How to type when using Emacs?

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SomeDeveloper

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Jul 9, 2008, 11:22:57 AM7/9/08
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Hello,

Just getting started with Emacs. Would like to get advice on how to
train finger movement when learning/using Emacs.

Should I try to continue to follow standard, English typing rules...
where you park your fingers on the home-row, and then press a key only
with the finger reserved for it? Or, should I feel free to jump
arbitrarily or do whatever is necessary/convenient to become effective
longer-term?

Saw an article or two on the Net ( http://steve.yegge.googlepages.com/effective-emacs
) where the authors are recommending swapping CAPS and CTRL keys. Not
sure if this by itself would be enough, or if I would need to also
break standard typing rules?

For example: If I had to type
C-x t C-u 8 0

using the standard typing rules, I would use
<finger> ( <for-key> )

Right pinky (C)
Left ring finger (x)
Left pinky (C)
Right index finger (u)
Right middle finger (8)
Right pinky (0)

How would you type the above? Similarly, an example recommendation of
a complicated, Meta key combination would also help.

Hoping to hear from Emacs experts and veterans. Thanks...

Regards,
/SD

Alan Mackenzie

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Jul 9, 2008, 2:47:10 PM7/9/08
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SomeDeveloper <somede...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Hello,

Hi!



> Just getting started with Emacs. Would like to get advice on how to
> train finger movement when learning/using Emacs.

I've used Emacs a lot for a long time. What I'm about to say works for
me, but there's no guarantee it'll work for you. I suggest you take
everybody's suggestions here and try them out. Then put them together
in the way which works for you.

> Should I try to continue to follow standard, English typing rules...
> where you park your fingers on the home-row, and then press a key only
> with the finger reserved for it? Or, should I feel free to jump
> arbitrarily or do whatever is necessary/convenient to become effective
> longer-term?

I stick to English touch-typing rules. If you can do it, I'd stick with
this. However, I've also got a secondary "home position", with my right
hand down by the 4 arrow keys (middle, ring, pinky), <ctrl> (thumb) and
<shift> (fore).

> Saw an article or two on the Net ( http://steve.yegge.googlepages.com/effective-emacs
> ) where the authors are recommending swapping CAPS and CTRL keys. Not
> sure if this by itself would be enough, or if I would need to also
> break standard typing rules?

I tried this once, but it didn't gain me enough to make it worth the
hassle of re-learning.

> For example: If I had to type
> C-x t C-u 8 0

> using the standard typing rules, I would use
> <finger> ( <for-key> )
>
> Right pinky (C)
> Left ring finger (x)
> Left pinky (C)
> Right index finger (u)
> Right middle finger (8)
> Right pinky (0)

> How would you type the above? Similarly, an example recommendation of
> a complicated, Meta key combination would also help.

For some reason, I only use my LH for <ctrl> (apart from as described
above). So my finger-sequence would be:

L Pinky, L Middle (C-x)
L Fore (t)
L Pinky, R Index (C-u)
R Index (8)
R ring (0)

> Hoping to hear from Emacs experts and veterans. Thanks...

> Regards,
> /SD

--
Alan Mackenzie (Nuremberg, Germany).

Xah

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Jul 9, 2008, 4:24:13 PM7/9/08
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About touch-typing habits when using emacs shortcuts keys ...

I've done some research in the past few years and wrote few articles
on this ... Please see:

• How To Avoid The Emacs Pinky Problem
http://xahlee.org/emacs/emacs_pinky.html

• Why Emacs's Keyboard Shortcuts Are Painful
http://xahlee.org/emacs/emacs_kb_shortcuts_pain.html

• A Ergonomic Keyboard Shortcut Layout
http://xahlee.org/emacs/ergonomic_emacs_keybinding.html

Personally, i've been using my ergo shortcut map for a year now.

Here's my “.emacs” for keybinding:

http://xahlee.org/emacs/ergonomic_keybinding_unbind.el
http://xahlee.org/emacs/ergonomic_keybinding_dvorak.el
http://xahlee.org/emacs/xah_emacs_kbd_shortcuts.el

Xah
http://xahlee.org/


On Jul 9, 8:22 am, SomeDeveloper <somedevelo...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Hello,
>
> Just getting started with Emacs. Would like to get advice on how to
> train finger movement when learning/using Emacs.
>
> Should I try to continue to follow standard, English typing rules...
> where you park your fingers on the home-row, and then press a key only
> with the finger reserved for it? Or, should I feel free to jump
> arbitrarily or do whatever is necessary/convenient to become effective
> longer-term?
>

> Saw an article or two on the Net (http://steve.yegge.googlepages.com/effective-emacs

Message has been deleted

William Case

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Jul 9, 2008, 11:31:12 PM7/9/08
to SomeDeveloper, help-gn...@gnu.org
Glad you asked;

I always felt too much of a newbie to ask; although I have been using
emacs on and off for three years.

I hope many experienced users take the time to respond. I for one will
be watching this thread closely.

On Wed, 2008-07-09 at 08:22 -0700, SomeDeveloper wrote:
> Hello,
>
> Just getting started with Emacs. Would like to get advice on how to
> train finger movement when learning/using Emacs.
>

[snip]
> /SD
--
Regards Bill;
Fedora 9, Gnome 2.22.2
Evo.2.22.2, Emacs 22.2.1

Lennart Borgman (gmail)

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Jul 10, 2008, 4:04:30 AM7/10/08
to SomeDeveloper, help-gn...@gnu.org

SomeDeveloper wrote:
> Hello,
>
> Just getting started with Emacs. Would like to get advice on how to
> train finger movement when learning/using Emacs.
>
> Should I try to continue to follow standard, English typing rules...
> where you park your fingers on the home-row, and then press a key only
> with the finger reserved for it?

I always use normal touch-typing rules. Maybe that would be difficult if
I did not use sticky keys/modifiers:

http://www.emacswiki.org/cgi-bin/wiki/StickyModifiers

Beside that I try to use what I am accustomed to. So I turn on cua-mode
and viper-mode.


Thien-Thi Nguyen

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Jul 10, 2008, 3:33:42 AM7/10/08
to SomeDeveloper, help-gn...@gnu.org
() SomeDeveloper <somede...@gmail.com>
() Wed, 9 Jul 2008 08:22:57 -0700 (PDT)

Or, should I feel free to jump arbitrarily or do whatever is
necessary/convenient to become effective longer-term?

stillness of mind sought,
hands unbud (one nanosec):
jam the Right key now.

focusing all thought,
no one but NSA cares
your tapping Fist how.

thi


Joel J. Adamson

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Jul 10, 2008, 3:40:59 PM7/10/08
to SomeDeveloper, help-gn...@gnu.org
SomeDeveloper <somede...@gmail.com> writes:

> Hello,

Okay, before I read everyone else's responses, as I am academically
curious after seeing the bad typing habits of some fellow heavy keyboard
users...

> Just getting started with Emacs. Would like to get advice on how to
> train finger movement when learning/using Emacs.
>
> Should I try to continue to follow standard, English typing rules...
> where you park your fingers on the home-row, and then press a key only
> with the finger reserved for it?

Absolutely --- do not hunt and peck, do not use two fingers on the same
hand at the same time, except in emergencies. Hold your wrists up from
the table when you type and take frequent breaks.

> Or, should I feel free to jump arbitrarily or do whatever is
> necessary/convenient to become effective longer-term?

Hmmm??? How are you going to develop your own typing strategy from
scratch? Just curious on this one.

>
> Saw an article or two on the Net (
>http://steve.yegge.googlepages.com/effective-emacs ) where the authors
>are recommending swapping CAPS and CTRL keys. Not sure if this by
>itself would be enough, or if I would need to also break standard
>typing rules?

Well, no, because in "standard typing" --- on a typewriter --- there is
no control key, only the shift key. Caps lock was located the left of
"A" on some typewriter keyboards (some had a big shift key); however you
may find caps lock unnecessary after a while. I have stopped using it.
I wrote a function that capitalizes the previous word, and I use Emacs'
Abbrev-mode for certain capitalization.

I learned to type on an IBM Selectric, and have always used the home
keys method. I have never NEVER had a repetitive strain injury or any
difficulty reaching keys. Emacs came quite naturally to me. I actually
found keyboard use in other programs quite difficult since I was used to
the more fluid finger movement that Emacs encourages with its modifier keys.

> For example: If I had to type
> C-x t C-u 8 0
>
> using the standard typing rules, I would use
> <finger> ( <for-key> )
>
> Right pinky (C)
> Left ring finger (x)
> Left pinky (C)
> Right index finger (u)
> Right middle finger (8)
> Right pinky (0)
>
> How would you type the above? Similarly, an example recommendation of
> a complicated, Meta key combination would also help.

I would type it exactly as above. I've seen people do "C-x C-f" with
one hand and it looks like it would kill their wrists after a while. I
certainly do it faster than any of them.

Joel

;; backward-upcase
,----
| (defun backward-upcase (&optional arg)
| "Capitalize the previous word; with optional arg, capitalize
| the previous arg words"
| (interactive "P")
| (let ((words (if arg arg 1)))
| (upcase-word (- 0 words))))
`----


--
Joel J. Adamson
(303) 880-3109
Public key: http://pgp.mit.edu
http://www.unc.edu/~adamsonj
http://trashbird1240.blogspot.com


Joel J. Adamson

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Jul 10, 2008, 3:45:11 PM7/10/08
to SomeDeveloper, help-gn...@gnu.org
SomeDeveloper <somede...@gmail.com> writes:

> Saw an article or two on the Net (
> http://steve.yegge.googlepages.com/effective-emacs ) where the authors
> are recommending swapping CAPS and CTRL keys. Not sure if this by
> itself would be enough, or if I would need to also break standard
> typing rules?

Sorry, forgot to fill this in:

I do recommend making the key to the left of "A" a control key; it has
saved me a lot of motion and increased my speed while using Emacs.
However, it's hard to remember that for my wife's desktop, it's still
Caps Lock, and sometimes I end up repeating my typing.

Here's my .Xmodmap file (in case you're using a Unix-like system):

clear lock
!move the control function to the caps lock key
keycode 66 = Control_L
!make the menu key the Caps_Lock key
!keycode 117 = Caps_Lock
!move the menu function to the Left control key
keycode 37 = Menu
!add lock = Caps_Lock
add control = Control_L

With this modification, by chance, the "menu key" is now "M-x"

Joel

Miles Bader

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Jul 10, 2008, 7:58:32 PM7/10/08
to
adam...@email.unc.edu (Joel J. Adamson) writes:
> I do recommend making the key to the left of "A" a control key; it has
> saved me a lot of motion and increased my speed while using Emacs.
> However, it's hard to remember that for my wife's desktop, it's still
> Caps Lock, and sometimes I end up repeating my typing.

I suspect she wants a HHKB (happy hacking keyboard) for her birthday...

-Miles

--
Twice, adv. Once too often.

Joel J. Adamson

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Jul 10, 2008, 9:26:53 PM7/10/08
to Miles Bader, help-gn...@gnu.org
Miles Bader <mi...@gnu.org> writes:

Yeah, maybe she wants one for MY birthday ;)

Xah

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Jul 10, 2008, 11:31:47 PM7/10/08
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On Jul 10, 12:45 pm, adams...@email.unc.edu (Joel J. Adamson) wrote:
> I do recommend making the key to the left of "A" a control key; it has
> saved me a lot of motion and increased my speed while using Emacs.
> However, it's hard to remember that for my wife's desktop, it's still
> Caps Lock, and sometimes I end up repeating my typing.

Turning the Cap Lock key into the Control key is one of the bad advice
in keyboarding. It's one of the myth that perpetuate bad practice.

• It is one of the difficult key to press on the keyboard, pressed by
the pinky.

• It puts all stress on the left pinky.

• It forces the left hand to cram into spider legs positions, and or
the rigth hand flies about wildly.

• It renders many Control-‹key› spots void, since now with only one
pinky many otherwise good Ctrl-‹key› spots are hard to use.

• The left hand now constantly shift from home position.

Here's good tips:

• buy a keyboard with Control on both sides of keyboard.

• buy a keyboard such that left Control to F is the same as right
Control to J. (i.e. the modifier keys are placed symmetrically to your
home's home position)

• Press modifier keys using both hands, like how Shift key is pressed
in touch typing rules.

• On most fullsized PC keyboard, it's very easy to use palm or semi-
fist to press Control key. Do this and save Pinky.

Details:

How To Avoid The Emacs Pinky Problem
http://xahlee.org/emacs/emacs_pinky.html

Xah
http://xahlee.org/

SomeDeveloper

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Jul 11, 2008, 12:59:15 AM7/11/08
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On Jul 11, 12:40 am, adams...@email.unc.edu (Joel J. Adamson) wrote:

> SomeDeveloper <somedevelo...@gmail.com> writes:
>
> > Or, should I feel free to jump arbitrarily or do whatever is
> > necessary/convenient to become effective longer-term?
>
> Hmmm???  How are you going to develop your own typing strategy from
> scratch?  Just curious on this one.

Correct, not so much of a 'strategy' but anything sufficiently ad
hoc / lousy... is what I intended to mean.

I've seen very interesting responses so far. Was a li'l hesitant
initially, whether to post or not to post. Am so glad I did post it,
finally. To all those who have taken the time to respond so far to
this thread: THANK you!

Wondering if, St IGNUcius (Mr Stallman) too is reading this, and if
yes, if he would mind dropping by, even if it be for a few minutes
only...

Cezar Halmagean

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Jul 11, 2008, 2:43:02 AM7/11/08
to help-gn...@gnu.org
Xah <xah...@gmail.com> writes:

>
> How To Avoid The Emacs Pinky Problem
> http://xahlee.org/emacs/emacs_pinky.html
>
> Xah
> ∑ http://xahlee.org/
>

Thanks for that Xah, really helpfull.

Cezar

Miles Bader

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Jul 11, 2008, 2:58:03 AM7/11/08
to
Cezar Halmagean <ce...@mixandgo.com> writes:
>> How To Avoid The Emacs Pinky Problem
>> http://xahlee.org/emacs/emacs_pinky.html
>
> Thanks for that Xah, really helpfull.

One thing you'll learn on this group though, take _everything_ Xahlee
says with a huge grain of salt. He has his own wacky theories about
almost everything, many of which are just plain daft...

-Miles

--
Bigot, n. One who is obstinately and zealously attached to an opinion that
you do not entertain.

don provan

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Jul 11, 2008, 2:48:47 PM7/11/08
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Xah <xah...@gmail.com> writes:

> Turning the Cap Lock key into the Control key is one of the bad advice
> in keyboarding. It's one of the myth that perpetuate bad practice.

I think this comment is based on limited experience with keyboards.
I've found that most modern keyboards are, in fact, OK as is, and I
suppose in that sense this is a "myth" because people think it applies
to standard Windows keyboards. Certainly on a standard keyboard,
making caps lock control is just silly, putting control exactly where
you don't want it, as Xah says. (On the other hand, if you do this
while leaving control as control, it amounts to simply disabling caps
lock, which is, of course, a good thing but has nothing to do with
where control is.)

But there are some keyboards (I once had one that came with a Sun
workstation) that are simply miserable in the placement of control and
caps lock, simultaneously making it hard to hit control and way, *way*
too easy to accidentally hit caps lock. (As I recall, the placement
had all the flaws Xah sees in what would happen if you did swapped
them on a standard windows keyboard, plus a couple others.) If you add
to that the fact that the layout was different in ways that were just
obnoxious compared to the standard windows layout, and there really
was no way to remain sane without swapping those keys.

-don

p.s. Let me second the warning about Xah to newbies. I find that
although his observations can be quite illuminating, his conclusions
often strike me as raucuously incorrect. But judge for yourself.

don provan

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Jul 11, 2008, 3:04:12 PM7/11/08
to
SomeDeveloper <somede...@gmail.com> writes:

> Just getting started with Emacs. Would like to get advice on how to
> train finger movement when learning/using Emacs.

I touch type, just making a slight adjustment for the left pinkie when
necessary to issue commands. Keep in mind that the whole idea of Emacs
text entry is that you enter text normally, and issuing commands is a
exception involving doing something physically different such as
holding down control. So whatever you do, in my opinion, it should be
very easy to type normally. I actually make a couple of adjustments to
the commands to avoid having to go off base for common commands. (I
use ^H for backspace, for example.)

I also avoid using the keypad keys for the most part.

Speaking of left pinkie and Xah's suggestion that you use right
control, I rarely use right control. To a large extent this is habit,
but I think it's also because of something else Xah said: I find that
on most keyboards, right control is way too far away. If you can find
a keyboard with control pulled in to the position Xah suggests, you
might find right control more useful. But do you want to get in the
habit and then have to deal with it when you end up using a standard
layout with right control way out in right field?

-don

Evans Winner

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Jul 11, 2008, 2:57:24 PM7/11/08
to
Miles Bader <miles...@necel.com> writes:

One thing you'll learn on this group though, take
_everything_ Xahlee says with a huge grain of salt. He
has his own wacky theories about almost everything, many
of which are just plain daft...

I found his page about the ``Emacs-Pinky Problem'' very
interesting. I was never properly trained on touch-typing,
so my technique is an ad hoc evolution of hunt-and-peck to
about sixty wpm if I am really trying. I had never
seriously thought about the possibility of using (gasp)
/both/ the shift keys, or /both/ the alt or control keys.
So that already is useful.

I am also considering buying one of those Microsoft
keyboards that splits into a distinct right-hand and
left-hand portion. From a brief examination at a store it
seems as if it might help me train myself out of some of my
pianist's ``hand-over'' techniques that I use (and that are,
I am sure, quite inefficient).

I have a few of questions and comments inspired by Mr. Lee's
page:

1. I have not tried the Dvorak layout but might like to.
Have you ever tried the ``Programmer's Dvorak[1]''? Any
thoughts? I know that coding in lisp and in xml-like
languages, not having (, ), <, and > on shifted keys and
having them in convenient and left/right balanced positions
would be nice.

2. Also regarding Dvorak, is there a good way to re-label
keys that you know of? Something for a shared PC would be
nice if it, for example, had QWERTY labels in one color, and
Dvorak in another. Maybe just print out letters on envelope
label paper...?

3. I notice that you recommend swapping ctrl and alt at
least under some circumstances. I have been a pretty happy
user of the caps-lock/ctrl swap for some time. For me it
feels more awkward to tuck my thumb under my hand to hit alt
than it is to move my pinky slightly left to hit ctrl. Am I
unusual in this?

4. I have noticed some advice here and there to swap the
escape key with the key left of the `1' key, making it much
closer. Since Emacs uses alt and Escape nearly
interchangeably, maybe that would be the smart thing to do,
and then use escape instead of alt -- and then you get the
benefit of not having to hold down the key while hitting
whatever other key. In any case, actually maybe swapping
escape with alt would be something to try....

5. And speaking of holding down keys, I have noticed that
people seem to say that, for instance, hitting C-x C-f would
mean hitting ctrl, then hitting x, then hitting ctrl and
hitting f. But I (and I imagine most people) actually hit
ctrl only once and hold it down for the whole operation in
many cases.

Footnotes:
[1] http://www.kaufmann.ro/roland/dvorak/

Evans Winner

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Jul 11, 2008, 3:14:02 PM7/11/08
to
don provan <dpr...@comcast.net> writes:

Certainly on a standard keyboard, making caps lock

control is just silly [...]

I am not clear still about why this is. I find it much
harder and more disturbing of my hand position to have to
scrunch my pinky way under and left to hit normal ctrl than
to simply move it an inch left. I mean, I am, as I
mentioned in a previous post, not an expert touch-typist, so
maybe there are factors I am not ware of, but I find it much
easier to use Emacs (and everything else, actually) with
ctrl and caps-lock swapped. I have two computers at home
(Gnu/Linux and NetBSD) mapped that way, and two computers at
work (Windows) and much prefer it so far (ca. 6 months). I
also have to constantly type on other people's PCs that are
not mapped that way. My feeling for it is that I have had a
pretty good opportunity to use both, compare directly and
not be able to totally base my opinion on habit, since I
have to switch back and forth a lot. So, for what that's
worth, I have to say that it is (or at any rate feels) like
I am able to work faster and more smoothly with the swapped
keys.

But then, I do not have the kind of keyboard Mr. Lee
suggests, and I do like in principle the idea of simply
rocking the hand and palming the keys. So I would like to
give it a try.

harven

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Jul 11, 2008, 3:33:33 PM7/11/08
to
Hi,

I am typing on a laptop keyboard. Switching the control and
caps lock key really was a big relief for me.

Another spot that some people consider is right to the side
of the space bar. This is however the standard position for
the meta key on many keyboards, and a perfect position for it.

I use now the meta key as much as I use the control key.
I think that this will be the case for you as soon as your
emacs skills improve. These two modifiers are really meant
to work together e.g. to reach some point on the line, first
jump over words with M-f then move into the word with
C-f. The combination of the two modifiers also gives
you access to powerful commands -- try for example
C-M-f or C-M-k in front of a parenthesis group.
A well-balanced use of the meta and control
modifiers makes for faster editing and halves the use
of the control key.

Finally, if you want to learn touch-typing, you may want
to have a look to the dvorak layout. See eg
http://dvzine.org/ for more information on this layout.
You don't need any special keyboard, since
the goal is to type without looking at the keys.
I followed the abcd lesson from
http://www.gigliwood.com/abcd/abcd.html
45 mn a day, became able to touch-type
with this layout in three weeks, and reached a decent speed
of 50 wpm in three months. I should say that I tried many
times to learn to touch-type with the standard qwerty layout,
without success.

tyler

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Jul 11, 2008, 5:34:08 PM7/11/08
to help-gn...@gnu.org
Evans Winner <tho...@timbral.net> writes:

> don provan <dpr...@comcast.net> writes:
>
> Certainly on a standard keyboard, making caps lock
> control is just silly [...]
>
> I am not clear still about why this is. I find it much
> harder and more disturbing of my hand position to have to
> scrunch my pinky way under and left to hit normal ctrl than
> to simply move it an inch left.

I find the standard positions of the control keys a bit awkward, but for
me, the alt key is definitely worse. I can't hit it with my palm or
whatever it was Xah suggested, nor is it really accessible with my
thumbs. I have little hands, so I may be unusual in this respect.

Anyways, I've remapped capslock to alt, and it has made a lot of the
emacs key-chords available from 'home position'. I know I'm supposed to
use the modifier keys with the opposite hand as the modified key, but
when I'm hopping through text it's a lot easier to rest my left pinky on
caps lock and tap b, f or d with other fingers on my left hand, than to
contort my right hand to access the other alt key. I've had some serious
repetitive strain issues in other venues (former musician), but I've
never yet suffered from the 'emacs pinky' with this setup.

My two cents. Interesting thread!

Tyler

--
Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing.
--Wernher von Braun

Florian Beck

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Jul 11, 2008, 6:34:18 PM7/11/08
to
harven <har...@free.fr> writes:

> Hi,
>
> I am typing on a laptop keyboard. Switching the control and
> caps lock key really was a big relief for me.

For me too. I rediscovered Emacs about a year ago, and I am almost
exclusively working on my laptop. Using the former CAPS key for CTR
means I only have to move my little finger *one* position from home row
(as opposed to one to the left and two down for the former CONTROL.) I
wouldn't outright dismiss Xah's recommendation, though: it really
depends on your keyboard – if Xah can press CONTROL with his palm, his
keyboard is very different from mine.

So, how to type - that *also* depends on your keyboard. In my case,
CONTROL is almost home row, just left of the »a«. What I would recommend
is to distinguish between commands you use during editing and all other
commands. Command *frequency* is not really the issue. It is more about
work flow. Everything I use when I write has to be near home row, modulo
CTR and META. I use C-j for return (which is *three* steps from home
row) and have bound C-h to backspace.

In my setup, the control keys are somewhat asymmetrically, the right one
being below »_«. This is something you get used to quickly, I think. I
use them pretty much like the SHIFT keys.

Also, I would recommend not to waste home row keybindings on convenience
commands. Even if you are using them as often as once per minute (help
for example), moving my fingers does not hurt in this case. I bound all
convenience commands to ESC (alias C-ü in my case), eg »ESC f m« for
setting the default font to monospace.

So, my recommendation is: learn touch typing, perhaps move your control
key (depending on your keyboard) and rebind any key you feel is awkward
to reach.

Oh, by the way: if you have a non-US keyboard and you do a lot of
programming you might think about switching back some keys to the US
position, or some other convenient one (e.g »{» or »[»). Other keys I
have thought about rebinding are the number keys: nicely placed,
(relatively) rarely used and duplicated on the numpad.

Finally, if you are using X, you should definitely make your keyboard
use ALT, SUPER, HYPER and COMPOSE. (Probably not for editing, though, I
use ALT for »viewing« (e.g. ALT-u outline-up-heading), SUPER for
rearranging (transposing paragraphs) and reserve HYPER for my window
manager).

>
> Another spot that some people consider is right to the side
> of the space bar. This is however the standard position for
> the meta key on many keyboards, and a perfect position for it.
>
> I use now the meta key as much as I use the control key.
> I think that this will be the case for you as soon as your
> emacs skills improve. These two modifiers are really meant
> to work together e.g. to reach some point on the line, first
> jump over words with M-f then move into the word with
> C-f. The combination of the two modifiers also gives
> you access to powerful commands -- try for example
> C-M-f or C-M-k in front of a parenthesis group.
> A well-balanced use of the meta and control
> modifiers makes for faster editing and halves the use
> of the control key.

Definitely. I placed my meta key just above CONTROL (i.e. where the tab
key was – which swapped which whatever was above it). Do not be afraid
to heavily modify your .Xmodmap.

> Finally, if you want to learn touch-typing, you may want
> to have a look to the dvorak layout.

I would love to, but I cannot change my keyboard.
--
Florian Beck

Memnon Anon

unread,
Jul 11, 2008, 8:28:36 PM7/11/08
to
On 9 Jul., 17:22, SomeDeveloper <somedevelo...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Hello,
>
> Just getting started withEmacs. Would like to get advice on how to

> train finger movement when learning/usingEmacs.
>
Hi!

I am also quite new to emacs.
The first thing I did was mapping caps lock to control.
I tend to press keys quite heavily and using the usual
caps lock postitions is quite painfull after an hour or so.

Another tip I read was to curl your pinkie to press control.
I do this quite a lot for my right hand, because I really try to use
both hands. But my joint still hurts pretty soon actually.

I still recommend curling your right pinkie. It is just a matter of
habbit.

Thanks for your question! You reminded me of an idea I once
had and I am again investigating if it works somehow.
Using my Thinkpad X30, the mouse buttons are right
under my thumbs. (Alt/Meta really is not!)
So I try to find a way to map mouse 1 or 3 (pressed) +
any key to Control + any key and mouse 2 (pressed) +
any key to Alt/Meta + any key.

This would be really convenient, at least on my board.
Still found no really solution to do this.
Any suggestions are really appreciated!

tyler

unread,
Jul 11, 2008, 9:13:40 PM7/11/08
to help-gn...@gnu.org
Memnon Anon <gegendos...@googlemail.com> writes:

>
> Thanks for your question! You reminded me of an idea I once
> had and I am again investigating if it works somehow.
> Using my Thinkpad X30, the mouse buttons are right
> under my thumbs. (Alt/Meta really is not!)
> So I try to find a way to map mouse 1 or 3 (pressed) +
> any key to Control + any key and mouse 2 (pressed) +
> any key to Alt/Meta + any key.
>
> This would be really convenient, at least on my board.
> Still found no really solution to do this.
> Any suggestions are really appreciated!

I would love to be able to use those three mouse buttons that fall right
under my thumbs instead of (or in addition to) the alt/ctr/hyper keys.
Does anyone know if this is possible?

Cheers,

Tyler


--
"Windows Vista includes an array of "features" that you don't want.
These features will make your computer less reliable and less secure...
less stable and run slower... And these features won't do anything
useful. In fact, they're working against you." --Bruce Schneier

http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2007/02/drm_in_windows.html

David

unread,
Jul 12, 2008, 3:00:36 AM7/12/08
to help-gn...@gnu.org
don provan <dpr...@comcast.net> writes:
> I've found that most modern keyboards are, in fact, OK as is, and I
> suppose in that sense this is a "myth" because people think it applies
> to standard Windows keyboards.

I second that it very much depends on the keyboard, but it is also very
different what people consider to be "painful". For example, I find
movements where the thumb has to slip under the palm painful (often
needed when pressing Alt/Meta), while others are perfectly happy with
this.

I'd also like to point to this one from the Ratpoison wiki:

http://ratpoison.antidesktop.net/wiki/Tweaks

It says to use the number keys as modifiers. I tried that, and it's
actually not too bad. The problem is - where to put the numbers? I put
them on w,e,r,s,d,f,etc., i.e. like a keypad, which is activated using
Mode_switch. It really takes time to get used to, though. I don't know
if I'll stick with it.

-David

Xah

unread,
Jul 12, 2008, 9:08:50 AM7/12/08
to
some more comments for this thread. (and thanks for all the feedback)

On the issue of keymaping, modifier keys, ergonomics... part of the
problem is the keyboard hardware itself.

The standard keyboard out there used by some 99% of computers
worldwide, namely the PC keyboard or Microsoft keyboard; is derived
from the design of type writers.

The design of the type writer itself, is largely concerned about
getting the machine to actually work. Like most inventions, in the
begining the concern is just to get it to work. The concept of
keyboarding ergonomics didn't come about or become popular after few
decades of keyboard use.

Let's consider some examples:

• The Delete key, the Return/Enter key, are among the most usedful
special keys. However, they are placed in the most inconvenient spots

• the vertical key column positions are jagged. i.e. The columns 1QAS,
2WSX, 3EDC, etc, are slanted. Worse is that the jagging is not a
regular like a triangular grid, but in a ad hoc slant from top left to
bottom right. So, for example, going from key D to E, your left index
finger moves upwards and in the direction of your pinky. Going from K
to I, your right finger also moves upward but in the direction of your
thumb.

• The number of keys for the Left and right are not symmetric.

` 12345 67890 -=
QWERT YUIOP []\
ASDFG HJKL; '
ZXCVB NM,./

Notice in the above pict, how the right side has lots of extra keys.

So, all of the above, makes today's conventional keyboard really a bad
piece of hardware.

One keyboard that is well known and loved, is the Kinesis keyboard.
Which fixed all of the above problems.

For keyboard gallery with photos and more detailed commentary, see:
http://xahlee.org/emacs/keyboards.html

Now, when we consider the placement of modifier keys, or consider
keymapping, or consider optimal keybindings for emacs, the given PC
keyboard hardware puts a lot constraint.

-------------------

There are many variety of input devices in the past 2 decades, roughly
intended to replace the keyboard. (few of them based on “chording”.
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chording_keyboard ) Some of them are
good in priciple but maybe bad in practice. Perhaps some of them are
truely good. None of them actually caught on. (except the Kenesis in
some degree) The main problem is getting people to change (if there's
such a need at all). The PC keyboard, although its fairly bad when
considered ergonomically, but it works ok. It is widespread, and most
people who has to use a keyboard, dont need to type that much. Vast
majority of computer users today, use computer to read news, watch
video, play music, play games. Typing does not happen that much. Even
for programers, perhaps a majority dont need to do continuous,
intensive, typing in prolonged hours. They don't want to change,
partly because they dont need to. As a fact, a lot professional
programers who code 8 hours a day, do not even touch type.

The problem is similar to the dvorak keymap. Radical change is hard to
get adapted. Radical change is costy.

small change or gradual change do happen. For example, most keyboard
sold today has several special buttons that launch apps or control mp3
players. The split ergonomic keyboards also been widely adapted. Mouse
has become universal since mid 1995, and mouse wheel since Microsoft
introduced/popularized it in late 1990s.

Large Ctrl Alt keys, on both sides of keyboard, symmetrically
distanced to left and right home row keys, are on Microsoft's
ergonomic keyboards.

On the key layout side, the dvorak is now available on all major
operating systems, and as far as i know there are gradually more
programers using it.

Xah
http://xahlee.org/


Joel J. Adamson

unread,
Jul 11, 2008, 2:01:14 PM7/11/08
to Xah, help-gn...@gnu.org
Xah <xah...@gmail.com> writes:

> On Jul 10, 12:45 pm, adams...@email.unc.edu (Joel J. Adamson) wrote:
>> I do recommend making the key to the left of "A" a control key; it has
>> saved me a lot of motion and increased my speed while using Emacs.
>> However, it's hard to remember that for my wife's desktop, it's still
>> Caps Lock, and sometimes I end up repeating my typing.
>
> Turning the Cap Lock key into the Control key is one of the bad advice
> in keyboarding. It's one of the myth that perpetuate bad practice.
>
> • It is one of the difficult key to press on the keyboard, pressed by
> the pinky.

Utter nonsense: it is as easy to press as any other key on the
keyboard. This will obviously depend on your model of keyboard.

> • It puts all stress on the left pinky.

I don't feel any more stress than when I press any key.

I use a Logitech EX 110 wireless keyboard, a keyboard designed for
Windows. With my .Xmodmap, everything is very comfortable.

> • It forces the left hand to cram into spider legs positions, and or
> the rigth hand flies about wildly.

More nonsense: This is all dependent on a typist's technique, not an
externally imposed force of nature.

> • It renders many Control-‹key› spots void, since now with only one
> pinky many otherwise good Ctrl-‹key› spots are hard to use.

Evan more nonsense: I have two control keys; nothing in my .Xmodmap
configuration removes the right control key.

> • The left hand now constantly shift from home position.

No more than my right hand does when I depress the apostrophe key
(directly to the right of ";"

> Here's good tips:
>
> • buy a keyboard with Control on both sides of keyboard.

Not hard.

> • Press modifier keys using both hands, like how Shift key is pressed
> in touch typing rules.

Duh. If you're following touch-typing, then you are doing this by definition.

> • On most fullsized PC keyboard, it's very easy to use palm or semi-
> fist to press Control key. Do this and save Pinky.

That sounds to me like it would move the hand out of home position ...

Do you hold your wrists up when you type? If you do then none of this
advice is necessary.

Sean Sieger

unread,
Jul 15, 2008, 10:37:25 PM7/15/08
to help-gn...@gnu.org
Evans Winner <tho...@timbral.net> writes:

I was never properly trained on touch-typing,
so my technique is an ad hoc evolution of hunt-and-peck to
about sixty wpm if I am really trying. I had never
seriously thought about the possibility of using (gasp)
/both/ the shift keys, or /both/ the alt or control keys.

The only computer game that I ever thought worth playing is gtypist.

And, a little extreme, but once you go from hunt-and-peck to 60 wpm
touch typing, you may not think so: as input devices go, hunt-and-peck
on a keyboard is like kicking a mouse around with your foot.

David Combs

unread,
Aug 9, 2008, 10:47:01 AM8/9/08
to
In article <mailman.14500.12157191...@gnu.org>,

Joel J. Adamson <adam...@email.unc.edu> wrote:
>
>I would type it exactly as above. I've seen people do "C-x C-f" with
>one hand and it looks like it would kill their wrists after a while. I
>certainly do it faster than any of them.

Huh?

I hold down the control with my left pinky, and then hit x and f.

Easy, man.

(It does help to have a Sun Type-6 keyboard, with the control
key exactly where it should be, just left of "A".)

David


David Combs

unread,
Aug 9, 2008, 10:52:23 AM8/9/08
to
In article <03a7c17e-9187-422b...@k30g2000hse.googlegroups.com>,
Xah <xah...@gmail.com> wrote:
...

>
>• buy a keyboard with Control on both sides of keyboard.
>
>• buy a keyboard such that left Control to F is the same as right
>Control to J. (i.e. the modifier keys are placed symmetrically to your
>home's home position)
>
Brands? Prices?

David


Xah

unread,
Aug 9, 2008, 11:07:23 AM8/9/08
to
On Aug 9, 7:52 am, dkco...@panix.com (David Combs) wrote:

> In article <03a7c17e-9187-422b-be26-092e15d55...@k30g2000hse.googlegroups.com>,Xah <xah...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> ...
>
> >• buy a keyboard with Control on both sides of keyboard.
>
> >• buy a keyboard such that left Control to F is the same as right
> >Control to J. (i.e. the modifier keys are placed symmetrically to your
> >home's home position)
>
> Brands? Prices?

I believe all Microsoft's ergonomic keyboards have the modifier keys
placed symmetrically to the home position keys. I myself is using “The
Microsoft Natural Multimedia Keyboard”. For review, see:

A Review of Microsoft Natural Keyboards
http://xahlee.org/emacs/ms_keyboard/ms_natural_keyboard.html

Also, about maybe last year i looked, most of the cheapest generic pc
keyboards these days also have the modifier keys symmetrically placed
to the F and J keys. Although i think their right Control is more to
the right because the added a menu key on the right side.

Xah
http://xahlee.org/


David Combs

unread,
Aug 9, 2008, 11:07:54 AM8/9/08
to
In article <8763rcm...@sophokles.streitblatt.de>,
Florian Beck <abstr...@t-online.de> wrote:
...

>
>Finally, if you are using X, you should definitely make your keyboard
>use ALT, SUPER, HYPER and COMPOSE. (Probably not for editing, though, I
>use ALT for »viewing« (e.g. ALT-u outline-up-heading), SUPER for
>rearranging (transposing paragraphs) and reserve HYPER for my window
>manager).

I try to stay away from windows and use primarily
a sun and solaris. And emacs, of course.

Now, you talk about ALT, SUPER, HYPER, and COMPOSE.

For emacs, what do you use those keys for?


(What are they "supposed" to be used for -- that is,
maybe, what acts or intentions gave them those names?)

Thanks!


David


Xah

unread,
Aug 9, 2008, 3:01:35 PM8/9/08
to
On Aug 9, 7:47 am, dkco...@panix.com (David Combs) wrote:
> In article <mailman.14500.1215719199.18990.help-gnu-em...@gnu.org>,

> Joel J. Adamson <adams...@email.unc.edu> wrote:
>
>
>
> >I would type it exactly as above. I've seen people do "C-x C-f" with
> >one hand and it looks like it would kill their wrists after a while. I
> >certainly do it faster than any of them.
>
> Huh?
>
> I hold down the control with my left pinky, and then hit x and f.
>
> Easy, man.
>
> (It does help to have a Sun Type-6 keyboard, with the control
> key exactly where it should be, just left of "A".)

it is a myth that the proper place for Control key on keyboard is the
one where Caps Lock is at.

I guess the reason Control key is at that location has to do with
earlier computing history. Roughly in the 1980s i think. At the time,
the control key is not much used as a shortcut, but more as a way to
enter non-printable ascii chars. The backdrop is that at the time,
most computer users are simply programers. Business apps such as
spread sheet, word process, didn't become popular until early 1990s.
Drawing apps such as MacDraw, MacPaint, Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator
didn't come about till earlyr 1990s. Than, later, watching movies,
playing games, checking news, stocks, online shopping, didn't come
about till late 1990s. etc. The type of computer users has changed.
Now, the vast majority, perhaps 95% of computer users, are not
programers. And the use of Control key is just a shortcut. As a
shortcut, and as a modifier, it needs to be designed where it is easy
to press. The best place, is by the thumb, as designed in the Kenesis
keyboard.

Xah
http://xahlee.org/


Xah

unread,
Aug 9, 2008, 3:03:34 PM8/9/08
to
On Aug 9, 8:07 am, dkco...@panix.com (David Combs) wrote:
> In article <8763rcm4np....@sophokles.streitblatt.de>,

> Florian Beck <abstrakt...@t-online.de> wrote:
> ...
>
>
>
> >Finally, if you are using X, you should definitely make your keyboard
> >use ALT, SUPER, HYPER and COMPOSE. (Probably not for editing, though, I
> >use ALT for »viewing« (e.g. ALT-u outline-up-heading), SUPER for
> >rearranging (transposing paragraphs) and reserve HYPER for my window
> >manager).
>
> I try to stay away from windows and use primarily
> a sun and solaris. And emacs, of course.
>
> Now, you talk about ALT, SUPER, HYPER, and COMPOSE.
>
> For emacs, what do you use those keys for?

Those came from lisp machine's keyboard.

For a detail explanation and photos of lisp keyboards, see:

Why Emacs's Keyboard Shortcuts Are Painful
http://xahlee.org/emacs/emacs_kb_shortcuts_pain.html

> (What are they "supposed" to be used for -- that is,
> maybe, what acts or intentions gave them those names?)

For a explanation on how these Hyper, Super keys were used, see
Rainer' article at:
http://groups.google.com/group/comp.lang.lisp/msg/3b3dcdc52f507b02

Xah
http://xahlee.org/

Joel J. Adamson

unread,
Aug 9, 2008, 5:14:42 PM8/9/08
to David Combs, help-gn...@gnu.org
>>>>> "David" == David Combs <dkc...@panix.com> writes:

David> In article <mailman.14500.12157191...@gnu.org>,


David> Joel J. Adamson <adam...@email.unc.edu> wrote:
>>
>> I would type it exactly as above. I've seen people do "C-x C-f" with
>> one hand and it looks like it would kill their wrists after a while. I
>> certainly do it faster than any of them.

David> Huh?

David> I hold down the control with my left pinky, and then hit x and f.

The discussion was about touch-typing, wherein the strategy is to hit a
key with one finger on each hand at a time. Holding down a key with
your hand and typing with the same hand is therefore not touch typing.

Lennart Borgman (gmail)

unread,
Aug 9, 2008, 5:36:40 PM8/9/08
to Joel J. Adamson, David Combs, help-gn...@gnu.org
Joel J. Adamson wrote:
>>>>>> "David" == David Combs <dkc...@panix.com> writes:
>
> David> In article <mailman.14500.12157191...@gnu.org>,
> David> Joel J. Adamson <adam...@email.unc.edu> wrote:
> >>
> >> I would type it exactly as above. I've seen people do "C-x C-f" with
> >> one hand and it looks like it would kill their wrists after a while. I
> >> certainly do it faster than any of them.
>
> David> Huh?
>
> David> I hold down the control with my left pinky, and then hit x and f.
>
> The discussion was about touch-typing, wherein the strategy is to hit a
> key with one finger on each hand at a time. Holding down a key with
> your hand and typing with the same hand is therefore not touch typing.


Is not this just one strategy in touch-typing? I personally prefer
Sticky Keys/Sticky Modifiers.


Joel J. Adamson

unread,
Aug 9, 2008, 8:06:32 PM8/9/08
to Lennart Borgman (gmail), David Combs, help-gn...@gnu.org
>>>>> "Lennart" == Lennart Borgman (gmail) <lennart...@gmail.com> writes:

Lennart> Joel J. Adamson wrote:
>>>>>>> "David" == David Combs <dkc...@panix.com> writes:
>>
David> In article <mailman.14500.12157191...@gnu.org>,

David> Joel J. Adamson <adam...@email.unc.edu> wrote:
>> >> >> I would type it exactly as above. I've seen people do
>> "C-x C-f" with
>> >> one hand and it looks like it would kill their wrists after a while. I
>> >> certainly do it faster than any of them.
>>

David> Huh?
>>
David> I hold down the control with my left pinky, and then hit x and f.
>>
>> The discussion was about touch-typing, wherein the strategy is to hit a
>> key with one finger on each hand at a time. Holding down a key with
>> your hand and typing with the same hand is therefore not touch typing.


Lennart> Is not this just one strategy in touch-typing? I personally prefer
Lennart> Sticky Keys/Sticky Modifiers.

As long as that method only involves pressing one key with each hand at
a time, then it is touch-typing. When I used Caps Lock, I would touch
Caps Lock with one hand, then type, then release it.

Jay Belanger

unread,
Aug 9, 2008, 8:49:18 PM8/9/08
to help-gn...@gnu.org, jay.p.b...@gmail.com

"Joel J. Adamson " <adam...@email.unc.edu> writes:
...

> As long as that method only involves pressing one key with each hand at
> a time, then it is touch-typing.

Where did that definition come from?
I've looked up several definitions of touch typing, and none that I've
seen insist that one finger from each hand be used at a time; what's
more, I can hunt and peck while pressing one key with each hand at a
time.


YSK

unread,
Aug 12, 2008, 1:18:43 AM8/12/08
to
On Jul 10, 3:40 pm, adams...@email.unc.edu (Joel J. Adamson) wrote:

> ...do not use two fingers on the same
> hand at the same time, except in emergencies.

Seriously? I do this all the time. Some of my favorite (non-emacs)
shortcuts include stuff like C-M-S-e, all done with my left hand. Is
that bad?

Xah

unread,
Aug 12, 2008, 4:02:06 AM8/12/08
to

yes and no. In general, if you just have one modifier key and one
letter key, the proper touch typing guidline is to use one hand on the
modifier and the other on the letter. Choose the modifier on the other
side of the letter key.

You can test this out.

Try to type this whole sentence in captical letters (but without using
Caps Lock).

First, try it using just the left Shift key. Then try it using the
touch type guidline as above. You'll see how using single hand creates
pain. Similarly, you can try the above with the Control key as
modifier.

When you have multiple modifier, it gets a bit more complex and the
rule applies less. Ultimately, there are several factors involved. For
example, the keyboard hardware is not well designed due to historical
reasons. Secondly, many keyboards such as Apple's that has the right
hand side's modifier far to the right, making them less usable for
touch type. Lastly, the principles of ergonomics presumes you are
doing the task repeatitively for a prolonged time. Else it doesn't
apply. For example, for vast majority of computer users (say 95%),
they only type maybe for 1 hour per day, and there's not much activity
of continued typing more than 5 min. Lots of professional programers
don't even touch type; partly because heavy duty data-entry is not
really part of programing.

And when it comes to Control key, or multiple modifiers, they are not
used that much often, so whichever works for you is ok. However, this
does not mean it's completely a personal issue without any scicentific
or ergonomic principle. For example, of all the styles and anecdotes
you hear about how you should press modifier, you can easily test them
out and find the better one, by say, force yourself to continuously
operate it for 10 min using one way, vs another way. You'll quickly
see which one is more ergonomically sound, or more efficient (faster
and less effort).

Xah
http://xahlee.org/


David Combs

unread,
Aug 23, 2008, 5:44:48 PM8/23/08
to
In article <mailman.16246.12183178...@gnu.org>,
Lennart Borgman (gmail) <lennart...@gmail.com> wrote:
...

>
>
>Is not this just one strategy in touch-typing? I personally prefer
>Sticky Keys/Sticky Modifiers.


What are those, sticky keys and sticky modifiers?


Thanks,

David

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