My private IDE war : small things make a big difference.

December 11, 2006

For the last three years I need to develop in both Java and C# side-by-side, which means almost simultaneous work with different IDEs. Thus the simple and intuitive interface is a must for keeping a productivity pace. And probably the most used and critical feature is a hot key shortcuts for navigating, debugging, refactoring and so on.
Ideally, I’d like to have the same hot key scheme in all my IDEs, so there will be no need to learn and remember how to do the same things twice.
I’m usually working with three commons: VisualStudio 2005, Easy Eclipse and IntelliJ IDEA.
So, what are the offerings?

  • Visual Studio 2005
    “Options -> Keyboard” dialog offers you eight different hot key mapping possibilities that can suite almost anyone used to work with Microsoft tools once. No surprise here: Microsoft, as usual, cares about “their” developers only, but provides a perfect solution.
    Visual Studio 2005 key mappings
  • IntelliJ IDEA 4.5
    “IDE Settings -> Keymap” has four built in possibilities including Mac OS X and Visual Studio schemes. Mac OS X scheme is nice, Eclipse bindings seems to be missing, but Visual Studio is surprising: “wow, they even remember about those migrating from .Net to Java!”. I did not check the later versions, but its probably not worse.
    Intellij IDEA key mappings
  • Easy Eclipse 1.2.1
    “Preferences -> General -> Keys” gives a two possibilities: default and emacs. These guys do not care about anyone using any tool other that their own? Don’t worth a screenshot.
    The most annoying thing is that they do think about this feature: Eclipse has a quick assistance for a hot keys, creating and modifying key bindings is an issue, developers complain about feature weakness and still nothing is done.

The very sad bottom line is: do not expect extra attention to your needs unless you pay…

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9 Responses to “My private IDE war : small things make a big difference.”

  1. X4lldux Says:

    What about X-Develop? A wonderful IDE for C# and Java! It has 6 key binding profiles (including Eclipse, VS .NET and IDEA). Very nice IDE!


  2. Thanks for the note, I never hear about X-Develop before.
    Its feature set looks very impressive, but personally for me it will be useless as both .Net (product I’m working with – the Visual MainWin for J2EE [aka Grasshopper] is integrated into VS) and Java (its license costs are almost the same as IntelliJ IDEA) IDE.
    And, just for the note, the fact that this powerful IDE costs $449 per license just strengthens my point.

  3. Diego Says:

    Hi, if you don’t need to use the GUI builder, why not use emacs it is fully extensible and runs in every plataform.
    At first it is hard to use but once you learn how to use it, you won’t be able to go back, to any other editor. Macros are one of the coolest things emacs has.!!! Give it a try.

  4. Max Battcher Says:

    Visual Studio certainly allows a lot of flexibility in the keyboard bindings if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty. If the Options doesn’t provide what you are looking for you could most likely do it from the SDK and if that isn’t your thing you could probably find an off the shelf add-in to do (most of) what you want. (I’m tempted by ViEmu http://www.viemu.com/, but I’m not yet certain if it is worth the price tag.)

    I have no idea how to correspond the bindings across all three of your IDEs, though.

  5. Jon Says:

    Boris, I’m the author of ViEmu. If you care to use vi/vim editing, you can use it in all three environments: ViEmu in Visual Studio, viPlugin in Eclipse, and ideavim for IntelliJ IDEA. I haven’t really tried out the other two ones, as I don’t use Eclipse or IDEA, but they seem to work.

    vi/vim editing will provide all the regular and the advanced editing functionality, plus a lot more that most editors won’t provide, using an interface based on keystrokes, which will allow you to record and play macros, perform complex file-wide substitutions and manipulations, repeat commands, etc… in all of the three environments. Plus you have vim for all major platforms and vim (or regular vi) is available in most if not all Unix installations. A lot of editing power accessible in more environments than you’ll probably need.

    After I release my next product, I’m planning an in-depth article for non-vi users that explains the real advantages of vi/vim editing in a clear way, which are the reason many people stick to it even 30 years after vi was designed.

    ViEmu is a commercial product and the price tag might look a bit steep at first, but I certainly believe it’s well worth the price if you can use vi/vim and value productivity. If you’re getting properly paid for your development work, the price should be fair. But of course, I’m completely biased.

    Max, I understand your concerns with the price. To understand it, you need to keep two things in mind: the first is that I can only afford to work in it as a commercial offering, as it’s the first product of my small software startup – I would have to work on something else if I didn’t charge properly for it. And the second is that the price tag necessarily reflects the small audience size for such a product.

    Boris, if you’d like to learn vi/vim, which I’d encourage you too, and even if you don’t plan on using ViEmu, I believe the vi/vim cheat sheet and tutorial I prepared are probably the best way to get started. It’s not *as* hard as it seems at first, and the benefits are numerous and long-lasting.


  6. Thank you Jon

    The tool looks nice, I’ll probably promote it to my “Nothing but vi” friends.

    But my point is that I do not want to study a new IDE tricks, but just a bit of help from the vendors in keeping good old stuff available in all environments.

  7. Jon Says:

    Boris, you’re right. I’ve found general IDE and text editor shortcuts to be notoriously unstable, even between different releases of the same product.

    Good luck in getting your issue addressed!

  8. Enconvink Says:

    Eh.. I like to show you my clever driving I have a nice fresh joke for you people) Did you hear about the kid who traded his hotdog for a hamburger?? He was participating in a SWAP MEAT!!!!


  9. thanks for this im adding this blog to my twitter.


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