[OT] Text Editor vs IDE aka ctrl-s froze VI

Michael Torrie torriem at chem.byu.edu
Fri Oct 14 14:11:24 MDT 2005

On Fri, 2005-10-14 at 12:49 -0600, Steve wrote:
> Again my argument here is not against features.
> My argument is for simplicity.  Primarily in the UI.

I think we need to just admit right here that it's really not about
simplicity, features, the interface, or intuitiveness.  It's just
personal preference, religious or otherwise.  My reasons for saying this
are below.  So I'm not going to argue with your preference, but only
with your arguments.

> I would say I'm pretty far from being a newbie, but the previous
> poster is correct, few things are more irritating than hitting some
> combo of keys or another and having your editor turn into a
> news-reader.  Furthermore VI while it most likely won't turn into a
> newsreader, does suffer from the fact that it isn't easily accessible.
>  By that I mean that VI functions like VI, very few programs share
> VI's interface or lack thereof, which makes it a pain in the @$$ to
> switch back and forth when needed.

I know of no vi user that has any problems switching between vi and any
other program.  I admit I occasionally drop a few colons here and there
when I use a modeless editor.  Humans are much more adaptable than you
give them credit for.  And often I find proponents of making a UI
"intuitive" getting the hammer syndrome.  Intuitiveness is all relative.
No interface, despite the famous quote, is intuitive unless you
understand the few basic premises behind it.  Editors may or may not be
ideal applications of "intuitiveness."  Every paradigm has its limits
and problem domains that it is ideally suited to.  One can make a good
argument that GUIs are not at all intuitive for some problem domains.

> Neither ones keystroke combinations, are the least bit intuitive, and
> any time I have to stop and think about how to accomplish something in
> my text editor, that is time taken away from being productive and
> editing the text.

I have to agree with Scott on this one.  I can't speak for emacs, but vi
just gets out of the way and lets me work.  For some reason, the having
editor modes is a very intuitive thing to me.  If you watch a seasoned
vi user at work (I don't claim to be such a person), you'll see them
manipulating text far faster than is possible in any conventional,
modeless text editor.  I've watched in awe BYU CS prof Dr. Woodfield as
he cuts and pastes, searches and replaces, and does repetitive tasks
with a smoothness and ease that no text editor can match.  In this case
the editor absolutely is intuitive to him.  But it is the efficiency
that wins out in this case.  And that is one of the key reasons why I am
a vi user.

Again, intuitiveness is relative.  As example, "normal" text editors
really hamper me because they make it very difficult to repetitive tasks
in an efficient manner.  Additionally they randomly insert colons into
my text as I'm editing.  This for me is unintuitive.

Now on the other hand, although intuitiveness is relative, I can still
take what I know, train another person, and help something to become
both intuitive and efficient to that person.  There are some things that
can be quantified.

> Maybe it's because growing up in the 80's, I cut my teeth on programs
> like edit, and quickbasic, that I expect a text editor to behave in
> some consistant fashion, and just be well, a text editor, this  is
> also the most likely reason that when I program I rarely have use for
> all the features of an IDE, and IDE's are essentially just glorified
> text editors 9/10 times they get fired up.

Shudder.  I remember the old wordstar command days.  All the IDEs copied
them for a while.  They were intuitive in their own right, but I'm glad
to see them go.  I believe that either emacs inspired wordstar or the
other way around.  And I can fully understand why emacs users generally
map the control key to the less painful position of the capslock key,
making this hand contortions a little bit easier.  (Do any of you emacs
users use dvorak keyboards?)

I grew up in a similar era.  Had someone introduced me to vi I would
have been fine using that.  The killer features that I found to be
intuitive, though, where not in the editor's command keys, but in the
ability of quickbasic and others do do some pretty impressive (for its
day) source code navigation and context-sensitive (read keyword-
sensitive) help.  Only now are we starting to get these features in IDEs
supporting multiple languages and libraries.  It was this feature that
made QuickBasic intuitive.

Michael Torrie <torriem at chem.byu.edu>

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