Saturday, February 11, 2012

Layer Juggling

  1. vim windows (Ctrl+W{w, W, h, j, k, l, ...})
  2. vim tabs (gt, gT, :tab, ...)
  3. screen session (Ctrl+Z ...) [because I liked Ctrl+A as beginning-of-line]
  4. terminal window tabs (Ctrl+{PageUp, PageDown, Shift+PageUp, Shift+PageDown, ...})
  5. application windows, e.g. other terminals (Alt+`, Alt+Shift+`) [a distinction newly required in Unity and Gnome-Shell’s defaults]
  6. other applications (Alt+Tab, Alt+Shift+Tab) [may include all workspaces]
  7. other workspaces (Ctrl+Alt+{↑, ↓} for gnome-shell and Unity, additionally Ctrl+Alt+{←, →} for Unity; also with Shift to drag a window with you)
My setup of Windows at work doesn’t have layers 4, 5, or 7, and it’s still too many to handle effectively.  Even if the command is right for the intent, the wrong result can still happen, for instance when I go to change window in vim and firefox closes a tab or two because it had the keyboard focus.

I get layers 2 and 3 mixed up so frequently that I typically only have tabs open in vim for a wide-ranging interface change inside my code, where I need to update model, validation, and view/controller all at once.  Each of those scopes gets a tab, and the tab is split into windows for each affected file of that particular scope.  If I have to muck around in more than two different layers at once, it gets extremely error-prone.

I think this is the reason people try to do everything inside emacs: if it’s run within a single frame, which I boldly claim is the common case, it combines layers 1 through 4 into a common framework, and leaves only layer 6 as important on the desktop.  You don’t need workspaces to tame a sprawling collection of windows anymore, because most of them are inside emacs.

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