Saturday, September 02, 2023

Emacs Ergonomics: Dont Punish Your Finger Tips

Emacs Ergonomics: Dont Punish Your Finger Tips

1. Summary

A collection of keybinding changes I have arrived at over time to protect my fingers.Note that I have now used Emacs for more than 33 years, and some of these changes may well have helped me much earlier; on the other hand, I likely didn't notice these issues because my hands then were not the same as what they are now.

See earlier articles on this topic for context:

So to summarize, my Emacs uses:

  1. CapsLock as Control.
  2. Using XCape, quickly releasing Control emits C-e — the eEmacspeak prefix-key.

2. Next, Some Finger Tips

Note: I'm not a trained ergonomist; the following are observations based on my experience and may not apply to everyone; I suspect the size of one's hands, the width of the keyboard etc., all matter. For the last 3+ years, I've exclusively used a laptop keyboard, in my case a Lenovo.

  1. I now find that replacing key-chords by a sequence of non-chords makes my hands happier. The trick is to replace a chord by no more than 2 keys.
  2. Since Caps lock (left pinky) is my Control key, C-s is not as nice as C-l; notice that the former requires chording with two fingres of the same hand, whereas the lattre spreads the work among both hands on an English qwerty keyboard.
  3. One work-around for the above might be to have RET emit Control if held down, but I haven't done that (yet).
  4. On the left-hand, chords that require extending or scrunching one's fingres when hitting a chord are more painful. Thus, C-z and C-x are more painful to hit than C-d. Emacs hardly uses C-z and C-c; but unfortunately, C-x is an important prefix key in stock Emacs.

3. Now For The Finger Tips

  1. I have left-shift and right-shift emit C-s and C-r using XCape.
  2. I bound C-l to ctl-x-map (still experimental). This remapping fails to take effect in places like Dired and Gnus.
  3. I additionallly bound find-file to C-; o.
  4. A long time ago, I discovered M-m (back-to-indentation) and I never hit C-a to move to the start of the line.
  5. When I remap things, I never take away the original Emacs bindings; I only provide alternatives.
  6. I use C-,, C-., C-;, and C-' as prefix keys. Downside: these only work under X, but the time where I only ran Emacs in a terminal are long gone.

See my Emacs Startup File for the setup.

4. Conclusion

There's likely a lot more to be discovered in this context; time will reveal all!

Date: 2023-09-01 Fri 00:00

Author: T.V Raman

Created: 2023-09-02 Sat 19:28