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My World is Far From Complete

October 13th, 2005 Leave a comment Go to comments

Over the last year and a half that I have been fully employed, there are a couple of things that have begun to slightly annoy me (when using a computer), and being a developer, I can see the solution to a lot of these problems….

Problem One
Cut, Copy, Paste in Microsoft Excel. This sucks! If you think about it, it actually works completely differently to the rest of the operating system, and different to what you would expect it to. Essentially, if you select a cell that you would like to copy, it becomes highlighted with a dashed border. I can then freely move around the application and paste this value wherever I want (so far so good). Unfortunately, if you then decide to type something, the highlight is lost (not a problem), and the data is no longer in the clipboard for you to paste. If you then need to paste that value again somewhere, you can’t do it! You need to go back and copy the data again!

Problem Two
Slack space Overwrite. Now this is an idea. Imagine this: You have a line of fixed width text. In that text, you have left spaces so that the line format matches the line above (there are common words in both lines). Now imagine you want to change an uncommon word in the middle of that line, by adding a few characters into the beginning of that word. If you use normal “insert” typing mode, the rest of the line would move to the right for every character inserted, and you would need to delete any slack characters until the words were aligned again. If you use “Overwrite” typing mode, you would need to overwrite the entire word.

My suggestion would be to have a third mode: “Slack space Overwrite”. This means that from the cursor position, it will insert the character at that position (without overwriting), and then move along the line until a gap of two or more spaces is encountered. It will then remove one of these space characters, and move all the characters between the inserted character, and the removed character, along one space to the right. If no suitable space characters are found, then the whole line moves one character to the right, therefore increasing the line length by one character. I am fairly sure that this would be easy to implement (from an operating system point of view), and could be activated by pressing (for example) Ctrl+Insert. I know for a fact that it would make my life so much easier.

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  1. Rich
    October 13th, 2005 at 16:52 | #1

    Too long
    You’ve spent too long working with Microsoft Excel.

    The idea of tabs is that tabstops set the positioning of common elements. This allows you to do columnar alignment without fiddling with spaces. You can insert or delete characters up to one tab wide without penalty (then overflow bites you).

    It’s even better in something like Word, where tabs really do exist (the ruler at the top) rather than being characters.

    Or, look into a mini-language like FORMAT (in Common Lisp), which lets you align your data column-wise on output…

  2. Armswiper
    October 14th, 2005 at 13:37 | #2

    Rich: That’s Fine In Theory…
    …but not in practice!

    Unfortunately, there are reasons why this is not suitable (for my situation, at least).

    1. Try getting a team of 8 programmers to use tabs instead of spaces, everywhere, in a team where it is hard enough to get all of them to document their changes.
    2. The editor that we use (Progress AppBuilder – or "CrapBuilder" as it is sometimes known) is quirky, and so every tab key press is interpretted as pressing the space key 4 times. Therefore inserting tabs is futile, they just get converted to spaces.
    3. AppBuilder has "aliases" (i.e. expansions – if I type "dvch<space>", it expands to:
      DEFINE VARIABLE <cursor position set to here> AS CHARACTER NO-UNDO.

      which inserts several of the most common instances where I would like this to happen. Again, this uses spaces not tabs.

    4. People change tab spaces – so it wouldn’t always work.
  3. Armswiper
    October 14th, 2005 at 13:38 | #3

    Rich: Oh yeah…
    … and the very definition of "spending too long working with Microsoft Excel" can be summised as "Working with Microsoft Excel".

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