to make them do what you say to get the computer to do what you want. Think of how many different kind of ways there is to do the same thing - each programs has their own way to do the same thing - THE unites that.
    THE always reacts the same way. That is why the Shift key is used - to avoid a mode (and thus unpredictability) which will be more humane for both basic and advanced users in their daily work. If there was a key below Space on a normal keyboard THE would have used that instead of Shift to avoid taking up your pinky and make use of the thumb instead. Emacs has adapted/been developed to the normal legacy keyboard and that's just one reason why it needs modes.

    I personally use this keyboard: http://www.kinesis-ergo.com/advantage_pro.htm which doesn't waste the use of the thumbs like normal keyboards do. Also it's symmetrical contrary to ordinary keyboards which aren't even symmetrical in their layout of the normal letters (Eg "qwert" is positioned differently from "yuiop" if you compare how the two hands access them and the rest of the keys. The rows aren't mirrored properly due to some legacy mechanical reasons I believe).

    | other applications use control or command or the other keys.
    | But THE doesn't, and it's not like you need those
    | keys to enter in text.

    No to enter text content in THE you just start typing. At ANY time it will produce text as most people would initially expect from a humane tool. You only need quasimode keys (command key for instance) to make sure that entering text will not produce content but actions/commands/orders to the OS. In a normal OS today just typing away will only sometimes create conent, sometimes it will answer yes or no or whatever to an unexpected pop-up about Gods know what - sometimes just typing away can even ERASE content (when the computer is in a mode where selected content is deleted once you start typing) and imagine if you were in a disk tool program that program was in a certain Format menu - you could format your harddrive simply by typing your name! No wonder some people are afraid to try computers.
    This kind of unpredictable behaiour would _never_ happen in THE. THE on a normal keyboard uses Shift and space because it's more important to invoke quasimodes (to avoid mistakes) than to spare the one finger holding down the key (for the THE Leap keyboard it's one of the thumbs which is not even used on a normal keyboard http://humane.sourceforge.net/main/the/img/THE_keyboard_horiz.gif ).
    But admittedly THE is written for maximum "humanism" which needs different kind of keyboard. Normal keyboard layout aren't very good for avoiding modes.

    | you don't have to keep any key depressed while you
    | are typing. I've almost never been confused by this

    But it would be more humane if you could be distracted for a moment and just start working again wihtout paying attention to the screen or which state Emacs or KDE is in. Humans can work nicely with modes - but modes naturally requires more consciouss effort - for no good reason at presetn time (other than the software legacy and awkwardness of keyboards).

    | I like to use all my ten fingers for typing

    On the Leap keyboard THE will let you use all 10 fingers whereas normal keyboards practically allows for only 8 fingers in that the thumb are used for only _one_ key instead of 3-4 .ike the rest - and this inconceivably goes for _both_ thumbs sharing the same key.

    | In most cases in Emacs I don't even need to look at
    | the feedback from the status bar

    Sure. That's the same in THE - the text dissappears as soon as you start typing (but is never lost - you can look it up the OS message history) and the initial feedback is even transparent so you can just ignore it if you don't need to know what it reads.

    | LEAP AGAIN is much, much harder to type that C-S.

    Leap again is invoked by pressing Return (in Leap quasimode). You can read about this in the documentation.

    | THE gets away with a smaller set because it does
    | so very, very little.

    Actually THE will probably have hundres and hundreds of commands for a user like you - per default only the basic most used ones will be installed but a programmer will be likely to install a bunch of special commands for her purpose.

    | I don't see much distinction between THE and
    | Emacs at this time, except in size.

    Contrary to Emacs a basic user is still be able to use THE just like she's used to even when it has thousands of commands for advanced users. An advanced user will still be able to use a basic installation of THE for basic tasks the way he's use to do basic tasks. THE will not only be able to do what Emacs does but it will have commands for alot more like editing media and browsing the net and so on. It's meant to be alot more powerfull than Emacs and at the same time work for both advanced and basic users in a more humane and less consciouss demanding / more natural way. For basic users THE will be lightweight (extra third party commands will not be installed) - for advanced users it will hopefully only need more harddisk space and maybe more memory.
    Even when an THE installation has been upgraded for an advanced user the basic tasks would/should be as quick as before. It's specifications are based on humane reaction (it will never make you wonder if it's rendering a task or not - it will provide timely and precise feedback never popping up an unpredictable progress indicator most people will think is counting linearly when it's infact not - THE will let you know exactly when it will be finished or exactly when it doesn't know when). In theory (and let's hope in reality) it will never feel unaccepabtly slow or unresponsive.

    | Interfaces shouldn't be designed for newbies -- they
    | should be designed for people who spend eight hours a day

    THE is designed for both advanced and newbies because there are no reason why a design should be only in favor of one type when both are humans. Simple things should be simple. Advanced stuff is advanced and that's the way it is but simple tasks shouldn't be hard to do just because the OS is capable of doing advanced stuff also. THE tries to accomplish this. And I think it's the best design out there for that so far.

    | Mac people need to realize that while they were
    | pioneers in making the easy interface, they are
    | not pioneers in making the advanced interface.

    Agreed. Apple's current interface is practically as complex and comprehensive as Microsoft's. THE is the current pioneer I'd say (if it was only finished available).

    | If you spend a lot of time typing text you should learn it

    I don't doubt that Emacs is unprecedented for it audience. Let's hope THE will be that too - it's audience is everyone. I agree with Jef that if THE turns out the way he intends - much more efficient than MacOS and Windows for basic users (the majority), the big companies will not be able to affort not to use it, when compettitors start using it.

    | Emacs will never take over the world

    But it could. If designed in a way that made it suitable for both pros and laymen. THE seems to be designed in a way that is just that without loosing any advantage - but of course that was never Emacs's purpose contrary to THE.

     
  • David Filskov
    David Filskov
    2004-11-08

    All this said - I know the team is working hard to make THE work very will with regular keyboards.

    There is focus now on bringing all of the advantages of THE to regular keyboard users - instead of requiring a custom Leap keyboard.

    --David