02/12/06: Eclipse Am Bizarro IDEA

Bizarro World I've been using Eclipse again, after a blissful 2-year leave of absence from Bizarro World. I thought it would be appropriate to repost my classic "Eclipse Am Bizarro IDEA" rant from a few years back... (below the fold).

BTW, in the meantime I've discovered many other UI and feature decisions where the Eclipsers chose... poorly. For example:

  • There's no checkbox for "blessing" a Run configuration as a favorite in the Run settings dialog. Instead you have to close that dialog, click on the stupid "ha ha I'm really a separate menu even though I look like a little 8-pixel triangle" "button" next to the big green play button, select "Organize Favorites...", click "Add", scroll through a list of items that are selectable, but don't actually select the one you want -- instead, click on the checkbox next to it in the list -- then click "OK". Twice.
  • Double-click-and-drag selection still doesn't work; nor does triple-click to select a line.
  • The list of search results don't actually show the results, but just the files in which there were results. And there's no keystroke for showing the next result. These two factors combined means that it's easy to click on a "result", look at it, then click on the next "result" and accidentally skip over several hits from the earlier file. The "proper" behavior is to move your mouse all the way across the panel to the down-arrow "button" (again, one that doesn't look like a button since it doesn't have button-like affordances (a visible border inside which you click)).
  • Activating the test runner with Ctl-F11 doesn't update the screen layout to show you the test runner if your current window is maximized (for which, thank Zeus, they now have a keystroke (Ctl-M)). This encourages you to hit Ctl-F11 again, which totally breaks the test runner since it doesn't support multiple simultaneous test runs yet does nothing to prevent you from starting multiple simultaneous test runs.
  • Version diffing (from Local History or Repository) is incomprehensible. There are two options -- "Compare with" and "Replace with". They apparently differ only by the presence of a "Replace" button. Why not just have "Replace" be a feature of "Compare"? In the "Replace" window, if you accidentally hit "Enter", the default action is not the expected "Show me the selected version," but is "Replace", which astonishingly replaces your whole file and then closes the window really quickly so you're like, "What the heck just happened?"
  • In Eclipse, certain editor keystrokes (ctrl-J, ctrl-K, etc.) only work in certain "perspectives" or "editor types" or whatever the heck modal madness they call it. In contrast, in IDEA, they went the opposite direction, actually making cool features like control-space work inside dialog boxes. Eclipse is shifting sand... you never know what you can do or how you can get it done.
I'll probably update this list as more frustrations occur to me. Read More for the original Bizzaro essay...

Son of Bizarro Date: 2002-11-19 20:03

Last night Erik and I decided that Eclipse is like Bizarro IDEA. You remember Bizarro -- he idolized Superman, but was an imperfect duplicate.

Eclipse and IDEA seem to be tracking each other's features, but everything they both do, Eclipse gets wrong somehow.

"Me am Bizarro IDE! Me require many more keystrokes than puny IDEA!"

"Me have lots more clutter on screen! More icons am better!"

"IDEA only allow one project open at a time. More am better! Bizarro IDE open *all* projects all the time! Bizarro IDE do everything on everything, all the time!"

"Bizarro middle finger am *much* stronger from all the right-clicking!"

On that last point -- I have a feeling that Erich Gamma writes entire applications solely via right-clicking. No typing, not even any left-clicking. Pretty much any interface *other* than right-clicking seems like an afterthought in Eclipse.

Then there are the menus which appear and disappear randomly depending on context; the "global search" with a dozen options but no "global search *and replace*"; the fact that you can't see what the keyboard shortcuts are for any of the menu items until you press ALT, and that you can't see any keyboard shortcuts in the tooltips for any icons; the common operations that in IDEA are a single keystroke that in Eclipse are 3 or 4; the strange names for things ("Team" instead of "Version Control"; Perspectives and Views and Workspaces and Workbenches and...)

IDEA's UI seems to work because (a) it was used by the people that wrote it, and (b) the people that wrote it work like I do. Eclipse seems to be more oriented towards uml-diagramming/right-clicking/visual-debugging/code-browsing types; me, I type my code, and I read source files, not hierarchical trees. IDEA always seems to think ahead and automate things I'm *actually* about to do, not force me to stop what I'm doing and go right-click on something else to get the 8 different options for doing something else.

That said, since I found F3 and figured out what (multi-step) keystrokes activate the refactorings, Eclipse is now perfectly tolerable.

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