Dmitry suggests this, and his comment about modern markup languages
restricting themselves to ASCII is something to think about.
Not really. No chicken developed from that egg because there was no
chicken to lay the egg in the first place. By and large programmers'
environments are deficient in respect of input methods, especially in
the U.S., and until a few years ago solid multilingual Unicode
environments weren't really available (and still aren't on Windows, if
I understand Eli's descriptions correctly). So programmers (who
design markup languages) restrict themselves to ASCII-based markup.
It's only become reasonable to think about going beyond ASCII in the
last 5 years or so (if you want to maintain fairly general appeal).
And there's the counterexample of Xe[La]TeX, which in fact developed
for Mac, the most complete Unicode implementation available at the
time -- a single anecdote, but very suggestive IMHO.
Emacs is the perfect environment to experiment with *discoverable*
*multilingual* input methods. AFAIK, they don't exist yet,
*anywhere*. Apple is going backwards, even. Microsoft doesn't have
them, either. The proprietary technology is quite good -- within the
context of monolingual environments (which is where the money is, even
in Europe the number of companies where individuals need multilingual
environments is limited). But they require effort for neophytes to
learn, and are less than useful for "inputting 'exotic' characters.
As far as I can tell, there's nothing better out there for free
software, either -- we're now on our fourth or fifth generation of new
input management frameworks for GNOME and/or KDE, and *still* the most
frequent n00b question on the Tokyo Linux Users Group[sic] is "I just
upgraded MyDistro and now I can't input Japanese in WhateverOffice".
My Chinese students and Buddhist scholar friends all use Macs because
it's very easy to switch among input methods (Chinese, Japanese, and
Sanskrit are radically different -- it's sort of possible to share an
input method between Chinese and Japanese, but it's very painful).
But all of these methods are monolingual, and must be learned
separately (or "taught", as most "learn" the user's habits, changing
priorities in the dictionaries and storing common sequences of words
for "predictive translation").
Emacs at least has Quail, giving language flexibility as good or
better than Apple, although the input methods themselves are static,
so aren't as user-friendly as the proprietary ones that "learn" the
users' habits. And (one small step for Emacs, one giant step for
mankind) Quail methods are self-documenting (although again
discoverability needs to be improved for the purpose of "typing
I admit that I'm intrigued by your plan about how this change will
initiate an evolution on Emacs input system that will make easier to
type exotic characters (defining "exotic" by "something that it is
infrequent in your daily usage.")
By giving people an itch they want to scratch. Most people will just
cut'n'paste or add ad hoc keybindings for the characters they need.
Some people will do more, and sooner or later one of them will come up
with a much better way to do input methods. It's not obvious to me
what that will be, and it's probably useless to ask Paul what it will
David K pointed out that there are some useful ideas in x-symbol.
That might be one place to look.
Also, besides input methods, it will likely lead to improvements in
other technologies such as searching (adding character classes of
"cognates" such as ` and ‘, for example -- this is useful for
repertoires like Japanese which has about a dozen variants on open
parenthesis more or less commonly used in text, as well as a pile of
numeral variants used for paragraph numbering, and the like).
Those opposed to the change will cry YAGNI, and that's true -- if you
live in an 8-bit world anyway, you just can't afford that kind of
redundancy. But like it or not, the world is now mostly Unicode and
that will only increase. Japanese is probably the most perverse
character set in existence, but I believe Chinese and Korean also have
similar issues of many classes of characters that have redundant
functionality, and it shows up in other places (eg, arrows and
Maybe describing the specific user-visible improvements that this
change will help to bring into reality would buy you more support.
The user-visible improvements have been described and are easily
visible to the eye desiring to see them. Tastes just differ here; the
people who don't like the change see little to no improvement, and
IIUC Drew even considers it a clear step backward aesthetically.