Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Opinions, opinions

We have all seen the postings on almost every single forum that is out there. You know what I am speaking of, those postings that read, "What is the best IDE for BLAH language?". If you have read any of the tirades.....er.....responses to those questions, then you are fully aware that it is a "my opinion is better than your opinion" atmosphere.

You may get a couple of responses in the beginning, where people are telling you what IDE they use, the pros, the cons, and why they think it is so wonderful, but then it starts. You get this multitude of fascist dictator types that absolutely insist that "there is no better IDE than (input editor here) and that all other editors are crap in comparison!". You even have the old school folks, some of whom can remember creating punch cards, who believe that command line editors or vi are the best editors.

If you are one of those that is getting ready to ask that time-(de)tested question of "Which IDE is better for ...?", then just DON'T!

Here is what I believe, and no, I am not going to go and follow the masses, preaching what I think is the best editor. Instead I am going to sum it up with this..... try them all. Download and install a number of editors. Play with them, write code with them, debug with them, get to know them. While you are doing this, take notes on what you like and dislike about each one. Then, when you are done, compare all of your notes. You have to not only look at the notes, but you have to think to yourself, "will I still like this editor in a 6 months? a year? " The answer may very well be, I don't know.

I am old-school unix. I believe that the command line rules and vi is the best day-to-day editor. All of the coding that I have learned has been by hand. I prefer not to learn with a fancy, shmancy do-it-all-for-you editor as I won't learn anything. I like learning a new language in an editor like vi because I get to debug my code by hand and not rely on a program to tell me what is wrong. This allows me to assess the errors and get my coding (by hand) down to a science. After I am more than comfortable, then I migrate to a more comfortable editor that will save me time.

While vi will always have a place in my heart and my editing world (being the first editor I used on Unix), I must say that I have leaned toward Active State's Komodo for my day to day coding in Perl ( and other misc languages, including HTML). Yes, some will tell you it is a beast and clunky slow. Personally, it takes a minute to start up, but after that, I don't have any issues. I don't have this insatiable need to have my editor at my fingertips within a nanosecond of clicking on the link to launch it. I am patient enough that I can wait the 30 or so seconds that it takes to launch. I use it because I like its syntax highlighting, code sense (hints, kind of like Micro$oft's Intellisense), and overall comfortable feel.

That my friends, is what I think the key is..... comfort! You have to pick an editor that you like and not listen to the skewed views of the mass critics out there.

In a posting to the Boston Linux User's group, Uri Gutman wrote, "so my main point is that coders need to be smarter about their analysis, architecture and design and less caught up in tools like IDE's and syntax highlighting. you can have the greatest IDE in the world and
still come up with crappy code and solutions. whereas a good software design can be written and debugged with any set of tools."

That is one of the best statements that I have read on the subject and it is something that I have believed in for some time. If you aren't able to write good code and be able to debug it thoughtfully, then no editor in the world is really going to help you!

Happy coding!

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