Saturday, February 10, 2007

Comments on Intellisense(TM)

Back when I was a professional programmer I used Microsoft Visual Studio for C and C++ programming working for one corporation and when I moved on to another and ended up also moving to Java programming I just assumed I'd be using an IDE and did so for a while with the Java IDE's that were available at my company, but found the experience to be not as smooth as with Visual Studio. Soon other developers told me that no one was really using the IDE's with Java and that most just used the command line, and I did so and found things were a lot easier and I got a lot more done.

But that was a while back and I know that today Eclipse and NetBeans offer very different experiences, so if I were still professionally programming, who knows? Maybe I'd be off the command line and happily again using an IDE like at the start of my professional career as a developer.

However, there is one feature that always annoyed me--auto-completion--and I have to wonder if there are others like me, who would also either find ways to turn it off, or just kind of grit your teeth when the IDE starts suggesting methods. Way back there were times I'd type really fast to try and beat the thing!

In some ways my Class Viewer program which is a highly specialized app deliberately is a throwback to just using the command line and using something other than auto-completion for quick reference.

In any event, I'm looking for comments on auto-completion, wondering if others find it kind of annoying, and also wondering more generally about how quick reference is done by other developers.

One of my personal favorite things about Class Viewer is that if I'm having trouble remembering a particular method but know what its argument is or what it returns I can just type that into a search field and get every method that has even a piece of that string in it, which is why the screen shot for project shows finding all methods in the String class that have "char" in them:

Class Viewer Screenshot

So again, I'm also wondering how developers solve that problem as I don't see how auto-completion does it, but I'm biased of course towards my own solution.

If I get no comments at all, don't worry, it won't hurt my feelings. This blog doesn't get a lot of traffic.

James Harris
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