A personal experience of web browsers making bad text editors

October 27, 2009

I wrote about this topic ages ago, but I just had a very illuminating personal experience with this, and I feel like sharing it.

The one place that I pretty much have to use web-based editing is writing replies to comments here on WanderingThoughts (unless I turn a reply into an entry, which I do from time to time). Today I was flailing away trying to write such a reply (on yesterday's entry), and I just couldn't make things come together right; I knew generally what I wanted to say, but every time I started typing away it didn't come out right. And I didn't have undo, which was cramping my writing style for reasons that don't fit into this entry.

So I gave up. Instead of fighting the comment textbox, I iconified the browser, opened up a terminal window, fired up 'vi /tmp/scratch', and just drafted my comment in there. When I had it done enough, I copied and pasted it back into the browser's comment textbox.

The end result is the most substantive comment I think I've written for some time. And writing it felt like it was a lot less effort than writing substantive comments here usually is.

You would think that this would not surprise me, but I said, this was an illuminating experience; I had not expected the drawback of writing in a web browser to be quite so personal and blunt. One of the things that I'm taking away from this is that it's too easy for friction to be invisible. Another thing is that I need to look much more seriously at the Firefox extension It's All Text.

(For regular people, looking at Firefox extensions is easy. For me, not so much for some of them; my primary Firefox is still an ancient, personally compiled version that I stick with because it's the last version that supports bitmapped X fonts, and I am in love with a particular X font for browsing. Someday I will have to surrender and change browser fonts, but not today.)

Comments on this page:

From at 2009-10-27 06:51:22:

Please don't use a horribly old version of Firefox. I'm sure there will be many, many (MANY!) unpatched holes, despite it being a custom-compiled version...

Written on 27 October 2009.
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Last modified: Tue Oct 27 01:27:20 2009
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