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Scribes editor focuses on the text

By Nikos Kouremenos on January 10, 2007 (8:00:00 AM)

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Scribes is a text editor for GNOME that focuses on usability. After 30 minutes of usage, you will either love it or hate it.

Scribes is not designed with a tabbed interface. However, Scribes features an efficient and scalable alternative to tabs: the document switcher. The document switcher allows you to focus any document opened with Scribes by pressing F9.

While you're writing code or editing documents, Scribes will not show you a menu bar at the top of its window. Its interface offers minimal distractions.

Scribes does not try to be a complicated integrated development environment. Instead, it focuses exclusively on text processing and manipulation. It provides automatic word completion, smart indentation, and pair character completion. You can bookmark any lines you want to go back to by pressing Ctrl-D, then display the bookmark browser by pressing Ctrl-B. Select a bookmark and press Enter to go to the corresponding line. This comes in handy for both writers and developers.

Scribes also supports snippets, which are called Templates. Press Alt-F12 to display the Template Editor. There you can specify the name of a template, an optional description, and the content. For example, you could create a template dear and specify its content as:

Dear ${hisname},


Thank you,

Now you can write dear and press the Tab key. The above text will appear, template mode will be activated, and the typing cursor will be on ${hisname}, so you can fill in the name of the person you address. When you're done, press Tab to move to ${myname}, type your name, and then Tab again to ${cursor}, where you can write your actual text. When you type your first character in the ${cursor} area, template mode is deactivated, as ${cursor} is always the last "station" of the template mode. You can find a collection of pre-made snippets can be found on Scribes' Web site.

Scribes offers both Search and Search and Replace widgets docked in the bottom of the window that holds the text. With this approach, you never have to move the search dialog box around on the screen to see what you found.

Scribes supports a big set of key combinations. For example, you can select a word by pressing Alt-W, a sentence by pressing Alt-S, and even a whole paragraph by Alt-P. If you want to quote a phrase of four words, select the words, and type "; the selected words will be enclosed by quotes! Other keys I find useful are F3, which toggles read-only mode; F6, which toggles spell checking; and Alt-R, which removes trailing spaces. If you accidentally hit a combination, or in general produce a result you did not intend to, the status bar will tell you what the last action was, and you can undo and redo to adjust the text to your liking.

Scribes' author Lateef Alabi-Oki has some innovative ideas about how a modern and easy-to-use program should behave. With Scribes, he tried to realize these usability ideas in an application that focuses on streamlining the user's workflow. The user experience is fluid, and the editor is easy and fun to use once you get used to the no-tabs paradigm.

Nikos Kouremenos is a computer science student who has been active in the open source community since 2002.

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on Scribes editor focuses on the text

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Going retro with a Wordstar clone?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on January 11, 2007 12:33 AM
Uhmmm... most half decent programmer's editors can do Wordstar key codes.

There is method in the madness of strong key bindings instead of hyper active mousing around, but using a mouse has the advantage that one doesn't have to think and considering that most office flunkies *cannot* think, it explains the popularity of mouse driven editors, vs key driven editors...


Re:Going retro with a Wordstar clone?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on January 13, 2007 12:12 AM
Those comments about "office flunkies" are insulting and inappropriate. You could practice some deeper thought before posting such tripe. People's knowledge and behaviors when interacting with computers have much more complex causes and motivations than your adolescent comment infers.



Posted by: Anonymous Coward on January 10, 2007 09:05 PM
Its a pretty different text editor from others. Pretty cool that its different.
It has some interesting stuff.

It might be good, I don't know, I haven't tried it yet, but it seems a bit interesting.



Posted by: Anonymous Coward on January 11, 2007 01:30 AM
While I understand the intention behind the design of Scribes' interface, I wonder why the user is forced into a straitjacket. Rather than not having a tabbed interface at all, why not simply let the user hide the tabs? Rather than not having a menubar at all, why not let the user to hide the menus? Scribes looks nice, but these features seem limitations.



Posted by: Anonymous Coward on January 11, 2007 02:25 AM
Whether or not I agree, at least the author has a lot of reasoning behind not having tabs: <a href="" title=""><nobr>y<wbr></nobr> .html</a>



Posted by: Anonymous Coward on January 11, 2007 02:49 AM
The point is to expose only needed interfaces to the user. When you present users with options, you force them to make choices. The more choices they need to make, the larger the propensity for indecision and confusion. Scribes presents the most optimal behavior and choice for the majority of use cases (based on research and experience), thus saving you the trouble of fidgeting, tweaking and configuring, instead of being productive.



Posted by: Anonymous Coward on January 11, 2007 10:52 PM
There is no such thing as "the most optimal behavior" -- what is optimal for you may not be optimal for me. If the author of Scribes has strong views about how an editor should behave, that's fine. But it is one thing, for example, to hide the menubar and the tabbar from the user by default (so that you need to enable them only if you really need them -- no tweaking and configuring needed for "the majority of cases"); and it is another thing not to provide them at all and herald that this makes the editor somehow superior to others.



Posted by: Anonymous Coward on January 12, 2007 01:43 AM
I don't think anyone is saying the editor is superior to others because it does away with Tabs and a menu bar. If Tabs and Menubars don't serve any purpose, why should they be an option. Having tabs and menus just because you want them does not make them necessary.

And optimal behaviors are tradeoffs that satisfy most users, not every unique user. If you like your menubar under the status bar, that may be your preference, but that does not make it the optimal position to place it. Optimal behaviors are determined via research and usability studies, not via what you think pleases you.


What's the point of this?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on January 11, 2007 04:56 PM

Do we really need yet another editor?

If I'm writing a letter, I use OpenOffice (or whatever your favorite word processor is). It's got the pretty formatting, fonts, etc. and it generates ODF output and it can import some other WP formats.

If I'm writing code, I use emacs (or vi/vim, or whatever your favorite programmer's editor is). It lets me run the compiler from within the editor, go to the line where the compiler found an error, etc.

Both of these are "text processing" but they're completely different tasks and specialized tools make sense. Which of them is this new thing competing with? And why is it better? Do we really need yet another editor or word processor? If the author wants to make a useful contribution, why doesn't he fix one of the bugs in OpenOffice, thereby helping millions of users instead of dozens?


Re:What's the point of this?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on January 11, 2007 06:01 PM
" If the author wants to make a useful contribution, why doesn't he fix one of the bugs in OpenOffice, thereby helping millions of users instead of dozens?"

Why are you talking of OpenOffice ? Scribes is mostly a code and config files editor like vim. It's not Abiword or OO Writer.

And you don't understand what Free Software is about.
Free software is about the fun of programming. It's a programming community. IS NOT A PART OF THE PROGRAMMING COMMUNITY. It's a piece of shit that came from PROPRIETARY CODE, from the dark times of C++. It's code is ugly as hell, written with stupid abstraction code to make it look like multiplatform. It has it's own widget system with a Not Invented Here syndrom. (QT and wxWidgets are much better.)

What's Scribes ? it's a beautiful piece of Python code. It's written for our platform, Linux. There's no layer over layer over layer of abstraction crappy code. It's made from the free time of it's programmer, he's not paid to do it.

Don't ask what's the point about it. If you find it not useful for you, fine, go ahead. I'm bored to see all those lUsers asking the programmers to do things they don't care for. God, please use proprietary software. You pay for the service.

If you want him to do "something useful", give him a salary.
As for me, i will try it because i like the ideas that came from it's ergonomy. I don't care there's hundred text editors. They are all not the same. Vim is not Emacs. Gedit is not Kate. Scribes isn't any of those. I'm fine with it.


Re:What's the point of this?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on January 11, 2007 11:16 PM
"Do we really need yet another editor?"

He/she's got a point. Sure, go ahead and write beautiful code. But be aware that you're only really contributing to the enormous amount of wasteful duplication that there is in FOSS.

The rest of us simple users, meanwhile, are stuck with OpenOffice. It sucks. But then, last I looked, there are todos in AbiWord going back for years. It seems the website of gnome-office has not been updated for years. There are all these great projects out there, which would really benefit us, but they are dead because everyone is busy reinventing the wheel.

How is that supposed to be a programming community???


Re:What's the point of this?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on January 12, 2007 12:41 AM

For the life of me I don't understand why people here are raggin' on OpenOffice. Have we come to take for granted the great applications at our disposal? OpenOffice is the kind of application that a Linux guy can actually have a flicker of hope of getting a Windows guy to look at and use.

When it comes to building the better mousetrap, which we see again and again and again in the Open Source world (just how many Java web application frameworks does the world need?), I like to think that survival of the fittest is at work. If something is notably better than the alternative, it has a greater chance of being incorporated into future distros and winning hearts and minds. This is a very good thing in my opinion, and if Scribes manages to fill part of the computing spectrum better than its would be peers, good on it!

But please, no more bad mouthing OpenOffice until other options are at least as mature. And do consider that if you want great formatting and layout, you shouldn't be relying on a word processor anyway but rather a desktop publishing solution such as Scribus (no relation to Scribes).



Posted by: Anonymous Coward on January 12, 2007 05:27 PM
I'm amazed that an article about Scribes completely manages to fail to mention TextMate, the proprietary editor for OSX, upon which many of Scribes' features are based.


Something worth thinking about

Posted by: Administrator on January 11, 2007 02:39 AM
You know, the UNIX philosophy has always been "do one thing and do it really well." This has been the power and strength of UNIX. And, by extension, Linux. Scribes focuses itself on only editing text. I haven't tried it yet (yum install is running as I type) but it seems like it might be a good thing.

Side note: The GUI text editor I use is Mousepad (comes with the <a href="" title="">Xfce4 desktop environment</a>). It can't do anything but text. Even Scribes has more features. But for the purpose of text editing, it can't be beat.

Side side note: In all fairness the editor I use 98% of the time is vim in a terminal. Hey, old habits die hard.<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:-)


I'll stick to gvim

Posted by: Administrator on January 12, 2007 06:41 PM
Scribes is a nice program. I even installed gnome on my slackware 11 just to try it out. But, I'll stick to gvim. Scribes has nothing that I'm not able to do with gvim. And, lack of Perl templates annoyed me. I suppose I would't spare more that half an hour to create those, but I somewhat expected them to be included.


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