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Sunday, February 3, 2008

Getting people to use Emacs

How easy has it been for you?

In my 10 years of using Emacs and talking to people about it, I think (the emphasis is on 'think') I managed 2 converts. But those were already Unix experts and probably don't count. :-)
Even the 2 converts, took about a couple of years, one decided to plunge in and the other a couple of half hearted attempts and then took a deep dive into it.

Like, decided to use Emacs for 6 months without using any other editor.

I really find it hard, to understand why this is difficult for someone. Not that Emacs is easy to learn. I meant the apparent decision in making up one's mind that indeed Emacs does things better than notepad or vi.

I can understand that if someone agreed that Emacs is the way to go but gave up due to the learning issues; for whatever reason. But what I don't get is the complete disinterest when your work involves things that Emacs does in a jiffy. Apparently I just showed you that in Emacs editing database columnar data is easy (you don't have switch from pasting between notepad and MS Excel to align the data) and you still show a complete lack of interest in knowing how that is done?

Leaving aside the Emacs learning part, wouldn't anyone be interested in that 'cool', 'neat' way of solving a simple text issue? Using vi to review large code bases versus using Emacs and bookmarks? Using htmlize? Helping someone with applying code changes using ediff? Simple word wrapping using M-q?

I tried across the aboard, people in the early twenties, late twenties and even my age group.
Not a single chap has come back to ask where, how and what to learn about Emacs?


Without evangelising, I've shown people how to do stuff in Emacs and the results have been....let's say diplomatically.....bloody disaster.

I must be getting old. That's all I can think of. or Ugly. or Stupid.

1 comment:

Ritchie said...

I can totally understand your point, and I have the same feeling. However, I do manage to get two people start to use emacs in the past 3 months. We were working on a project using python, I didn't bother try to show them how powerful emacs is until they started to complain about the editor they were using. At that point, I showed them how to write python in emacs with python-mode + rope. Both of them were very impressed with how the emacs works. Though they did complained about the hot-keys they need to remember, eventually they started using it simply because emacs is just much more easy to use.
I guess sometimes people just don't see the good until they see the down side, it's somewhat like some people don't realize how good water is until they feel thirsty. Certainly not everybody is like that, but lots of them are.

Also, generally in my experience, people have two problems with emacs:

1. Hot-keys. I remember one of my professor's comment on emacs is "if a user start to use emacs for the first time, he can never figure out how to get out of it". And most people I encountered asked me, "is there a way not to use those hot-keys?". Frankly, I think this is one of the best feature of emacs -- doing everything on the keyboard.

2. add-ons and configuration. People generally just too lazy to search for extra features of emacs, such as org-mode, rope etc. And they are also scared of the .emacs configuration file. So what I do is try to put packages that do not come with the default distribution in my .emacs.d directory as many as possible. So when I'm setting up the emacs for them I just copy .emacs + .emacs.d to make the process look as simple as possible, so that they will not get scared.

P.S. I don't think I can say I get the two I just mentioned above converted completely. But I'm sure that next time when they are writing python code, they are using emacs.