Noel Rappin Writes Here

Editors I Like

Posted on November 25, 2006

Two tools I use all the time. Neither is free, and since my strong bias is to use free tools where possible, these are some really impressive editors.

IntelliJ IDEA For all my Java needs. It’s got more features and is more usable than any other Java IDE out there. The only downsides are that it’s not free, and there are about a half-dozen keyboard shortcuts you have to get down before you achieve anything like full Zen mastery (well, and it could be nicer about the way it arranges tabs in the editor). I converted one of my teams to IntelliJ largely by just using it in team programming session. (Sample comment: “You don’t seem to be typing very much”). IntelliJ is so good at using the class and type information that it single-handedly makes it useful to have static typing.

There are a couple of killer features that I miss horribly when using another tool, like the control-n series of shortcuts to browse classes, files, or symbols in the project. Even better, in the search box, the search is camel-case aware. So if you type MBGC, it’ll match the class MyBigGoofyClass, or the symbol makeBeveragesGreeenCoffee. It’s brilliant, completely intuitive and makes searches through the code very quick. Ten seconds after you try it once, you’re hooked.

Another cool feature – a help menu item that lists cool features along with a count of how often you use them, so you can see what neat stuff you are missing out on.

TextMate My Mac-based editor of choice for everything other than Java. The Mac editor wars (BBEdit vs. Everybody Else) do sometimes reach a fever pitch normally associated only with critical topics like Emacs vs Vi. So I don’t want this to be a bash on other Mac editors – if I want to do that, I’ll do another post. Besides, if what you are doing works for you, more power to you. What I like about TextMate is that it really was built from the bottom up to be scriptable, which gives it a tremendous amount of flexibility and power to handle different file modes, integrate shortcuts, run scripts from TextMate, just easy as could be to use that stuff, and even pretty easy to create new commands. Biggest quibbles are the single-keystroke only Undo, which I understand as a design choice even as I find it kind of frustrating, and the project mode, which is useless to me, at least partially because it will only display like five tabs across before going to the overflow menu, and that’s just not enough.

Killer feature: select a chunk of text, type the left half of an enclosing pair, like a left paren or bracket. Rather than replace the selected text with the keypress, which is almost never what you want to do, TextMate will surround the selected text with the enclosing pair, which is so useful that I try and fail to use this in all my other editors now. And yes, the list of enclosing pairs is adjustable for each file mode.


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