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Richard Stallman decides Emacs should go WYSIWYG

GNU Daddy revives 25 year-old ambition to get graphical

Richard Stallman, credit: Victor Powell

GNU daddy Richard Stallman seems to have found an old To-Do list behind the sofa, because he's posted a message on the GNU forums reviving an old ambition for the venerable EMacs text editor.

Here's what he's after:

25 years ago I hoped we would extend Emacs to do [sic] WYSIWG word processing. That is why we added text properties and variable width fonts. However, more features are still needed to achieve this.

Could people please start working on the features that are needed?”

The response? At the time of writing Stallman's post has generated a 70-post thread, but the opinions it contains are divided.

Some feel a WYSIWYG Emacs is a decent idea. Others point out that LibreOffice meets the Free Software Foundation's specifications.

Stallman's response is:

“I have occasionally used LibreOffice, and that sort [sic]fo WYSIWYG editing is very convenient for things that don't need the power of TeX.

However, every time I am unhappy that (1) it is missing all the other capabilities of Emacs and (2) it is incompatible with Emacs. I would really like to be able to use Emacs to do this WYSIWYG editing.

The conversation meanders off into discussions about existing Emacs enhancements that will get it to WYSIWYG without the need for more work on the venerable text editor. There's also a fair bit of talk about what file format might be acceptable and user interface design. A few contributors think the idea is stupid, one memorably says “I don't know anyone who makes documents that I respect who thinks that WYSIWYG features are a good thing.”

At the time of writing the discussion was considering whether the best way to bring WYSIWYG to Emacs might be to create extensions to LibreOffice. Nothing's been decided, so we'll keep an eye on things to see how this pans out. ®

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