Grateful for the Xojo IDE

I use Xojo every day and it’s almost my exclusive development tool.  I’m so close to the product it is easy to see the warts of the product but in reality it’s a pretty stable and easy-to-use system that’s mostly good for beginners and experts alike.  The documentation, while not perfect is useful and the example projects are decent as well.

I came to this conclusion after a couple of recent projects have taken me into xCode and Eclipse.  Where to even begin comparing these IDEs to Xojo is challenging because they are both similar and so different than Xojo.  In xCode I was porting some iOS Objective-C code to Xojo and working with a hardware library.  Eclipse is used by my son’s FRC robotics team to develop software for their robot.  In each case I’ve wanted to pull (what’s left of) my hair out.

I guess one of the biggest differences is that sheer number of options you have in both xCode and Eclipse.  So many options, I posit, that it’s difficult to figure out what they all do, and make it hard for beginners (like I was a few weeks ago) to get going.  I don’t make any claims in knowing them any better now than I did a few weeks ago either.  I got them to work and I simply left them in that state with the hopes that no future update wipes them out.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still not the biggest fan of the Xojo IDE in comparison to the old Real Studio IDE.  This is mainly because of the Navigator and how spastic it’s been since it’s initial release.  Thankfully it’s working pretty well in the latest releases and I find myself not swearing at the IDE much.

I also know the plan is to make the Navigator work closer to the old project tab in Real Studio.  Truthfully, I’m looking forward to it and dreading it at the same time.  I *think* it will work better than the current system but I won’t know until I use it.  And by the time we use it, it will already be too late to make any significant changes.  I dread that we’ll be faced with some awful bugs that will take time to work out and I also dread that the workflow might actually be worse than it is now.  We just won’t know until it’s put in front of us.

Are there other things that I wish the Xojo IDE did differently?  Sure.  I despise defining methods in the tiny Inspector whereas in the Real Studio IDE it took up the entire width of the Code Editor.  I also wish there were faster ways to define methods since I’m forced to use the UI to do so.  You figure after 15 years of doing this I pretty much know how to do it by now.  Alas, I have no other option than to use the UI.

Some of the other editors are like this too.  The Constants Editor requires too many mouse clicks to work right.  I want more “hands off the mouse” options.  As far as I can tell, the Menu Editor has no keyboard shortcuts as well as FileTypes editor.  In both cases, I would almost prefer a Plist type editor.

From a simplicity standpoint, though, Xojo is easy to use and doesn’t let you do too many stupid things.  I wish some other IDEs would take that approach for newbies, but then I guess their approach is to throw people into the deep end and let them sink or swim.  Xojo  tries to be helpful in that regard.

Other IDEs have some cool features.  What features would you like to see copied from other IDEs into Xojo?

REALbasic IDE: Mac vs. Windows

Normally I run REALbasic on Mac OS X and remote debug in Windows.  This works 99.9% of the time but late last week I ran into a situation where I wanted the IDE on the Windows side as well.  So I installed RB and downloaded the plugins that I needed.  Then I started to use RB.

Using RB for Windows was…different.  I’m not sure that I can quantify it other than that it seemed less polished.  It just doesn’t feel like a normal Windows app and it certainly was not as smooth as the Mac OS X version.

The reason I was in Windows to begin with was of tracking down a printing bug that was affecting my product.  Turned out it was the Application.UseGDIPlus property that had been set to true.  The end result was that my reports were ‘blown up’ about 10 times bigger than they should have been.  This has been documented and is <feedback://showreport?report_id=10399>.  Turning off the property fixed the problem.  Some fix, eh?

I don’t think that Windows gets as much attention as the Mac OS X.  Why do I believe this?  The ARBP surveys consistently show Mac users being about 80% of the membership.  Likewise, traffic to this website is roughly 80% Macintosh.  What this means is that beta testers are predominantly Mac based.  I believe that most of the developers at RS are Mac users as well.

Currently, RS is in the transition to get Cocoa out.  It won’t be happening for 2010 R1…so it’s obviously a much tougher nut to crack than they originally thought.  Honestly, I’m not surprised.  Going from Carbon to Cocoa is like creating an entire new platform.  Eighteen months to two years isn’t out of the question for such a big undertaking.

I’m hoping that when Cocoa is out and working great (you think it won’t have some bugs in the first release?) that RS pays a lot of attention to Windows.  They’ve said in the past (sorry no reference for this) that a vast majority of new licenses are Windows users.  But yet, based on observation, the professionals and beta testers are mainly Mac users.  Does that not say something?  Would better Windows support translate into more Professional and Studio licenses?  I don’t know, but I suspect so.

Perhaps it’s time to kill support for Windows 2000.  I’d even suggest killing off XP but I know a lot of places in the world are still actively using it so that’s probably a non-starter.  I believe Cocoa support will effectively kill support for anything less than Mac OS X 10.4 so why not for Windows too?

I suggest that everyone that has a Studio license do a bulk of their work in Windows for a couple of weeks.  More Windows-specific bug reports will (hopefully) get some of the more obvious (and painful) bugs fixed.

What are your feelings about this?  Am I right, wrong, or somewhere in-between?