October 8, 2007

Remembering what should go in the book

October 8, 2007 - Categories: emacs

Writing a book about an open source editor and its extensions is difficult. I want to describe many of the things people can do in order to customize and make the most of Emacs, but I don't want to just rewrite the manual. I find myself summarizing a few bits and expounding on others.

The key thing I want to add to this is excitement. I want people to be able to *see* what these changes result in and how those changes will improve their productivity or make them happier. ;) (Tall order for a text editor!) I want this book to be less about a laundry list of things people can do and more about looking over geeks' shoulders and being inspired to hack and learn more. That's the kind of book I want to write: a book that makes people go, "You can do that with Emacs?!" I want to write a book that convinces people to spend some time exploring the limits of their software (even vi!), because hidden features can totally rock. I also want to write a book that shows how all these little things combined can be absolutely cool, the way my Planner+BBDB+Gnus+everything-else combination works out really well for me. The whole is more than the sum of its parts.

I sometimes find it hard to hang on to that thought when I'm reading the user's manual and trying to make sure I'm covering the essentials. I find myself writing from the point of view of the software instead of from the point of view of the user. What I need to do is to focus on the user's story, on the problem or idea or opportunity. *Then* I can write about solutions for that. I think I need to change the outline I'm working with—it's too software-centric.

It doesn't have to be a perfect book, but I want it to be exciting and alive. =)

Random Emacs symbol: tramp-uudecode - Variable: Shell function to implement `uudecode' to standard output.