Emacs “predates Linux, and was once far more popular,” writes LWN.net, while adding that the text editor “has fallen into relative obscurity over the years.”
Then it reports on a “mega-thread” on the emacs-devel mailing list about how to make Emacs more appealing and attractive to users:
The discussion started with a post from “ndame” asking why Emacs is “so square”; the appearance of things like buttons could be improved with rounded corners, they said. Richard Stallman, one of the original authors of Emacs, seemed somewhat dismissive in his reply: “Perhaps we should implement a mode that puts cosmetics on Emacs so it will appeal to those who judge by the surface of things.” But Stefan Kangas thought there was more to it than that:
I think it’s unfortunate if we assume that this is all bells and whistles. Graphical design elements can also improve usability. I also don’t know that it’s helpful to assume that the rest of the world will take the enlightened stance….
He wondered if there was “any reason not to improve the default look”. Stallman said that there are some technical barriers in finding someone interested in and capable of doing the work needed, but there is an overarching problem that needs to be addressed first:
The code to interface Emacs to X-based GUIs needs rewriting by an expert, and has needed it for decades. Until it gets that rewrite, changes in it are likely to break something.
Stallman did agree that the graphical design could improve usability, “but I have a feeling that the changes that would help are deeper issues than the shape of corners”.
It was a long and interesting discussion, touching on the popularity of both Vim and Visual Studio Code, while another post questioned whether Emacs should even be prioritizing its menu bar and tool bar.
One post suggested “starter kits” to make the text editor more friendly to newcomers, another suggested making Cntrl-C cut-and-paste the default key binding, and one asked whether it was Emacs’ terminology and keyboard shortcuts that might be confusing to users coming from Microsoft Word. “You are basically making a commitment to being or becoming a power user…” argued another post.
“If you just want to do ‘casual’ text editing emacs is a very weird choice in 2020.”
Read more of this story at Slashdot.