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IDEs kill exploration

(So this is one of those technical posts ;) )

IDEs, Integrated Development Environments, like Eclipse or Netbeans or Visual Studio .Net are commonplace in today’s software development process, some say they make certain languages and platforms bearable, some say the are very convenient: They can generate all kinds of boilerplate code for you and try to integrate documentation and other resources which sounds great, right?

Well there’s a catch: To work in an IDE you always do the same dance (some details might change but the gist stays the same)

  1. You create a new project
  2. now you gotta tell the IDE what kind of project you are gonna be doing
  3. the project needs a name
  4. boilerplate environment crap

Now sometimes that approach makes sense: You have a clearly defined project, you get a clear and complete specification from someone (or have build it yourself) and you “just” have to transfer that spec into code. Now the IDE might make sense.

But for many cases this does not work: Let’s say you just want to play around with an API, a library or just want to toy around with an idea. “Creating” a new project is not bad, but do you already know what kind of project it’s going to be? Do you have a name (and “testproject” does not count!)?

Exploratory programming is an important part, not just of the development of a programmer, but also of learning about a new toolkit and it’s one of the most important prototyping tools a programmer has. IDEs kill that by stacking up many many “sit-ups” in front of every programming exercise that you want to get into so you either put too much thought into it or you drop the exercise alltogether.

Too much thought? Yes there is such a thing. You want to explore, to play around, to test ideas and too much previous thought already eliminates the “crazy” ideas. Sounds smart, right? Nope, crazy ideas are what moves you forward. The “normal”, the “well-tought” part is great when you know exactly what you need to do, when everything is clear. But when you want to learn what a beast can do, want to explore your own ideas, limiting yourself robs you of your greatest asset: Your creativity.

If you want to be more than an accountant of code, know something else than your favourite IDE. Learn an efficient and lean text editor that gets you playing around quickly (I recommend vim but there the “learning part” might be too much for you ;) ). Because tools are there to help you be as creative as possible, not limit you.

Reposted byfinkreghkrannixodessa2penpenwexelwirkendatenwolffpletz

January 29 2010

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