GNU bug report logs - #41006
26.3; regular expressions documentation

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Package: emacs; Severity: wishlist; Reported by: jan <rtm443x@HIDDEN>; dated Fri, 1 May 2020 19:07:01 UTC; Maintainer for emacs is bug-gnu-emacs@HIDDEN.

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Date: Tue, 5 May 2020 12:42:08 -0700 (PDT)
From: Drew Adams <drew.adams@HIDDEN>
To: Stefan Kangas <stefan@HIDDEN>, Richard Stallman <rms@HIDDEN>
Subject: RE: bug#41006: 26.3; regular expressions documentation
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> > IOW, separate using regexps (searching and matching)
> > from details about what regexps are and what their
> > syntax is.
>=20
> This is the exact opposite of what I proposed, I think.
>=20
> I argued that keeping them together would be more user-friendly and
> pedagogical.  Could you expand on why keeping them separate is better,
> in your opinion?

It's not so much about separating them physically.

1. Let users who happen to read the manual
consecutively learn about _using_ regexps before
delving into the detailed reference info about
what they are - their syntax, etc.

Which was the problem reported: you were looking
for info about how to _use_ regexps, having prior
knowledge about what regexps are and what, in
general, their syntax is.

Info about _use_ before reference info about
_what_ they are.  That's possible, and probably
more helpful.

But yes, the order between "use" (search & match)
and "what" isn't all that important, especially
since each is itself a big topic with multiple
subtopics.  The main thing is grouping like with
like, "together" - #2 (next).

2. Group all of the what-they-are info together.
POSIX etc. belongs with the reference info about
regexp syntax etc.

3. Now, as to "together" in terms of getting use
info if you happen to be (e.g. to land) in what
land: xrefs.  And vice versa: getting to what
they are from the info about using them - xrefs.

4. Putting all together physically, in one giant
node, is not feasible (especially if you include
all the other nodes about "what").  And it's not
helpful.

Just one opinion.

If you disagree, fine.  But go back to your
original problem.  You were looking for info
about how to _use_ regexps in Elisp.  And you
instead landed in the bowels of _what_ they are,
including syntax details etc.

The solution for that is (a) better or additional
indexing, and (b) possibly changing the order
(organization).  My suggestion here was for (b):
put all the "what they are" info together, and
put it under the top of the "what": `Regular
Expressions', not directly under searching and
matching.

Caveat: I haven't looked into details of what
moving this stuff around would really give.
My suggestion is to take a look and see whether
it makes sense, in particular for your use case.




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Drew Adams <drew.adams@HIDDEN> writes:

> IOW, separate using regexps (searching and matching)
> from details about what regexps are and what their
> syntax is.

This is the exact opposite of what I proposed, I think.

I argued that keeping them together would be more user-friendly and
pedagogical.  Could you expand on why keeping them separate is better,
in your opinion?

Best regards,
Stefan Kangas




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Subject: RE: bug#41006: 26.3; regular expressions documentation
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> If I go up one node, to (elisp) Searching and Matching, I can see:
>=20
> * Regular Expressions::   Describing classes of strings.
> * Regexp Search::         Searching for a match for a regexp.
>=20
> So I suggest to move "Regexp Search" so that it is a section under
> "Regular Expressions" (instead of parallel to it).  Maybe conceptually
> this is not as clean, but it is more pedagogical and user-friendly,
> IMHO.
>=20
> I would also suggest to place "Regexp Search" first, even before
> "Syntax of Regexps", but this is just my personal preference and less
> important.  It should at least, from my point of view, come before "Rx
> Notation".

I think `Regexp Search' belongs under `Searching
and Matching'.

But I think `Regexp Search' should come before
`Regular Expressions'.

And maybe `POSIX Regexps' and `Standard Regexps'
should be under `Regular Expressions'.

IOW, separate using regexps (searching and matching)
from details about what regexps are and what their
syntax is.

We can present how to use them without requiring
much knowledge of what they are.

And of course we should have xrefs between the
doc about what they are and the doc about using
them.  (Probably there are already some such.)




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 (message from Stefan Kangas on Tue, 5 May 2020 20:09:55 +0200)
Subject: Re: bug#41006: 26.3; regular expressions documentation
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> From: Stefan Kangas <stefan@HIDDEN>
> Date: Tue, 5 May 2020 20:09:55 +0200
> Cc: Mattias Engdegård <mattiase@HIDDEN>, 
> 	Richard Stallman <rms@HIDDEN>, rtm443x@HIDDEN, 41006 <at> debbugs.gnu.org
> 
> > I usually prefer not to use subheadings, because Info doesn't have
> > commands to go to a subheading.
> 
> Sorry if this is slightly off-topic, but is there any reason not to
> add such a command?  Would it be hard to do so?  Just a thought.

Maybe not hard, but I think this needs to be negotiated with the
Texinfo maintainers, since Emacs is not the only Info reader out
there.




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Date: Tue, 5 May 2020 20:20:59 +0200
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Subject: Re: bug#41006: 26.3; regular expressions documentation
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Richard Stallman <rms@HIDDEN>writes:

> What I see in master is this structure.
> Is this different from what you saw?
> Does this structure eliminate the problem you had?

I'm also looking at master.  Let me be more specific.

> @menu
> * Syntax of Regexps::       Rules for writing regular expressions.
> * Regexp Example::          Illustrates regular expression syntax.
> @ifnottex
> * Rx Notation::             An alternative, structured regexp notation.
> @end ifnottex
> * Regexp Functions::        Functions for operating on regular expressions.
> @end menu

The above is the problem, for me: it does not include "Regexp Search".
This is where I find any function to actually use the regexps I learn
to construct here.

If I go up one node, to (elisp) Searching and Matching, I can see:

* Regular Expressions::   Describing classes of strings.
* Regexp Search::         Searching for a match for a regexp.

So I suggest to move "Regexp Search" so that it is a section under
"Regular Expressions" (instead of parallel to it).  Maybe conceptually
this is not as clean, but it is more pedagogical and user-friendly,
IMHO.

I would also suggest to place "Regexp Search" first, even before
"Syntax of Regexps", but this is just my personal preference and less
important.  It should at least, from my point of view, come before "Rx
Notation".

While we're at it, I also think "Regexp Search" could state, at the
top, how to access match data.  This is a bit hard to find, IME.

Best regards,
Stefan Kangas




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Eli Zaretskii <eliz@HIDDEN> writes:

> I usually prefer not to use subheadings, because Info doesn't have
> commands to go to a subheading.

Sorry if this is slightly off-topic, but is there any reason not to
add such a command?  Would it be hard to do so?  Just a thought.

Best regards,
Stefan Kangas




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Subject: Re: bug#41006: 26.3; regular expressions documentation
To: Eli Zaretskii <eliz@HIDDEN>
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I'd prefer to see a single longish page (it's still not that long I
don't think, but purely a personal view). If you were to split it

1. how would it be split?

2. how would it be done to prevent the 'islands of information' effect
that may be causing problems?
In a sense that's my concern - one page or 5, just so long as a person
can't get stranded on one.

thanks

jan


On 05/05/2020, Eli Zaretskii <eliz@HIDDEN> wrote:
>> From: Mattias Engdeg=C3=A5rd <mattiase@HIDDEN>
>> Date: Tue, 5 May 2020 19:12:50 +0200
>> Cc: jan <rtm443x@HIDDEN>, Stefan Kangas <stefan@HIDDEN>,
>>  41006 <at> debbugs.gnu.org
>>
>> Aim for all in a single node, using subheadings as appropriate
>
> I usually prefer not to use subheadings, because Info doesn't have
> commands to go to a subheading.  Can we make each subheading a
> subsubsection and give it a node?
>




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Subject: Re: bug#41006: 26.3; regular expressions documentation
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> From: Mattias Engdegård <mattiase@HIDDEN>
> Date: Tue, 5 May 2020 19:12:50 +0200
> Cc: jan <rtm443x@HIDDEN>, Stefan Kangas <stefan@HIDDEN>,
>  41006 <at> debbugs.gnu.org
> 
> Aim for all in a single node, using subheadings as appropriate

I usually prefer not to use subheadings, because Info doesn't have
commands to go to a subheading.  Can we make each subheading a
subsubsection and give it a node?




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Subject: Re: bug#41006: 26.3; regular expressions documentation
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 > Would you like to propose an ordering and classification by function? Start
 with the lexical details: special chars, escaping, literals. Then something
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4 maj 2020 kl. 05.10 skrev Richard Stallman <rms@HIDDEN>:

> Would you like to propose an ordering and classification by function?

Start with the lexical details: special chars, escaping, literals.
Then something like this:

* concatenation and alternative
* repetition: * + ? etc
* bracketing: \(?: ... \)
* single-character expressions: [...] '.' \cX etc
* zero-width assertions: ^ $ \< etc
* capture groups and backrefs

Aim for all in a single node, using subheadings as appropriate, as this =
is what the user probably wants to see. Use subnodes for some in-depth =
information such as named character classes.

As Stefan pointed out, a section comparing the syntax with that of other =
regexp implementations likely seen by the user would be very welcome. It =
would permit the reader to make use of existing knowledge while reducing =
mistakes coming from incorrect assumptions.





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Subject: Re: bug#41006: 26.3; regular expressions documentation
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5 maj 2020 kl. 12.05 skrev jan <rtm443x@HIDDEN>:

> The user manual doesn't state that the {,x} syntax is valid where the
> Elisp manual does.

Sorry, I somehow got the impression that you referred to the Elisp =
manual; I should have read your message more attentively.

It looks like they both would benefit from some restructuring; having =
"Regexp backslash" as a separate, parallel section doesn't make sense in =
either. Note that omitting \{,N\} from the Emacs manual is no great sin, =
because the user can just use \{0,N\} instead.





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Subject: Re: bug#41006: 26.3; regular expressions documentation
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Hi all,
I know this was addressed at Stephan but I'm getting increasingly
puzzled by the difference between what other people are describing and
what I'm seeing.
 In the other e-mail Mr Stallman said he could see this:

* Regexp Special::      Special characters in regular expressions.
* Char Classes::        Character classes used in regular expressions.
* Regexp Backslash::    Backslash-sequences in regular expressions.

My emacs (Windows, 26.3) shows

* Regexp Search::             Search for match for a regexp.
* Regexps::                   Syntax of regular expressions.
* Regexp Backslash::          Regular expression constructs starting with =
=E2=80=98\=E2=80=99.
* Regexp Example::            A complex regular expression explained.

I started up my ubuntu machine and try to look in the manual to see if
it was different from the windows, FYI I got "Info file emacs does not
exist".

OK... it finally twigged. I've just looked elsewhere. From the emacs menu:
'Search Documentation' submenu 'Look Up Subject In Elisp Manual'

Enter:
regexp RET

Click 'Syntax Of Regexps' gets you to:

"34.3.1 Syntax of Regular Expressions" which looks like what Mr
Stallman has been describing

and finally I can see what Eli has described:

"
=E2=80=98\{M,N\}=E2=80=99
     is a more general postfix operator that specifies repetition with a
     minimum of M repeats and a maximum of N repeats.  If M is omitted,
     the minimum is 0; if N is omitted, there is no maximum.  For both
     forms, M and N, if specified, may be no larger than 2**15 - 1 .

     For example, =E2=80=98c[ad]\{1,2\}r=E2=80=99 matches the strings =E2=
=80=98car=E2=80=99, =E2=80=98cdr=E2=80=99,
     =E2=80=98caar=E2=80=99, =E2=80=98cadr=E2=80=99, =E2=80=98cdar=E2=80=99=
, and =E2=80=98cddr=E2=80=99, and nothing else.
     =E2=80=98\{0,1\}=E2=80=99 or =E2=80=98\{,1\}=E2=80=99 is equivalent to=
 =E2=80=98?=E2=80=99.
     =E2=80=98\{0,\}=E2=80=99 or =E2=80=98\{,\}=E2=80=99 is equivalent to =
=E2=80=98*=E2=80=99.
     =E2=80=98\{1,\}=E2=80=99 is equivalent to =E2=80=98+=E2=80=99.
"

Now compare this to what's in the user manual (not the Elisp manual):

"
=E2=80=98\{N,M\}=E2=80=99
     is a postfix operator specifying between N and M repetitions=E2=80=94t=
hat
     is, the preceding regular expression must match at least N times,
     but no more than M times.  If M is omitted, then there is no upper
     limit, but the preceding regular expression must match at least N
     times.
     =E2=80=98\{0,1\}=E2=80=99 is equivalent to =E2=80=98?=E2=80=99.
     =E2=80=98\{0,\}=E2=80=99 is equivalent to =E2=80=98*=E2=80=99.
     =E2=80=98\{1,\}=E2=80=99 is equivalent to =E2=80=98+=E2=80=99.
"
The user manual doesn't state that the {,x} syntax is valid where the
Elisp manual does.

thanks

jan



On 05/05/2020, Richard Stallman <rms@HIDDEN> wrote:
> [[[ To any NSA and FBI agents reading my email: please consider    ]]]
> [[[ whether defending the US Constitution against all enemies,     ]]]
> [[[ foreign or domestic, requires you to follow Snowden's example. ]]]
>
>   > So I go to the "Regular Expressions" node, looking mostly for how to
>   > use them.  But I find nothing on that there.  I only find a review of
>   > what looks like everything I already knew about regular expressions.
>
> What I see in master is this structure.
> Is this different from what you saw?
> Does this structure eliminate the problem you had?
>
>
> @node Regular Expressions
> @section Regular Expressions
> @cindex regular expression
> @cindex regexp
>
> ...
>
> @menu
> * Syntax of Regexps::       Rules for writing regular expressions.
> * Regexp Example::          Illustrates regular expression syntax.
> @ifnottex
> * Rx Notation::             An alternative, structured regexp notation.
> @end ifnottex
> * Regexp Functions::        Functions for operating on regular expression=
s.
> @end menu
>
> --
> Dr Richard Stallman
> Chief GNUisance of the GNU Project (https://gnu.org)
> Founder, Free Software Foundation (https://fsf.org)
> Internet Hall-of-Famer (https://internethalloffame.org)
>
>
>




Information forwarded to bug-gnu-emacs@HIDDEN:
bug#41006; Package emacs. Full text available.

Message received at 41006 <at> debbugs.gnu.org:


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From: jan <rtm443x@HIDDEN>
Date: Tue, 5 May 2020 11:02:13 +0100
Message-ID: <CADJx9LeDpa5oQPeQ1Jf4xK20s9biNChh-xA-PRM0ZmhLzfioqQ@HIDDEN>
Subject: Re: bug#41006: 26.3; regular expressions documentation
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Hi,
C-h C-a ('about emacs') gives the splash screen with

GNU Emacs 26.3 (build 1, x86_64-w64-mingw32)
 of 2019-08-29

I'm using the online reference manual.  From the menu:
'Search Documentation' submenu 'Look Up Subject In User Manual'

minibuffer says:
'Subject to look up:'

I enter:
regexp RET

I immediately get taken to the page "15.6 Syntax of Regular
Expressions", directly into the node, *not* into the one level higher
menu which would visibly show there are 2 regular expression nodes.

I would guess this is a most people find it.

cheers

jan (but please see other reply on this thread which shows why I've
been getting confused about what I'm seeing)


On 05/05/2020, Richard Stallman <rms@HIDDEN> wrote:
> [[[ To any NSA and FBI agents reading my email: please consider    ]]]
> [[[ whether defending the US Constitution against all enemies,     ]]]
> [[[ foreign or domestic, requires you to follow Snowden's example. ]]]
>
> You've explained that the division of the regexp documentation caused
> a problem for you.  I understand the kind of problem you describe,
> but I don't understand why the problem happened.
>
> You ask for these two nodes to be combined.
>
>   * Regexps::                   Syntax of regular expressions.
>   * Regexp Backslash::          Regular expression constructs starting wi=
th
> =E2=80=98\=E2=80=99.
>
> What version of the Emacs Lisp Reference Manual were
> you looking at?  From which Emacs version?
>
> The current master version has a subsection called
> Syntax of Regexps, which has these three subsubsections:
>
> * Regexp Special::      Special characters in regular expressions.
> * Char Classes::        Character classes used in regular expressions.
> * Regexp Backslash::    Backslash-sequences in regular expressions.
>
> Does this change in structure fix the problem?
>
> --
> Dr Richard Stallman
> Chief GNUisance of the GNU Project (https://gnu.org)
> Founder, Free Software Foundation (https://fsf.org)
> Internet Hall-of-Famer (https://internethalloffame.org)
>
>
>




Information forwarded to bug-gnu-emacs@HIDDEN:
bug#41006; Package emacs. Full text available.

Message received at 41006 <at> debbugs.gnu.org:


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Subject: Re: bug#41006: 26.3; regular expressions documentation
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[[[ To any NSA and FBI agents reading my email: please consider    ]]]
[[[ whether defending the US Constitution against all enemies,     ]]]
[[[ foreign or domestic, requires you to follow Snowden's example. ]]]

  > So I go to the "Regular Expressions" node, looking mostly for how to
  > use them.  But I find nothing on that there.  I only find a review of
  > what looks like everything I already knew about regular expressions.

What I see in master is this structure.
Is this different from what you saw?
Does this structure eliminate the problem you had?


@node Regular Expressions
@section Regular Expressions
@cindex regular expression
@cindex regexp

...

@menu
* Syntax of Regexps::       Rules for writing regular expressions.
* Regexp Example::          Illustrates regular expression syntax.
@ifnottex
* Rx Notation::             An alternative, structured regexp notation.
@end ifnottex
* Regexp Functions::        Functions for operating on regular expressions.
@end menu

-- 
Dr Richard Stallman
Chief GNUisance of the GNU Project (https://gnu.org)
Founder, Free Software Foundation (https://fsf.org)
Internet Hall-of-Famer (https://internethalloffame.org)






Information forwarded to bug-gnu-emacs@HIDDEN:
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 (message from jan on Mon, 4 May 2020 10:13:06 +0100)
Subject: Re: bug#41006: 26.3; regular expressions documentation
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[[[ To any NSA and FBI agents reading my email: please consider    ]]]
[[[ whether defending the US Constitution against all enemies,     ]]]
[[[ foreign or domestic, requires you to follow Snowden's example. ]]]

You've explained that the division of the regexp documentation caused
a problem for you.  I understand the kind of problem you describe,
but I don't understand why the problem happened.

You ask for these two nodes to be combined.

  * Regexps::                   Syntax of regular expressions.
  * Regexp Backslash::          Regular expression constructs starting with ‘\’.

What version of the Emacs Lisp Reference Manual were
you looking at?  From which Emacs version?

The current master version has a subsection called
Syntax of Regexps, which has these three subsubsections:

* Regexp Special::      Special characters in regular expressions.
* Char Classes::        Character classes used in regular expressions.
* Regexp Backslash::    Backslash-sequences in regular expressions.

Does this change in structure fix the problem?

-- 
Dr Richard Stallman
Chief GNUisance of the GNU Project (https://gnu.org)
Founder, Free Software Foundation (https://fsf.org)
Internet Hall-of-Famer (https://internethalloffame.org)






Information forwarded to bug-gnu-emacs@HIDDEN:
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From: jan <rtm443x@HIDDEN>
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Subject: Re: bug#41006: 26.3; regular expressions documentation
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Hi all,
I'd like to push back here a little, to what I originally raised
because it's simple.

In my case I couldn't find ~50% of the regex docs. I only continued to
hunt because I knew it was there.
In the linked question I gave
(<http://emacs.1067599.n8.nabble.com/regex-question-td75006.html>) the
questioner had to be actually told of the other section in the manual.
The problem is the information is split into sections but without
visibility from one section that the other exists.

Solution: that's up to you. I'd say simply make one long list instead
of 2 shorter, but if not that then *make a clear link between them*.
The fact that they're split by some historic classification is true,
but not IMO important any more - all I want is the basic property of
findability. Unify these 2 islands or show a clear bridge between
them, anything that stops one being being marooned for lack of
visibility.

Stefan's experience indicates a third island, also unbridged if I read
him right.

Make the relationship between these semantically related places highly
visible is all I'm suggesting.

cheers

jan

On 04/05/2020, Richard Stallman <rms@HIDDEN> wrote:
> [[[ To any NSA and FBI agents reading my email: please consider    ]]]
> [[[ whether defending the US Constitution against all enemies,     ]]]
> [[[ foreign or domestic, requires you to follow Snowden's example. ]]]
>
>   > The disposition of the regexp documentation could be improved,
>   > yes. Currently it's arranged by syntax, which is the implementor's
>   > view, rather than by function, which is the user's.
>
> Would you like to propose an ordering and classification by function?
> Then we could think about whether it is better.
>
> --
> Dr Richard Stallman
> Chief GNUisance of the GNU Project (https://gnu.org)
> Founder, Free Software Foundation (https://fsf.org)
> Internet Hall-of-Famer (https://internethalloffame.org)
>
>
>




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[[[ To any NSA and FBI agents reading my email: please consider    ]]]
[[[ whether defending the US Constitution against all enemies,     ]]]
[[[ foreign or domestic, requires you to follow Snowden's example. ]]]

  > The disposition of the regexp documentation could be improved,
  > yes. Currently it's arranged by syntax, which is the implementor's
  > view, rather than by function, which is the user's.

Would you like to propose an ordering and classification by function?
Then we could think about whether it is better.

-- 
Dr Richard Stallman
Chief GNUisance of the GNU Project (https://gnu.org)
Founder, Free Software Foundation (https://fsf.org)
Internet Hall-of-Famer (https://internethalloffame.org)






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From: Drew Adams <drew.adams@HIDDEN>
To: Stefan Kangas <stefan@HIDDEN>
Subject: RE: bug#41006: 26.3; regular expressions documentation
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> >> The disposition of the regexp documentation could be improved, yes.
> >> Currently it's arranged by syntax, which is the implementor's view,
> >> rather than by function, which is the user's.
> >
> > FWIW, I disagree with that characterization.
> >
> > Especially when it comes to the doc for regexp
> > patterns, as a user I want it to be organized
> > according to syntax.  A regexp (regardless of
> > the particular syntax system used for regexps
> > in a given language) is very much about syntax.
>=20
> For me, this is different.  My background before ELisp was already
> having using regexps extensively in other languages, having read the
> "Mastering Regular Expressions" book, and so on.  (I expect that this
> is fairly typical.)

It's my case too, FWIW.  So far "this is different" isn't.

> So I go to the "Regular Expressions" node, looking mostly for how to
> use them.  But I find nothing on that there.  I only find a review of
> what looks like everything I already knew about regular expressions.

Hm.  Use of regexps is precisely what I'd have thought
you had experience with before Elisp.  What's particular
about Elisp regexps is their syntax and the behavior of
the regexp engine.  (And those pecularities are, BTW,
presented in "Mastering Regular Expressions", where
different regexp dialects are compared.)

> In the past, I did this: scratched my head, gave up and searched the
> web instead.  And it left me thinking that it's weird that Emacs
> documentation on Regular Expression is so poor...

Can you give an example (even artificial, if you don't
recall) of some "use" of regexps that you might have
wanted to find, and could not, in the manual.  Or even
just that you wanted to find (even if you found it).
I think I'm probably not getting what you have in mind.

> I have since learned that the information I have been looking for is
> actually in a separate node, for some reason not sorting under
> "Regular Expressions", called "Regexp Search".  This section is
> expertly written and exactly what I would have needed, only too bad I
> couldn't find it!  :-)

Ah, I see.  That's what you mean by using regexps.
OK, makes sense.  But that info, as you say, is there.
It's just that you couldn't find it at first.  You
didn't care about the Elisp regexp syntax etc.  You
wanted to know how to use a regexp to match text.

So the problem, I guess, was only that you had some
difficulty finding that doc.  Do you have an idea
what the difficulty was?  A guess: could it have
been because that doc was represented as being about
"searching" and you were looking for something about
"matching"?  Maybe the index could be improved, if
it's something as simple as that.

In addition, perhaps there could be a cross-reference
to the doc you were really looking for (node `Regexp
Search') from nodes `Regular Expressions' and `Regexp
Functions'.  Do you think that would help?

(Note BTW that the menu in node `Searching and
Matching' lists menu items `Regular Expressions' and
`Regexp Search'.)

> It definitely seems to me that there is room for improvement here.
> And I think it's more about the structure than content.

Got it.  Think it over and see if you can come up
with a suggested change.  I'm thinking indexing
and xrefs, but maybe something else is needed.

Maybe the order of nodes `Regular Expressions' and
`Regexp Search' should be switched: present how to
use them, before diving deep down into the exact
syntax.  I think that might make sense.

> BTW, while we're on it, it would be very handy to have an overview in
> the manual of the quirks of regexps in Emacs in comparison to other
> languages.  Mastering Regular Expressions does a very good job here,
> as far as I recall.  That plus a list of which functions to use would
> get me, when I first started out with ELisp, 99% of where I needed to
> be, I think.

That's just the comparison I mentioned above.
I'd suggest that instead of reproducing something
like that (which needs updating from time to time)
in the manual, the manual just have an external
link to such a comparison on the web.  If that
already exists then the updating might take care
of itself.  If not, then so be it.  If the book
is available as HTML, that could work.  If not,
and if there's no existing comparison, Someone(TM)
could create it on EmacsWiki.  Just a thought.




Information forwarded to bug-gnu-emacs@HIDDEN:
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Drew Adams <drew.adams@HIDDEN> writes:

>> The disposition of the regexp documentation could be improved, yes.
>> Currently it's arranged by syntax, which is the implementor's view,
>> rather than by function, which is the user's.
>
> FWIW, I disagree with that characterization.
>
> Especially when it comes to the doc for regexp
> patterns, as a user I want it to be organized
> according to syntax.  A regexp (regardless of
> the particular syntax system used for regexps
> in a given language) is very much about syntax.

For me, this is different.  My background before ELisp was already
having using regexps extensively in other languages, having read the
"Mastering Regular Expressions" book, and so on.  (I expect that this
is fairly typical.)

So I go to the "Regular Expressions" node, looking mostly for how to
use them.  But I find nothing on that there.  I only find a review of
what looks like everything I already knew about regular expressions.

In the past, I did this: scratched my head, gave up and searched the
web instead.  And it left me thinking that it's weird that Emacs
documentation on Regular Expression is so poor...

I have since learned that the information I have been looking for is
actually in a separate node, for some reason not sorting under
"Regular Expressions", called "Regexp Search".  This section is
expertly written and exactly what I would have needed, only too bad I
couldn't find it!  :-)

It definitely seems to me that there is room for improvement here.
And I think it's more about the structure than content.

---

BTW, while we're on it, it would be very handy to have an overview in
the manual of the quirks of regexps in Emacs in comparison to other
languages.  Mastering Regular Expressions does a very good job here,
as far as I recall.  That plus a list of which functions to use would
get me, when I first started out with ELisp, 99% of where I needed to
be, I think.

Just my 2 cents here.

Best regards,
Stefan Kangas




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Subject: RE: bug#41006: 26.3; regular expressions documentation
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> The disposition of the regexp documentation could be improved, yes.
> Currently it's arranged by syntax, which is the implementor's view,
> rather than by function, which is the user's.

FWIW, I disagree with that characterization.

Especially when it comes to the doc for regexp
patterns, as a user I want it to be organized
according to syntax.  A regexp (regardless of
the particular syntax system used for regexps
in a given language) is very much about syntax.

And if you try to organize the content instead
by the functions performed by different regexp
constructs (syntax) or their combinations, then
there are a zillion, conflicting possibilities.

A given such "use" organization might be perfect
for user U1 when looking for help with use case
C1, but it won't be so great for user U2 or even
for U1 when looking for help with a different use
case.

That's the trouble with use-case/task-oriented
doc.  Everyone thinks it's a great idea: "If I
just had some doc that directly addressed this
particular problem...".  And it is a great idea
as far as it goes.  But in general it is not a
good way to structure doc.  A set of tasks/use
cases is not easily structured in a useful way
for users.  Searching the doc can help, but
that's about it.

The Elisp manual is a combination of reference
doc (what) with user-guide doc (how-to).  Guide
doc can usefully include task help.  But guide
doc necessarily supplements - stands on top of -
reference doc; it's no substitute for it.

And when it comes to regexp doc in the Elisp
manual, we need solid reference doc, first and
foremost.  And the best organization for it in
this case is in terms of regexp syntax.

That doesn't mean that we can't _also_ have
some guidance (how-to) doc, which directly
addresses _using_ regexps: what you can (and
can't) do with them, and examples of how to
make best use of them in certain cases.

(Just one opinion.)




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Subject: Re: bug#41006: 26.3; regular expressions documentation
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> Currently it's arranged by syntax, which is the implementor's view, rathe=
r than by function, which is the user's.

Nicely put.

> The manual does say
>
> =E2=80=98\{M,N\}=E2=80=99
>      [...] If M is omitted, the minimum is 0; if N is omitted, there is n=
o
> maximum.

I did install 26.3 to make sure, and I've checked again and I
genuinely can't see that, but if it does, sorted, thanks.

The \=3D I'm sure is great, I just don't know where it might be useful.
Some examples might be of help however the manual isn't the place for
them.
The value of other anchors is obvious, I've used them all IIRC.

Thank you all.

jan

On 03/05/2020, Mattias Engdeg=C3=A5rd <mattiase@HIDDEN> wrote:
> The disposition of the regexp documentation could be improved, yes.
> Currently it's arranged by syntax, which is the implementor's view, rathe=
r
> than by function, which is the user's. Condensing related text into a sin=
gle
> page would help. (Cf. the more recently written section on rx in Emacs 27=
.)
>
> The manual does say
>
> =E2=80=98\{M,N\}=E2=80=99
>      [...] If M is omitted, the minimum is 0; if N is omitted, there is n=
o
> maximum.
>
> so you may be mistaken on that point.
>
> The \=3D anchor is probably less frequently used than the other zero-widt=
h
> assertions such as $, \< etc but does come in handy occasionally. It's th=
ere
> in case you need it.
>
>




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The disposition of the regexp documentation could be improved, yes. =
Currently it's arranged by syntax, which is the implementor's view, =
rather than by function, which is the user's. Condensing related text =
into a single page would help. (Cf. the more recently written section on =
rx in Emacs 27.)

The manual does say

=E2=80=98\{M,N\}=E2=80=99
     [...] If M is omitted, the minimum is 0; if N is omitted, there is =
no maximum.

so you may be mistaken on that point.

The \=3D anchor is probably less frequently used than the other =
zero-width assertions such as $, \< etc but does come in handy =
occasionally. It's there in case you need it.





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From: jan <rtm443x@HIDDEN>
Date: Sun, 3 May 2020 11:31:52 +0100
Message-ID: <CADJx9Ld4BsGtwvxmMQRFenGJXBMUMtBN59OE7eQKYi4C-Yc6hQ@HIDDEN>
Subject: Re: bug#41006: 26.3; regular expressions documentation
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Well there's a name I recognise!  Wasn't expecting that.

Anyway, allow me to push back slightly.  I have long ago training in
user interfaces, but I'm no expert.

To transmit info it has to be, among other things, 'evident' or
'obvious'.  In this case I'd say that means visible.
Section "15.6 Syntax of Regular Expressions" is very visible.  It's
easily navigable up and down by mouse or keyboard, also the scroll bar
gives clearer indication of how much there is and where you are on the
page.  Great stuff.
Even better it's easy to browse 'exhaustively' - if I start at the top
of the page and into the bottom I know I've covered everything.  I
find that property very useful as I do *a lot* of technical reading.

But it's only showing about half the information.  There is no evident
indication that there is more.  I'm not the first person to get
confused by this
(<http://emacs.1067599.n8.nabble.com/regex-question-td75006.html> "The
answer you seek seems to be in a separate section (Regexp Backslash),
at least in the version I am currently using" - that took about 15
seconds to find).

If you combine  both sections together it would be visible and
exhaustive.  Whether it would be too long is something I can't answer,
but my opinion would be it's okay (based purely on my evidence-free
opinion).

If you don't want to combine them then make the other half reasonably
visible (it's rather odd that the top of the section points you at
"(elisp)Regular Expressions" but not to backslash section).  About the
only evidence there is a second section,  is right at the very top in
the breadcrumbs (Next: Regexp Backslash) and a little hint at the end
("...since backslashes can legitimately precede these characters where
they _have_ special meaning, as in...").

Specifically may have suggests that the start that currently looks like this:

"
15.6 Syntax of Regular Expressions
==================================

This section (and this manual in general)...
"

perhaps have a direct link to the next section, like this

"
15.6 Syntax of Regular Expressions
==================================

Non-Backslash Regular Expressions   <--- dead link because you're here
Backslash Regular Expressions (more regexp syntax)  <--- live link

This section (and this manual in general)...
"

And perhaps repeat that link at the end of that help page as well.

Or something else.  Whatever you think works, assuming you even think
I have a point.

regards

jan



On 03/05/2020, Richard Stallman <rms@HIDDEN> wrote:
> [[[ To any NSA and FBI agents reading my email: please consider    ]]]
> [[[ whether defending the US Constitution against all enemies,     ]]]
> [[[ foreign or domestic, requires you to follow Snowden's example. ]]]
>
>   > 1. Suggest emacs' excellent documentation should not distinguish
> between
>   > Regexps and Regexp Backslash in the manual.
>   > That is, these 2 should be combined:
>
> When a node is too long, browsing in Info becomes inconvenient.
> Therefore, we look for a reading way to split up the node.
>
> We found that way to split up the node on regexps.
> There is no logical _need_ to split the topic that way, but it is not
> unreasonable, so it was a valid solution to the overlongness.
>
> I expect that many nodes are too long now, and we should look for
> reasonable ways to split them.
>
> --
> Dr Richard Stallman
> Chief GNUisance of the GNU Project (https://gnu.org)
> Founder, Free Software Foundation (https://fsf.org)
> Internet Hall-of-Famer (https://internethalloffame.org)
>
>
>




Information forwarded to bug-gnu-emacs@HIDDEN:
bug#41006; Package emacs. Full text available.

Message received at 41006 <at> debbugs.gnu.org:


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Subject: Re: bug#41006: 26.3; regular expressions documentation
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[[[ To any NSA and FBI agents reading my email: please consider    ]]]
[[[ whether defending the US Constitution against all enemies,     ]]]
[[[ foreign or domestic, requires you to follow Snowden's example. ]]]

  > 1. Suggest emacs' excellent documentation should not distinguish between
  > Regexps and Regexp Backslash in the manual.
  > That is, these 2 should be combined:

When a node is too long, browsing in Info becomes inconvenient.
Therefore, we look for a reading way to split up the node.

We found that way to split up the node on regexps.
There is no logical _need_ to split the topic that way, but it is not
unreasonable, so it was a valid solution to the overlongness.

I expect that many nodes are too long now, and we should look for
reasonable ways to split them.

-- 
Dr Richard Stallman
Chief GNUisance of the GNU Project (https://gnu.org)
Founder, Free Software Foundation (https://fsf.org)
Internet Hall-of-Famer (https://internethalloffame.org)






Information forwarded to bug-gnu-emacs@HIDDEN:
bug#41006; Package emacs. Full text available.

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From: jan <rtm443x@HIDDEN>
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Subject: 26.3; regular expressions documentation
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Hi, 3 issues (nothing major).

1. Suggest emacs' excellent documentation should not distinguish between
Regexps and Regexp Backslash in the manual.
That is, these 2 should be combined:


  * Regexps::                   Syntax of regular expressions.
  * Regexp Backslash::          Regular expression constructs starting with=
 =E2=80=98\=E2=80=99.

AFAICS the difference is purely arbitrary.
There have been times I've looked for the syntax for such syntax and
found it only because I knew it was there, but not in the same
section. A beginner might conclude emacs doesn't support them.


2. The documentation for {N, M} repetitions matching is incomplete (has
been a long time). Docs say M may be omitted but from testing I find N
may be omitted also ie \{,M\} is valid, and useful.

eg.

ba\{,2\}d

correctly matches only the top 2 of

bad
baad
baaad
baaaad


3. This from the docs

=E2=80=98\=3D=E2=80=99
     matches the empty string, but only at point.

baffles me. I've had a hard look for any examples of how it may be used
and found nothing. I feel I may be missing something extremely useful, I
just don't know what!

thanks

jan



In GNU Emacs 26.3 (build 1, x86_64-w64-mingw32)
 of 2019-08-29 built on CIRROCUMULUS
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emacs)

Memory information:
((conses 16 132611 9138)
 (symbols 48 23577 1)
 (miscs 40 56 151)
 (strings 32 41277 1782)
 (string-bytes 1 1117275)
 (vectors 16 18093)
 (vector-slots 8 539691 7632)
 (floats 8 60 91)
 (intervals 56 259 5)
 (buffers 992 12))




Acknowledgement sent to jan <rtm443x@HIDDEN>:
New bug report received and forwarded. Copy sent to bug-gnu-emacs@HIDDEN. Full text available.
Report forwarded to bug-gnu-emacs@HIDDEN:
bug#41006; Package emacs. Full text available.
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Copyright (C) 1999 Darren O. Benham, 1997 nCipher Corporation Ltd, 1994-97 Ian Jackson.