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Re: OT: Why is C so popular?

On Mon, Sep 01, 2003 at 12:53:55PM -0400, Mark Roach wrote:
> On Mon, 2003-09-01 at 12:15, Colin Watson wrote:
> > On Mon, Sep 01, 2003 at 11:27:10AM -0400, Mark Roach wrote:
> > > what could be better than "works exactly as desired"?
> > 
> > tabstop *doesn't* work exactly as desired for me. (Shall we continue
> > with proof by assertion? :))
> As far as I can see, no one was trying to prove anything. If I say that
> "ls" works exactly as desired for showing me a directory listing, it
> would not make sense for someone else to say, "no, ls -l is better". ls
> produces my desired outcome.
> If you think that my goals are incorrect, or can show that it does not
> meet my desires in some way, then tell me how. "X is better than Y" is
> just silly. Perhaps if you gave more information on what constitutes
> "better" we could have an actual discussion.

Looking back, the reason given for setting tabstop was:

| So that when we hit tab it goes to the next multiple of... 4?

If you have a particular goal to accomplish, it makes sense to use
something which accomplishes exactly that goal. The tabstop option is
documented as controlling the "number of spaces that a <Tab> in the file
counts for", while the softtabstop option is documented as controlling
the "number of spaces that a <Tab> counts for while performing editing
operations, like inserting a <Tab> or using <BS>". On the principle of
least surprise, I feel that using an option designed to do the thing I
want, rather than using an option designed to do something else which
happens to do the thing I want as well, is aesthetically better.

Also, Steve claimed that tabstop was the only way to do what he wanted
to do. Based on what he'd said about what he wanted to do, I disagreed.

As it happens, setting the tabstop option to anything other than 8 does
irritate me when editing files containing tabs. I like to keep source
code within 80 columns, and mismatched tabstop settings have a habit of
screwing that up even if the file doesn't mix tabs and spaces. I've
edited files that were perfectly readable on an 80-column display with
tabstop=4, and were obviously intended that way, but that were
unreadable with a default tabstop. In languages where mixing tabs and
spaces is merely a cosmetic problem, the situation is worse yet. Leaving
the tab character to represent its historical default of eight spaces
simplifies everyone's life and means you can spend your life on more
productive things than worrying about different kinds of whitespace.


Colin Watson                                  [cjwatson@flatline.org.uk]

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