The lost art of text editing - Lisp Propulsion Laboratory log

Lisp Propulsion Laboratory log

Paolo Amoroso's weblog. Main interests: Lisp, astronomy (Moon), space exploration (Apollo and early manned programs) Calendar of past entries | Related links xml

The lost art of text editing

Monday, November 14, 2005

When users reply to messages posted to mailing lists or Usenet newsgroups, they often quote too much material before adding new content, and make articles more awkward to read. Sounds familiar?

This may be just a form of sloppiness. But there may be something more. I think that many computer users simply do not know how to quickly manipulate text in editing applications, such as message panes in email programs or word processors. This may also be a reason why Lisp code editing with Emacs looks intimidating.

Users are unable to select, delete or move large chunks of text. If the only way they know how to do that is via the mouse, no wonder nobody does that. Using the keyboard is probably more effective.

Why does this happen? Are there usability problems with text editing commands? Are users lazy? I don't know. VisiCalc co-inventor Dan Bricklin discusses learning difficult things in his insightful essay The "Computer as Assistant" Fallacy - Learning to use things that are hard is part of being human.

Copyright © 2005 by Paolo Amoroso

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