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Re: Editor Priorities



begin  m@moshez.org  quotation:

> Updated list of criteria, with suggested modifiers.
> (some are +0: this means I think they should be dropped,
> and are only included for completeness)

[...]

> I have marked with XXX the ones I think should stay.

[...]

> * Supports undo/redo +20 XXX
> * Supports pausing using ^Z +20
> * Can start typing without reading a manual +30 XXX
> * Start-up time not noticeable +30
> * Not free -200 [changed from -50] XXX
> * Reads a global RC file +20 XXX
> * Built-in on line help +30 XXX
>   * Baloon help +0
>   * Easy to locate menu and help"
> * Can follow hypertext links +0
> * Can assist the user with templates ands contect sensitive prompts +5
> * Syntax highlighting +2
> * Ability to run a command on a range of lines +0
> * Ability to work with rectangular regions in a text file +2
> * Ability to edit right-to-left (Arabic, Hebrew) +0
> * Ability to edit unicode +0
> * Ability to use split windows +0
> * Folding, narrowing, and ouline modes +1 each
> * Being able to open multiple files +10
> * Built in spell checks +10 XXX
> * Ability to read/write files over network protocols +10
>   * Each protocol supported +1
> * Autocompletion +5
>   * Configurable +0
>   * Adaptive +0
> * Search and replace +10 XXX
>   * RE search and replace +5
>   * Ability to visit file/line numbers for grep/egrep/find+egrep matches +0
> * Does not wrap lines per default +0
> * Is a vi clone +0

A lot of this depends on who the target audience is. Are we aiming this
at people who are familiar with some kind of Unix-like system and expect
Debian to behave similarly to what they have used in the past? Or are we
aiming this at new users who may be transitioning from Windows or some
other OS that has nothing to do with Unix? I would argue for the latter,
on the grounds that anyone who knows Unix will be able to figure out how
to change the default editor, while an ex-Windows or ex-Mac (pre-OSX)
user may have more difficulty (environment variable? What's that? To say
nothing of /etc/alternatives -- what's a symlink?). Furthermore, the
traditional default editor in Unix-like systems is almost always a vi
clone, which is perhaps the worst possible choice for non-Unix people
because of its distinction between "command mode" and "insertion mode",
which will be quite bewildering to someone used to Windows Notepad,
MS-DOS's EDIT, or similarly simple text editors on other platforms.

My feeling is that the "default editor" should be one which almost any
computer user should be able to handle without difficulty. If you just
start typing text when it comes up, that text should be inserted into
the document. There should be online help available through an obvious
means; it wouldn't hurt if the top or bottom line of the screen listed
the keys for some basic commands, including load, save, quit, and help.
Common terminal configurations should not cause problems for the editor
(which lets out emacs, due to its use of ^H for help and ^S for search
-- of course, emacs was clearly out of the running anyway).

These are, to my mind, the most important criteria. Anything else --
multiple files, split windows, spell checking, even search/replace -- is
inessential, and in fact I think the editor shoud be as simple as
possible while providing core text-editor functionality. So I think the
above list of features is much too long.

IIRC, pico fits most of these criteria, and Debian includes a pico clone
called nano. I have not used nano, but if it is really close to pico,
then I think it would make a good default. I have seen non-technical
Windows users trying pico for the first time, and they had no problem
with it. Had they been given vi instead, they would have been lost.

Against all this, one might argue that Debian is not really the
friendliest distro for Windows or Mac refugees, who might be better
served by a distro with more GUI system configuration tools, such as Red
Hat or Mandrake. If we agree that this is the case, and that it's
acceptable or even desirable to keep it that way, then we may as well
follow Unix tradition and use nvi as our default editor. But I would
like to see a clear consensus that Debian does not want to be friendly
to non-Unix users before accepting a vi clone as the default.

Craig

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