Plugin platform and developer suffering

This is a direct discussion to Rob Harwood's latest post[/url] on his blog[/url]. I know this is somewhat offtopic, but the forums are slow going these days and we need something to heat up ;)

The whole point in Rob's post is about how much overhyped Eclipse is, and thankfully I have to agree with him. Maybe it's just EclipseCon going on, but in the last few weeks I've seen way too much Eclipse hype on the media. Anyone that has really used both IDEA and Eclipse knows how painful the latter is. Rob is also sure this will be so for a long time to come, and there's where we start to disagree.

Eclipse as a plug-in platform is really nice, it's just the IDE that sucks. It's a shack built over a very solid foundation. This could change, however. I have been following eclipse development for a while, and they seem to be progressing steadily (ok, it's easy to do that when you suck so much to start with), and this trend doesn't seems will be reversed any time soon. I can picture a very good looking house being built over the foundation. Maybe not in a few months, but in a couple more of years, maybe.

Alright, straight to the point... Eclipse plugin platform is it's hidden ace, the one thing that makes it move forward, and the one thing that keeps me checking on it now and then, and I would really love if IDEA had a more solid extension API. Even if Eclipse itself isn't the best development environment out there, there are already some nice Eclipse plugins out there that I would love to have something similar for IDEA. Spindle[/url] comes to my mind right now, but there are others.

I know I'm probably sounding like a broken record by now, but JetBrains should really reconsider how important third party integration and extension is. Documented OpenAPI anyone?

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I know I'm probably sounding like a broken record by now, but
JetBrains should really reconsider how important third party
integration and extension is. Documented OpenAPI anyone?

As you can read in these forums, there are a few that think that documenting
the OpenAPI won't bring more or better plug-ins.
It seems to me the only a few people really ask for docs (just read all the
newsgroups), all the other are genious and can do without them (or have insider
infos IMHO). Other do reverse engineering, even if they know that it's not
correct. I don't think any serious commercial product will reverse engineer,
just because they don't have docs. They will simply not develop one.

Just my 2 (euro) cents.

Ahmed.


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I agree pretty much 100% with you, Marcus, on every point. You'll notice
that what I posted on the blog wasn't exactly what I posted on the
community newsgroup prior to that. The name of the blog was chosen with
the double-meaning intended, and that's how I plan to use it. A bit of a
soap-box, if you will.

In my deeply honest opinion, this is not about truth at all, it's about
perception. Eclipse may get a massive face-lift and blast IDEA out of
the water (it could happen). Or, it may slowly convert people. Or, IDEA
may slowly convert disappointed Eclipse users with intelligence and
usability. I can't predict what will happen. The truth is, I just don't
know. I pretend like I know on the blog, in order to influence perception.

One thing I'm considering is, if it happens that Eclipse will eventually
erode IDEA, then how long will that take, and is there anything I can do
to prolong that time? For example, word-of-mouth has gotten JetBrains
very far. But I have met lots and lots of Java programmers how are not
even aware of IDEA's existence. They think, 'JBuilder (yuck), Eclipse
(yay!), and didn't I hear about something called NetJeans, or PetBeans,
or something?' With IBM funding a huge campaign pro-Eclipse and
anti-NetBeans, word-of-mouth is just not enough anymore (IMO).
Word-of-mouth is our foundation (because of our great products), but
currently we only have a 'shack' of marketing built on that foundation
(as you put it). The truth is that IDEA is the best Java IDE. The
perception is: IDEA-who?

When Sergey Dmitriev's article caused that huge spike in the Alexa web
traffic chart, man, I could tell there was big potential there to get
our message out. It's almost like people are starving to hear news from
JetBrains. Well, let's give it to 'em!

Next up, more screencasts of IDEA. Hopefully an IDEA button for fans'
websites. Then I'll start posting stuff about Language Oriented
Programming. There's so much good stuff to tell!

And if anyone is interested in helping out, take advantage of the
onBoard magazine. Write up an article about some tech you are passionate
about (it doesn't have to be JetBrains related). We will help you edit
it and publish it. For entrepreneurs, it's also a great way to get the
word out about your cool tech product (assuming it's cool enough ;-).

--
Rob Harwood
Software Developer
JetBrains Inc.
http://www.jetbrains.com
"Develop with pleasure!"

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As you can read in these forums, there are a few that
think that documenting
the OpenAPI won't bring more or better plug-ins.


It's not just documenting, but before improving the OpenAPI, we need to document what's already in.

It seems to me the only a few people really ask for
docs (just read all the
newsgroups), all the other are genious and can do
without them (or have insider
infos IMHO).


Not really "insider info". JetBrains developers aren't hiding anything -- if you really want to know how a method works, you can ask about it and the odds are you will get a reply sooner or later. Problem is, this doesn't work when you're exploring the API (ie, when you're looking for what you can do, to later decide what you will do), or when you need something done quickly.

I've written some (internal, never published) IDEA plugins myself, and have fought my way through the early PSI api. It was fun and challenging, but I wouldn't enlist "fun and challenging" in a feature list...

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A few comments:

1)I don't see the Eclipse community getting it's act together on usability and ergonomics anytime soon. In fact, I'm betting things get worse on that front before they get better, largely due to the heavy reliance on plug-ins. Some things (not many) really are better when ruled by a benevolent dictatorship than an anarchic bazaar, and usability is one of them.

2)Platforms, flexibility, and extensibility are what software providers do when they don't know what to do. JetBrains deep understanding of the development process is worth any number of plugins. No wizards, no modeling tools, no nonsense. Just painstakingly polished automation of the things that help developers actually do when they ship code.

3)The number one determinant of the reusability of a piece of software is how well it is documented. Architecture, functionality, completeness all come in distent second place to documentation. The OpenAPI needs cleaned up and documented. Full javadoc is the minimal acceptable level of documentation. After that, go for sample projects. The current state of having to reverse engineer the OpenAPI is really, really bad. I only do it for love, and as good as IDEA is, I don't expect many other people to love it that much.

4) IDEA needs to be even more pro-active about moving functionality from popular plugins into the product core. For plugins with enough quality and willing developers, this can be direct inclusion like IG or IPP. Otherwise, figure out the great features and pull them into the product. JetBrains should also be looking at Eclipse plugins for ideas and product direction. There's some exciting ones among all of the half-assed dross.

5) While I understand the need to support different technologies in Irida, I really think the next release is going to require some new "Wow!" functionality for the core process of developing Java code. Navigation, completion, code-generation, refactoring, and analysis were all "Wow!" when IDEA introduced-or-perfected them, but are fairly old-hat now. You're gonna need to find something new, and I have every confidence that you can.

--Dave Griffith

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In article <1617738.1109963590509.JavaMail.itn@is.intellij.net>,
Dave Griffith <dave.griffith@cnn.com> wrote:

For plugins with enough quality and willing developers, this can be direct
inclusion like IG or IPP.


+1 JBoss Plugin. Great plugin should be shipped with 5.0 by default.

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