Emacs causes RSI?


Just a random thought but I seriously wonder, does Emacs cause repetative strain injury?

I know some emacs fans might see that as flamebait but it's a serious question. I know a few programmers with RSI syndrome and 3 of 4 are emacs users. There are times I've had to use emacs for extended periods and I noticed how much I had to torque my hands to press things like Ctrl−X, Ctrl−S for Save or Ctrl−X, Ctrl−C for quit or Esc−Ctrl−2 for split and Esc−Ctrl−O for Other buffer, Ctrl−Y for yank etc..

Not that this is a good thing but back in the late 80s, early 90s I got hooked on then famous editor called Brief) by Underware. Back then there were no standard keys for Windows programs like Ctrl−C for copy or Ctrl−V for paste. Brief used keypad + for copy and insert to paste. In both cases there is less stress on my hand to press 1 key than 2.

Like many people I got hooked on my editor and have never switched keys. I switched to Visual Slickedit sometime around 93−94 but Slickedit has Brief emulation and so I've never switched back.

Once in a while think maybe I should switch to the semi standard CUA keys as they are called. Unforunately, every time I try I find the strain on my hands is too much.

Examples: In brief, search is F5, replace is F6. In CUA search is like Ctrl−F. Ctrl−F is a much bigger strain on my hands than F5 is. Other examples, in CUA top of document is, to be honest I don't know. I think it's some crazy thing like Ctrl−Shift−PageUp or something. In Brief it's Home Home Home. Pressing Home once takes you to the beginning of the current line, pressing it again takes you to the stop of the current screen, pressing a third time take you to the top of the document. Must less hand stress than trying to press 3 keys at once. Similar End End End goes the other direction.

Anyway, knowing that so many emacs users have RSI issues I wonder if seriously the default key choices are the cause. Of course you can reconfigure all of them but hardly anyone changes the defaults.

Some medical student should look into it. How many programmers have RSI and what editor they use. Divide the number of people with RSI that use a particular editor by the number of programmers that use that editor say in the entire CS department of a few universities and see if there is any correlation between the editor used and the incidence of RSI. I'd bet there would be some correlation even if that would not prove cause.

It would be good to know. If it did turn out to be true then people would know to reconfigure their editor getting a chance to lower their RSI risk and it would also encourage application designers to choose keys that lower RSI.

Someone do this study and get famous!

Paul and Josh
Little Big Planet's Disconnect