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Re: [Caml-list] New Ocaml Plug-in for NetBeans
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Date: 2008-07-26 (12:01)
From: hmf@i...
Subject: Re: [Caml-list] New Ocaml Plug-in for NetBeans

Hope not to take this too much further...

Erik de Castro Lopo wrote:
> hmf@inescporto.pt wrote:
>> I am sceptical of comments such as those of Erik's (no disrespect
>> intended here).
> No offence taken.
>> I suspect these people either have not tried using
>> an IDE or simply haven't made the effort to learn to use the IDE and
>> take full advantage of it.
> As little as a 18 months ago I spend about 6 months maintaining
> 100k lines of mixed C++ and C# code using Visual Studio 2005,
> the IDE all the IDE fans rave about. It found the Visual Studio
> experience amazingly underwhelming; beyond tedious. The GUI hid
> details from me that I thought I needed to know and got in my
> way when I thought it should stay out of it.
> More recently I spend a couple of months using the Adobe Flash
> GUI development tools. Again I found this a woefully tedious
> exercise and wished for command line tools to replace the stupid
> and annoying GUI. The GUI thought it knew how I wanted to format
> my Actionscript code better than I did.
> The funny thing is that my preferences for command line tools was
> something I developed after my first exposure to an IDE. My first
> serios coding was done on Borland's Turbo Pascal and Turbo C IDEs
> back in the late 1980s.
> In the late 1990s I did a lot of FPGA development using the Xilinx
> development tools. It was the inadequacy of these tools which forced
> me back to Make because my Makefile understood the build process
> I wanted to achieve better than than the Xilinx tools. Later on
> in my FPGA design career I would do schematic entry of FPGA designs,
> export a Xilinx XNF netlist, convert the XNY netlist to VHDL using
> a utility I wrote and then run that VHDL through a simulator.
> This was actually a pivotal event for me because I was able to do
> better work by breaking free of the IDE which limited what I could
> do.

Ok, I assumed too much then. My apologies.

Two comments though:

a) Don't expect an IDE to provide all of the underlying functionality.
    Its just not feasible. I don't expect it.

b) I am *not* saying that IDEs don't have limitations. I am defending
   the point of view that a good IDE will *promote* Ocaml's *adoption*
   (ease of use for newbies, facilitates giving classes to students,
    allows quick prototyping by *non-experts*, etc...)

> IDEs still limit what I can do. How many IDEs allow for meta
> programming; source code compiling to programs which generate
> code which gets compiled to create the final program?

You mean create several projects, make a dependency to ensure
they are compiled correctly and in order and then call one of
those compiled applications to generate code? Hmm... I think
just the last part may be missing in the IDE I use.

> How many IDEs cater for more than one language? The thing is I use
> lots of lanaguages. At work I work on a number of projects, some
> in C, some in C++ and some in Ocaml. Doing it my way, with Linux
> as my IDE, means that apart from the compilers, everything else is
> the same. Same editor and same build system (make possibly augmented
> with the autotools).

Ok, this is not a rebuttal but... we all know C, C++, Ocaml, Haskell,
Ruby, etc, are supported in Eclipse. Granted support is not
perfect, but you can work quite comfortably.

> How many people who use multiple languages are willing to learn a
> different IDE for each language? Eclipse is not the answer either
> because however good it might be for Java its not very good for
> other langauges.

You don't. See above.

>> Which is surprising since mastering Ocaml
>> requires much effort, and all here seem to agree that the added
>> productivity of using Ocaml is worth it ;-).
> The same can be said for the Unix IDE, but the UNIX IDE is 100
> times more flexible and more capable than any other IDE in
> existance. I know Make well enough  to whip up a complex make
> file in minutes. I am also intimately familair with the automake/
> autoconf/libtool set. Since these tools are so flexible they
> adapt to my requirements and never force me to work the way they
> are designed.

What I say here also goes for Richard. I am aware that a lot of time
has gone into learning these tools (20 years!). I am just saying that to
use IDEs also requires effort. Of course whether this is advantageous or
not is up to you. For the newbies, students and even those that hack
as a hobby, I believe it certainly is. This is what I defend.

>> In fact mastering
>> emacs, vi, etc. with all those "modes" also requires a lot of
>> work.
> I don't like emacs and vi. My editor of choice for the last 13
> years has been nedit (Nirvana Editor) which has syntax highlighting
> for dozens of languages (and it easy to add new ones or modify
> existing ones), regex search/replace and macros. Its configurable
> so over the years I have bent it into the shape I  want. The same
> goes for my Unix shell.

Ok. But most IDE editor also offer most (all?) of those capabilities,
correct? Anyway, this is not the issue.

>> Why should the use of an IDE be any different?
> Unix is my IDE and I am reasonably certain that I can do more
> with my IDE than you can do with yours :-). By more, I mean
> more languages, more meta programming, more custom build
> options with more languages.

Granted. But I am defending lowering the barrier for Ocaml use.
Not for solving every conceivable problem that comes your way.
Remember: use the right tool to solve the problem.

> I suspect that a lot of the people who think Ocaml needs an IDE
> are people whose primay development platform is windows.

Ubuntu, before that Gentoo, before that Fedora, before that Red-hat.
Ok so before that windows NT, VMS, windows 98, windows 95,
windows 3.1 (I think), and ms-dos. So yes, I used windows quite a bit

On a final note: I believe that much of the resistance to use IDEs
also comes the following simple facts:

a) A lot of effort has gone into learning the tools used. No one wants
   to throw away all they have invested in that.

b) Use of an IDE may also signify "lock-in".

But please note: I didn't say use only the IDE. That's not possible. We
all know that. Again, I am only defending the idea that IDEs are
excellent to facilitate the use of Ocaml.


> Erik
> PS : Here's a nickle kid. Go and buy yourself a real computer :-).