Chapter 45. Know Your IDE

Heinz Kabutz

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IN THE 1980S, our programming environments were typically nothing better than glorified text editors…if we were lucky. Syntax highlighting, which we take for granted nowadays, was a luxury that certainly was not available to everyone. Pretty printers to format our code nicely were usually external tools that had to be run to correct our spacing. Debuggers were also separate programs run to step through our code, but with a lot of cryptic keystrokes.

During the 1990s, companies began to recognize the potential income that they could derive from equipping programmers with better and more useful tools. The Integrated Development Environment (IDE) combined the previous editing features with a compiler, debugger, pretty printer, and other tools. During that time, menus and the mouse also became popular, which meant that developers no longer needed to learn cryptic key combinations to use their editors. They could simply select their command from the menu.

In the 21st century, IDEs have become so commonplace that they are given away for free by companies wishing to gain market share in other areas. The modern IDE is equipped with an amazing array of features. My favorite is automated refactoring, particularly Extract Method, where I can select and convert a chunk of code into a method. The refactoring tool will pick up all the parameters that need to ...

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