Discussions of IDEs, and the special challenges of having choice
The has released yet another session from the . I attended the Roundup in March, and we had a lot of great sessions, all of which were recorded and will be released over the next few months. They’re releasing about one a week so that they don’t overwhelm their bandwidth restrictions. Most of the sessions that have been released to date, were sessions that I had missed. The session that was released this week #115, on Java IDE’s, was one that I not only attended but also was responsible for convening. That simply means that it was a topic that I hoped that people would want to discuss, so I put a post-it note on the board, and people came. We had a great session, and I learned a lot.
Oh, and yes, there’s a little bit of Microsoft-bashing, but also some accolades too. For one thing, it occurred to me that this is not a conversation that Microsoft developers would be having (i.e., which IDE to choose). Most people use Visual Studio, and that’s an appropriate choice. Yes, there are plug ins, but my bet is that 99% of the community doesn’t bother installing them. I suspect that useful things make their way into Visual Studio, much as useful things make their way into MyEclipse and NetBeans. And yes, I’m sure that there are enterprising developers who customize their environments, but I seriously doubt that Microsoft programmers face quite the same number of choices that Java programmers do when configuring a developer environment. That’s not a bash; that’s actually a compliment. Out of the box, Visual Studio is not only usable, it’s quite useful. With the Java tools, there’s not simply “a box”. There’s “the web”. Go forth, young (wo)man, and find your IDE. Then decide how to customize it. This approach is self-selecting, I think. The types of people who have been drawn to Unix and Linux aren’t put off by this approach. They see it as an advantage. I’m not exactly put off by it, but if you listen to my comments during the session, you will realize that I do struggle with the sense that it’s a waste, some of the time, but then again, I love the fact that people are so motivated to build cool tools that can be easily plugged in.
My biggest concerns with this approach are:
1.It’s hard for new developers to get started
2.Young developers, who expect an IDE as part of modern software development practices will be put off and not choose to develop in Java
3.Time spent evaluating and selecting an IDE, and choosing customizations for it is time that I don’t spend solving problems for my clients.
I haven’t looked at NetBeans in a while, and I will (soon) spend some time looking at that again. I’ve been pretty happy with Eclipse and in the spirit of getting work done rather than once again evaluating tools, I was pretty happy to stay with it. But with some of the new features that NetBeans 6 will provide, I’m thinking it’s time to look at it again.
In any case, what I got out of this session after experiencing it both in person and later, as an observer, I took away the following:
1.We all like (and alternately hate) our IDE's. Even if our "IDE" is vi. 😉
2.Everyone struggles to find that sweet spot of plugins to use with their IDE of choice.
3.If you are a plugin "developer", write good docs and promote the tool wisely so that others can learn about it. Don't produce a 1 hr video (not kind to searching). And make sure that the Java Posse knows about your plugin/tool.
4.A rating system would go a long way toward helping the mere mortals among us to help find cool and useful plugins, and shorten our own individual evaluation cycles.
5. is a good place to look for plugins for NetBeans.
I think that *** said it best. It really comes down to community. Active participation within the community, sharing about tools, etc. is really essential to knowing what you can do better.