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Integrated Development Environment


Category: General

The Integrated Development Environment (IDE) is a popular tool in the programming profession. This is software that assists the programmer in typing programs as well as tying all the program code together into larger projects. Despite the popularity of these programs, I absolutely despise using them.

I've just been using a program called "Eclipse" which is one of the more popular IDEs. It was originally intended for use with a programming language called Java, though you can use it for a wide variety of programming languages and platforms. It tells you when you have misspelled key words or variable names. It helps you fill in the missing parts of functions you are trying to call. It automatically generates a great deal of your code for you. That's where the problem comes in.

In 1981 I started churning out my own code. This means that I am reasonably adept at actually typing out what I want. I can quickly write programs that are correct without any sort of outside assistance. So, a program that makes guesses about what I'm doing and then overtypes what I've written is not really helping matters much. The writers of these IDEs seem to think that their experience is some how better than mine and that I should not be trusted.

There are aspects of IDEs that I don't mind. They help organize various code files into projects. They attach to the compilers to facilitate turning your source code into programs that the computer can run. When they are set up correctly, they let teams of programmers work together on the same project simultaneously. It's when they try to out smart me that I get annoyed.

Eclipse is not the only offender in this. Microsoft's Visual Studio also annoyed me greatly by being "helpful". I've seen a few others too, but Eclipse and Visual Studio seem to be the kings in the industry. Fortunately, there are ways to turn off the helpfulness; you just have to find the time to dig through all the documentation to find the right settings to change.

Those of you who are not computer people may be a little lost at this point, so I present this comparison of other activities. Many of you may be familiar with, say, preparing a meal for guests or maybe doing some repair project in the garage. Now imagine performing those tasks as part of your job and that doing it wrong will harm your professional reputation. Now imagine that you must perform the task with the help of a four year old child. That's what the help of the IDE is like. There is a well-meaning four year old between you and the stuff you are doing and you are not allowed to send it away.

It may just be that I have been doing my own code for such a long time and haven't retrained myself to take advantage of the "benefits" of code completion and other tricks of the IDE. Many of the younger coders talk about how good these things are. (We'll ignore the way I complain about the laziness among many of them.) This may just be a case of a crotchety, old bastard railing against the new-fangled contraptions. Still, I rather like typing for myself.

In any event, IDEs are not going away. They are a tool of the trade and I'm going to have to learn to deal with them. There's a chance I may even learn to appreciate them. If I really try, I might learn to harness their abilities so I can be lazy myself. Now there is a goal.

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