Porky Visual Studio way over the hill

Code Bubbles, not bloat, for .NET and Java

Put down your pipe, old man

The bubblicious Code Bubbles IDE could be just that new contender. It puts a leash around Eclipse to do the donkey work for it, but invents an entirely new front-end so that programming becomes more like playing with Matey in the bath. A prototype from Brown University in New England and video about Code Bubbles has passed the frothy developer test, with viral emails flying around the workplace.

Visual Age had a similar concept, shielding users from the heinous concept of "files" and instead presenting code in smaller fragments. In that sense, perhaps Visual Age was ahead of its time, but its implementation was a lumbering dinosaur compared with the agile freshness of Code Bubbles.

The idea is also shared, to an extent, by Mylyn, an Eclipse plug-in that it's claimed "realigns the IDE around tasks so that you see only the code that's relevant."

Code Bubbles itself uses an Eclipse plug-in - though you wouldn't think it to look at it. But creator Andrew Bragdon has taken the braver route of keeping Eclipse at arm's length, running Bubbles in a separate process (using C#, ironically) so that Eclipse itself is generally off-screen. Trying to shoehorn the UI into Eclipse would have watered down the whole concept and cluttered the user's workspace with general-purpose distractions.

My first reaction to Code Bubbles was: "This is an IDE for the ADD generation...what's wrong with a single uncluttered screen containing program code...something that actually encourages the programmer to think, and not be spending their time popping bubbles"? Luckily, before I grumbled further and reached for my pipe, I realized Code Bubbles really does represent something bold and possibly better than the notion of a single screen of code.

Stay sharp

I asked one Emacs user why he chose the Grumpy GNU over Eclipse or IntelliJ for Java development. His reply was that the lack of built-in "code insight" keeps his brain sharp - it forces him to know the APIs he's working with. And that's the dissonance in a nutshell: IDE creators want their product to do some level of thinking for us, to hide away the details so that we can focus on the business details and not worry about how the magical engine actually works. Offset against that is the idea that real programmers code in binary.

Whether or not Code Bubbles turns out to be the future kingpin IDE, or whether it's simply the precursor to something more commercial or pragmatic, it does represent the "doing the thinking for us" paradigm. That is, a pattern that development languages and environments have been following for decades, of hiding layer upon layer of implementation detail so developers can focus on what really matters, delivering fit-for-purpose, maintainable software that doesn't bring stock exchanges crashing down. ®

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