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A word about IDEs

August 31, 2011

A good IDE can make a big difference in how you experience Java.  The IDE has lots of useful tools build into it to help you be a better programmer.  Or, is it a more efficient programmer.  A little subjective, but useful either way. I have used many IDEs over the years.  The ones i can recall without too much effort include (not in order of preference)

Dreamweaver

Notepad

Notepad ++

ColdFusion Builder

Eclipse

There are many others, which offer a little specialization over the other guy.  Read this excellent Java summation of Tools you could use.

My feeling is this, the longer you have been programming, the more you will appreciate a good IDE.  IDEs make you more productive, more able to build good code. When you are a new programmer, the IDE may get in the way a bit, since they are not trivial, not the real good ones anyway.  I am not sold on the concept that a new programmer should use notepad or some other basic editor to build their programs.  The IDEs are a more realistic experience, one that the student would encounter working in the real world.  On the other hand, the IDE can be overwhelming and confuse things a bit.

Once upon a time, I tried using Eclipse, which is a popular open source IDE that many professional programmers use.  My first impression was that it was too complex, too step a learning curve.  I had been used to another IDE and did not like the change.  After a couple days, I was out.  Fast forward a couple years, and i tried again, when I had learned that the language i was using, coldfusion (cfml) had a brand new plugin available for Eclipse.  I downloaded Eclipse, downloaded the plugin and tried again.  It was better this time, but again, after a week or so, i was back to using my old editor, Homesite (this was the original coldfusion IDE).  I also used Dreamweaver. Forward again about 5 years, when i started using PHP and I tried Eclipse again but had the same experience, punting eventually to Dreamweaver and Notepad ++.

Fast forward once more to about 6 months ago, when I decided I would use Java to attempt to build a reporting tool for my customer.  I started by Java coding in Notepad ++, and then played a little with BlueJay, which is ok, but a little simple.  I decided once more to give Eclipse a try.   My experience has been super! Upon reflection, I realized a couple things about Eclipse.

Its geared toward OO design

Its geared toward Java/C++ ect (natively)

It has tremendous intelligence build into it.

Specifically, the access to the API, the function and attribute highlighting, the suggestions on how to fix syntax errors prior to running the code are so very useful.  The built in compile and run with console capability is had to top.  I was using a command line and compiling my programs and then running after each update, which is ok in university, but not so much in industry.

Bottom line, Eclipse is an excellent tool for professionals, as advertised.

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