Who are the "spacists"?

Chris Angelico rosuav at gmail.com
Sun Mar 19 21:01:48 EDT 2017


On Mon, Mar 20, 2017 at 11:42 AM, Steve D'Aprano
<steve+python at pearwood.info> wrote:
> Or perhaps "just that one guy": here is JMZ, who says it is "impossible" to
> do anything with a text file unless you know what a TAB character
> represents:
>
>         I just care that two people editing the same file use the same
>         interpretations, and that it's possible to look at a file and
>         know what interpretation of the TAB character was used, because
>         otherwise it's just impossible to read.
>
> https://www.jwz.org/doc/tabs-vs-spaces.html
>
>
> Jamie Zawinski is a clever man, but I've read that document probably a dozen
> times over the years, and I still don't understand it. If I indent
> something using tab characters:
>
>         indent 1
>                 indent 2
>         indent 1 again
>
> why does JMZ need to know how many columns *I* choose to use to display
> this?

It's the same problem that you get when you put byte value 97 into a
file and it's impossible to know whether you meant for it to be
displayed in Courier or Times Roman. When you care about that level of
detail, *you're doing it wrong*. Text files are not intended to convey
exact pixel arrangements - they're for carrying linguistic
information.

In a text file, horizontal tab means "move horizontally". It doesn't
mean "move eight times the width of one standard character" (which is
less standard than a standard drink), and it doesn't mean "move 30mm",
and it certainly doesn't mean "move into debate mode against people
who use spaces".

ChrisA


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