What’s in an IDE!

Over the last 15 years or so I have used a few IDE’s for programming “proper” applications in Pascal, Delphie, C/C++ or Java but since moving to the darker side of computing, the linux world I never really needed an IDE and they were just bloated text editors. I don’t think much has changed but there are some good points and I’m at a cross roads as to what to do.

Should I spend some time making Vim, the best text editor the world will ever see better or give up and use an IDE, it’s not as straight forward as I would like to think or as anyone else would probably think so I wonder how it will turn out.

The basics

I’m currently, and probably most likely to be doing web based development and Ruby / python. Up until recently I had just used Vim to get any Ruby programming I needed done, and to be honest it worked okay. I typically just opened a new terminal tab and then changed to the repo directory and started opening files, So I had to cd to a directory before opening the file it wasn’t killing me. I was able to just open and get on with making changes with no real hassle and with syntax high lighting it worked out quite well. Recently I have started to do more web based things and have started using an IDE for that and that’s what’s lead to this blog, there’s a few features of an IDE that I think I’m missing from Vim.

1, Being able to see the entire project directory easily and visually navigating to supporting files to have a quick view / edit is nice.
2, Refactoring, simple things like changing a variable name can be a real bugger in Vim, yes you can find and replace but that is not the same as refactoring, to refactor like an IDE does Vim would need to understand to some degree the codes structure and not to treat it all like text
3, Hiding chunks of code, being able to rol up / down sections of code can make it a lot easier to focus on what’s actually going on
4, Word completion, IDE’s know about the libs being used and the other variabels so can offer hints to complete the words being typed which is very handy
5, Short hand, being able to type short hand to do lots of things, like starting a html tag and having it auto completed speeds up development which must be good

I think if I could get the above features in Vim I probably would struggle to justify not using Vim, lets see what happens.

Vim IDE

1, This is seemingly an easy oen to address with something like NERD tree Initially this looks good so I’m saying point 1 is solved, just need some better aliases (:help 40.2)

2, In short, no, I’ve only seen normal find / replace or basically using grep, There does seem to be language specific ones like This but who wants to find a new refactoring plugin (if someone wrote it) for every new language…

3, This is again easy if you know what to look for Folding is not new and from my quick play seems good.

4, Again language specific it seems possible: this one for ruby, but what about python? javascript? etc etc

5, This one is a simple one that vim does do: Here but it’s almost like you have to hand crank it all!

Summary

So from what I can see I can spend some time making Vim do what I need, and no doubt there’s some stuff there for Ruby and Python that would make it a lot more useful to use as an IDE but it still doesn’t make it easy and will be rather language specific in terms of making it work well out of the box. It does seem that IDE’s are better at those specific tasks above, not to mention debugging and break points etc, maybe Vim can do more of that too and I just don’t know how.

Either way it coped better with the 5 original points than I thought it would and I have found some things out that suggest it may be worth tweaking my current vim to make it better. In the mean time I think I will continue to persevere with learning the IDE and it’s short cuts as it appears that it could dramatically speed up my development by just simply using the tools already there.

I wasn’t expecting to find vi to be as good as it was but in my head even though I prefer Vim at the moment I think the IDE will cope better in the long run, time will tell.

Category:
code, Linux, Ruby
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