XDC News:  IDE Redesign Coming

I’ve made no secret that I despise really dislike the Navigator in the Xojo IDE.  It is often in the way and it paradoxically either shows not enough detail or way too much.  Working in a large project is an exercise in frustration due to the Navigator.  Thankfully, the most serious bugs have been worked out but there are still issues where the Navigator may or may not have the control focus when invoking a keyboard shortcut.  This can sometimes produce ‘interesting’ results

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During the XDC 2016 keynote last week Geoff Perlmann, CEO of Xojo announced that an IDE redesign happening.  This scheduled change should appear towards the end of 2017.  They acknowledged at XDC 2015 that the Xojo IDE needed some redesign but it is obvious that they’ve given it some serious thought with actual design documents that spell out exactly how it should work.

During the keynote Geoff showed us several screenshots of ‘Photoshopped’ versions of the new IDE with the caveat that everything could change between now and release.  The biggest change is that this new IDE is a mixture of the best of Real Studio and Xojo.

Gone is the Navigator (as we know it) with all of its faults.  In its place, Geoff said that we’ll start with a something akin to the Project Tab from Real Studio.  In the screenshot it looks like it’s a list of the project with a Type (e.g. Window, Class1, Class2, etc), and another column to describe what it is.  In Real Studio this was a combination of base class and whatever interfaces it might be using.  To figure out the base class and interfaces of an object in the Xojo IDE you have to hover your mouse over the item.  Every new tab will start with this project list.img_4510

Double clicking on an object zooms in on that object in the same tab. It loads whatever editor it needs.  This should eliminate much of the focus stealing that happens with the Navigator and make individual editors more stable without constantly having to worry about the Navigator.

A side benefit (I think) of the Navigator being eliminated is that the Library of controls is now on the left side of the screen and will be visible, by default, in the Form Layout editor.  This fixes a complaint many people have in the current implementation where the Library and Inspector can’t both be open at the same time without making them windows.

With two screen shots it’s hard to glean much information but with a toolbar item for Build Settings it’s a sure bet that their is a new (old again?) dialog for the build settings that is currently in the Navigator.  This makes sense because after you’ve set up those things how often do you really change them?  Again, one more thing eliminated from the Navigator that annoyed me.

It appears that Location is again in the toolbar.  This should make it faster to change locations in the project instead of having to invoke a dialog.  Since this IDE should work a little like Real Studio let’s hope that the Back/Forward buttons work properly.

We did not get a look at the Code Editor so it’s hard to say if that’s morphing back to what Real Studio was as well.  I for one would like to see the method definition pane move back to the top of the screen rather than in the Inspector.  In the “Meet the Engineers” panel the compiler engineer, Joe Ranieri, said that there would be changes likely in the debugger panel but didn’t mention anything specific since the 64 bit debugger is a work in progress.

From two screenshots it’s obvious that Xojo is listening to our complaints.  It’s a shame, though, that it will take four years to address them.  I can only wonder how many developers do a bulk of their work, still, in Real Studio because they are more efficient with it, and only compile in Xojo.  The plus side, though, is they are doing it the right way with a design document and essentially writing the documentation, first, before implementing it.  It’s a big and important job so it’s nice to see changes coming.

What about you?  Are you excited about it or is this just one more thing to relearn?

17 thoughts on “XDC News:  IDE Redesign Coming

  1. About damn time. I was much more productive in the previous RS IDE. I’d be delighted to have to “relearn” yet-another-IDE (assuming I renew my license).

    • I suspect it won’t take much to get into it since a) it’s more like Real Studio, and b) it’s like every other dev tool out there where you double click to ‘open’ the object and load whatever editor you need for that object. If anything, I feel it will feel more intuitive.

      But, only time will tell.

  2. Over the last years I had tried several times to use Xojo. And even though I had and have an active license, I only switched to Xojo from REAL.studio 2012 R2.1 about 3 months ago, wanting to give it a real try. I have regretted it ever since.

    I’m well aware that you can reach a goal via different paths, but there were times when I simply wondered how somebody could possibly think the changes made to the IDE were advantageous. I always had the feeling that Xojo stubbornly stuck to the “new” IDE rather than wanting to admit that it was a step backwards from the REAL.studio IDE and that they will incorporate the best bits over time (the project tab should have come back a looong time ago). Btw I experienced the same recalcitrance when I questioned on the forums why the website and blog did not even mention the XDC while it was on – that’s PR 101.

    So while I am delighted that they FINALLY seem to combine the best bits of the REAL.studio and Xojo IDE, I’m hoping they are faster in implementing a global switch between the old and the new framework 😉

    • Well, the stated goal was to have the new framework on all targets by the end of 2017. Only time will tell if that happens in that timeframe or not.

  3. Ha. I can’t stand the. Xojo ide. We still use REALbasic even though we have licences for xojo

  4. When Xojo came along I found no problem at all switching to the new IDE – it was/is a step up from RS/RB. Perhaps at 53 (when released) I was still young enough to change.

    However I do develop on Windows and perhaps it is shite on macOS/OSX.

    Perhaps it’s just the way we use the product & I use it more like the developers than some folks here?

  5. The company I work for does focus groups when we update our products. Xojo has had a habit of wanting to surprise us and yet, we’ve made it clear for years that we hate surprises.

    • I know that the Xojo engineering staff have the same complaints we do so I think it will be considerably improved. Still, wouldn’t mind being an early alpha tester to prove/disprove the design.

      • I’ve been in the alpha/betas. We’ve certainly been able to push back on a few issues which is nice. But the IDE was just thrust upon us and we were basically told “it’s too late.”

        I get the impression xojo wants to have a grand Steve Jobs “reveal” instead of a collaboration with users. Not all users. That would be a disaster. But it’s easy to see who amongst us uses the IDE the most and is clear thinking about these kinds of design issues.

  6. In our team we still use REALbasic 2011r3, because the navigation of Xojo is inefficient with large projects. I’m also hoping they are faster in implementing a new project tab.

  7. I really hope the new IDE will be very keyboard friendly. I swear my tendinitis got a lot worse since I use the Xojo IDE.

  8. I hope they pull in some of the good elements of Visual Studio like the code editor, I also hope they had the ability to enable/disable plug-ins on a per-project level oh and text based files not XML for external files make code merges a lot cleaner.

    • “I also hope they had the ability to enable/disable plug-ins on a per-project level”

      If memory serves the plan is to do just that. And have the ability to have multiple versions of plugins installed that can be assigned on a project by project basis.

      Of course, none of this matters until we actually see it in action. I’m sure there will be some gotcha that we won’t like.

  9. I have found that one benefit of the new IDE is that it’s much easier to peruse someone else’s code in the tree view without opening a new tab each time you want to view a class. Other than that I sometimes get lost in the tree when working on my own projects.

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