re: Should programming languages be made for IDEs rather than humans? VIEW POST


Intentional programming, and to some extent, model driven architectures went there. The idea with intentional programming was that you had intents that were composed of other intents all the way down to machine code. The idea being that instead of defining a language with syntax, you had abstract syntax trees that you could translate into less abstract syntax trees using transformations. Editing your intent could be done in a UI, using a DSL, or anything. At the high end you'd have DSLs, complex UIs, etc. transforming stuff to running code. MDA was more or less the same idea but focused around UML and the UML meta language. The former never really got out of the prototype stage. Charles Simonyi (one of early the MS millionaires and inventor of the infamous hungarian syntax) apparently is still running for like the last 20 years or so but they are not currently promoting any products. MDA was briefly popular and I recall some seriously misguided projects that were using it (shudder).

Also, Eclipse is a descendant of VisualAge, which was a Smalltalk, and later, Java IDE that actually stored code in a DB instead of files to facilitate working with the code in a structured way. Smalltalk of course always worked that way.

Eclipse later went back to storing files but they did do something cool which was to incrementally maintain an a abstract syntax tree of the code base. This was the compromise that allowed them to stop using a database and this why it has its own incremental java compiler: a normal compiler would be way too slow. The eclipse compiler tends to only lag behind what you type by a few hundred ms. This is also what enables them to complex refactorings, quick fixes, and other sophisticated AST transformations.

Intellij of course does very similar things except they never really figured out incrementally updating the AST and instead implemented a lot of the same refactorings a bit differently. As a consequence, it is a lot slower doing things that are essentially happening in real time on Eclipse.

E.g. launching a unit test after a 1 character change on Intellij can be painfully slow whereas it is instant in Eclipse. I regularly end up waiting seconds or even tens of seconds for Intellij to catch up. It also loses the plot entirely quite often meaning that it's view of the world gets out of sync with what is actually in the files. At least it lies to me frequently about things being broken, or worse, not broken. Also you need to frequently do manual refreshes, rebuilds, and I occasionally just rage quit it so that it can figure out reality on startup. Eclipse always felt a lot faster and robust in this respect.

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