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Re: Another documentation question

What is most needed, I think, is documentation that helps peope to reach
the point at which they can use the Emacs manuals and online help with
confidence, and take full advantage of the speech interface provided by
Emacspeak. From previous discussions on this mailing list it seems clear
that people who come to Emacspeak with experience of GUI-based screen
readers really need to adjust their concepts and outlook in order to
benefit fully from the new environment. In my own case I started using
Emacspeak after having worked with Unix systems via a DOS-based terminal
emulator and a screen reader; and I had never used a GUI screen reader at
all. In fact, I still haven't done so, except for a frustrating couple of
hours with a Windows-based screen reader at a public terminal in a

Before running Emacspeak for the first time, I had already encountered
Emacs, though admittedly my experience of it was rather limited. Still, I
already knew how to access and read the documentation, and subscribers to
this list were most helpful in the early days. Moreover, I had the
advantage of a user-level understanding of Unix, which I had been working
with for a number of years. The main challenge therefore, so far as the
operating system itself was concerned, lay in learning how to administer
the system, and developing an understanding of how the various components
worked together, the role of the configuration files, etc.

One of the problems, I suspect, often encountered by new users of
Emacspeak (and this equally applies to other software, of course) is a
general lack of basic conceptual understanding. There is a vast difference
between knowing how to use one, or a select few, software packages, which
at the most elementary level can be as crude as knowing what keys to type
to achieve desired results, and actually understanding the fundamentals of
what the software does, the role of the operating system and applications,
and the user interface conventions which are employed. Of course,
familiarity with certain concepts and terminology is a prerequisite to
reading Linux documentation, including not only the Emacs manuals, but
also HOWTO documents and manual pages.

An Emacspeak tutorial/HOWTO document obviously can't bridge theese gaps in
understanding, but I think it would benefit from an attempt to ascertain
what are the most important difficulties that a new user of the system,
especially one who doesn't have the requisite background, is likely to

I have often thought that Emacspeak would be an excellent system to teach
to beginners, provided of course that someone else has configured and
installed it first. The basic operation of the editor is quite
straightforward and the speech interface works seemlessly without any
extra intervention on the user's part. It would therefore be possible to
teach Emacs, without having the double complexity of teaching both an
application program and a screen reader. Perhaps also, people who do not
approach the system with assumptions and expectations drawn from prior
experience with screen readers, would be better able to master the
concepts in a more natural way.

This is just a hypothesis on my part which, to my knowledge, so far has
not been tested.

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