[OT] Text Editor vs IDE aka ctrl-s froze VI

Levi Pearson levi at cold.org
Fri Oct 14 15:12:54 MDT 2005

On Oct 14, 2005, at 2:11 PM, Michael Torrie wrote:
> I know of no vi user that has any problems switching between vi and  
> any
> other program.  I admit I occasionally drop a few colons here and  
> there
> when I use a modeless editor.  Humans are much more adaptable than you
> give them credit for.  And often I find proponents of making a UI
> "intuitive" getting the hammer syndrome.  Intuitiveness is all  
> relative.
> No interface, despite the famous quote, is intuitive unless you
> understand the few basic premises behind it.  Editors may or may  
> not be
> ideal applications of "intuitiveness."  Every paradigm has its limits
> and problem domains that it is ideally suited to.  One can make a good
> argument that GUIs are not at all intuitive for some problem domains.

I use both vi and emacs, and I occasionally have trouble switching  
between them, especially when I switch to someone else's keyboard  
that doesn't have caps lock remapped to control. :)  They're both  
pretty complex and require a lot of training of subconscious finger  
controls.  Switching between vi and emacs contexts is not always  

>> Neither ones keystroke combinations, are the least bit intuitive, and
>> any time I have to stop and think about how to accomplish  
>> something in
>> my text editor, that is time taken away from being productive and
>> editing the text.
> I have to agree with Scott on this one.  I can't speak for emacs,  
> but vi
> just gets out of the way and lets me work.  For some reason, the  
> having
> editor modes is a very intuitive thing to me.  If you watch a seasoned
> vi user at work (I don't claim to be such a person), you'll see them
> manipulating text far faster than is possible in any conventional,
> modeless text editor.  I've watched in awe BYU CS prof Dr.  
> Woodfield as
> he cuts and pastes, searches and replaces, and does repetitive tasks
> with a smoothness and ease that no text editor can match.  In this  
> case
> the editor absolutely is intuitive to him.  But it is the efficiency
> that wins out in this case.  And that is one of the key reasons why  
> I am
> a vi user.
> Again, intuitiveness is relative.  As example, "normal" text editors
> really hamper me because they make it very difficult to repetitive  
> tasks
> in an efficient manner.  Additionally they randomly insert colons into
> my text as I'm editing.  This for me is unintuitive.
> Now on the other hand, although intuitiveness is relative, I can still
> take what I know, train another person, and help something to become
> both intuitive and efficient to that person.  There are some things  
> that
> can be quantified.

Emacs stays out of your way and lets you work just as efficiently as  
vi, it's just a matter of learning the features that make you fast  
and getting used to actually using them.  As you say, and as I was  
getting at above, these editors require you to really internalize the  
commands so you don't /have/ to think about them, you just move your  
fingers in their remembered patterns and the document changes  
according to your will.  It's similar to playing an instrument; parts  
of the interface are obvious, and they're generally put together in a  
way as easy-to-remember as possible, but to be really good you have  
to train your fingers.

> Shudder.  I remember the old wordstar command days.  All the IDEs  
> copied
> them for a while.  They were intuitive in their own right, but I'm  
> glad
> to see them go.  I believe that either emacs inspired wordstar or the
> other way around.  And I can fully understand why emacs users  
> generally
> map the control key to the less painful position of the capslock key,
> making this hand contortions a little bit easier.  (Do any of you  
> emacs
> users use dvorak keyboards?)

I don't think there was a lot of cross-pollination between Wordstar  
and Emacs.  Emacs was originally a set of TECO macros by Richard  
Stallman, Guy Steele, Dave Moon, Richard Greenblatt, Charles  
Frankston, etc. on the ITS system at MIT in '76.

I believe vi was developed at roughly the same time.  Bill Joy, of  
Sun Microsystems fame, developed it as a grad student at Berkeley as  
a replacement for ed (and a front-end to his ex editor) on BSD Unix.

Wordstar was released in '78, but was based on some programs that  
were started in '76.  It was from the CP/M world, and was a  
replacement for CP/M's ed command, which, I believe, is the basis for  
the DOS ed command.

So, the three were from vastly different communites, developed at  
about the same time, as a result of interactive visual terminals (and  
PCs with similar capabilities) becoming available.  I don't think  
there was a lot of influence between them.


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