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

Paul Johnson pauljohn32 at gmail.com
Thu Aug 23 01:22:50 CEST 2012

I told the students they have to use Emacs, and decided to write up
slides for that.


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.


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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