[Beowulf] EMACS vs VI

Robert G. Brown rgb at phy.duke.edu
Thu Feb 17 11:52:40 PST 2011

On Thu, 17 Feb 2011, Bob Drzyzgula wrote:

> On Thu, Feb 17, 2011 at 11:38 AM, Robert G. Brown <rgb at phy.duke.edu> wrote:
>> Even older guys could still use ed on an actual
>> teletype (not a tty interface, mind you, I'm talking the actual printer
>> terminal).
> Of course. Been there, done that, on a dial-up terminal with a thermal
> printer at 110 baud over an acoustic coupler. If you know how to use
> sed you probably can suss out ed. I had to know how to use edlin in
> DOS, too. But if you had vi at all, you also had ex, so that was a
> much better option.

Yup.  I never really learned ex, but I used it a few times.  And of
course vi on the inside has ex-like commands.

>>  I still more or less
>> constantly pop up strange printscreen windows and so on inside
>> browser-based editors because I forget and I pop a Ctrl-P in trying to
>> move up a line.  My fingers move like lightning, and I can navigate
>> instantly without my fingers leaving the home keys...
> hjkl, at least, just leave you with text you have to edit out. My
> problem is always that ESC can have some very unwanted consequences.

Sure, although in jove ESC is used only for repeat-key (and is usually
followed by a repeat count and the ESC-5-kkkkkey); the meta-key is
mapped to Alt at this point, so one never actually uses ESC unless you
mean it or really mis-hit ` or 1.

Makes it really easy to create 72-char


separators, though...

>> I had the damnedest time when IBM moved the Ctrl-shift and introduced
>> the Alt key.
> http://pckeyboards.stores.yahoo.net/linux101.html

I actually kept my old keyboards until they fell apart and then remapped
keys both, but if you are a sysadmin you have to be able to sit down at
a user's keyboard and work smoothly.  Smoothly does not involve turning
on caps lock every time you try to move the cursor or page up or down or
delete to end of line or...

So you have to pretty much go with what is standard, even if it is
painful and annoying.

>> Naturally, I'd be happy to challenge >>anybody<< to a typing
>> speed/prolixity dual... and a lot of my speed advantage is, in fact, due
>> to my use of jove....
> I've certainly had dyed-in-the-wool emacs users be shocked at how fast
> I could make complex edits to system files in vi. Again, it's all a
> matter of what you've trained your fingers to do.

And I appreciate that.  Similarly, I can do some things very quickly in
jove, but they might well be different things.  Jove definitely doesn't
directly grok regexps and can only do variations of global replace with
or without asking you per swap.  But sed is only an Alt-X S, Alt-S away,
and I keep a few sed scripts around that predefine some particularly
useful global swap variants.

As you say, it is what your fingers know how to do, and how you use the
WHOLE unix/linux CLI toolbox to do work.  vi is arguably closer to the
Unix Way of many small tools that in concert do big jobs in an
expert-friendly environment; it is like an oven that will good your
food, but you have to do all the prep and provide the pots and pans.
Emacs is the diametric opposite -- one tool that will make, bake, and
eat your meatloaf for you (and then do the dishes afterward in the
kitchen sink that some kindly soul wrote in lisp and then added).  jove
splits the difference -- it can make and bake well enough and has
various clever features like a built in rotissary and a convection
blower, but still needs some help from tools and pots and pans on the
side and it very definitely won't eat your food or do the dishes.  No
kitchen sink in jove, no way to put one there.

Now, after mutilating THAT metaphor, back to work...;-)


Robert G. Brown	                       http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb/
Duke University Dept. of Physics, Box 90305
Durham, N.C. 27708-0305
Phone: 1-919-660-2567  Fax: 919-660-2525     email:rgb at phy.duke.edu

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