"I have a mind like a steel... uh... thingy." Patrick Logan's weblog.

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Friday, December 19, 2003

On just one difference between Emacs and Visual Studio Dot Net (besides the length of the name)

Don Box wishes he could be disagreeing with James Robertson's observations on Visual Studio Dot Net, but apparently can't. Here's what makes the difference.

I would consider any advice Don brings from Emacs an improvement for VSDN. But the fundamental difference is also the fundamental failing of not just VSDN but practically every IDE I have seen including the vaunted IDE for Java using Eclipse.

The irony is the term "Visual" because VSDN is a visual nightmare. The beauty of *most* uses of Emacs (remember Emacs is a flexible tool-building platform like Eclipse, except simpler and more expressive) is the visual simplicity and just-in-time functionality. Where VSDN gives you panels, panels, everywhere panels of things to do and be concerned about, Emacs gives you an editing buffer. Everything else is a keystroke or menu click away. All the power of VSDN and more is waiting for your call to action, but visually you are "just editing".

Let's recall this story from the 1970s about secretaries (as they were called then) using Emacs, essentially the same Emacs you're using today. (You *are* using Emacs, aren't you? For shame!)

...programming new editing commands was so convenient that even the secretaries in his office started learning how to use it. They used a manual someone had written which showed how to extend Emacs, but didn't say it was a programming. So the secretaries, who believed they couldn't do programming, weren't scared off. They read the manual, discovered they could do useful things and they learned to program.

Would we ever read a similar story about VSDN? For want! Not by the 2070s.

One ring to bind them all. Emacs Semper Virens.

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Portland, Oregon, United States
I'm usually writing from my favorite location on the planet, the pacific northwest of the u.s. I write for myself only and unless otherwise specified my posts here should not be taken as representing an official position of my employer. Contact me at my gee mail account, username patrickdlogan.