August 25th, 2007
Yesterday I switched from using Vim for all my code editing to TextMate. It is Mac only and costs €39 when I decide to register, but I really like how much easier it is to switch between more than two files and how it auto-terminates parentheses, logical statements, and HTML tags. This latter behavior should be possible in Vim, but I had never found a plug-in or information on how.
I also looked at Eclipse, but it has not grown on me nearly as fast. In fact, at the risk of sounding like an Eclipse basher, I must say the interface is non-intuitive and the help files address every subject under the sun and the moon except how to make Eclipse useful. I am sure that under all that non-intuitiveness and bad documentation is an excellent product, but I will not invest that much time to find it (yet) with TextMate already paying me back handsomely for only ten minutes of my time to install it and configure my preferences. One might say this is the difference between a text editor and a full IDE—that may be true to some degree—but I think it is also the difference between a good user interface and just an interface.
I gave NetBeans a test drive as well. Let us just say that Eclipse, at least, did not get moved to my Trash and has no plans of visiting, either. I may not have learned to like Eclipse, but I also still see value in learning more about it. In a way I hope I am wrong about NetBeans, but it gets to wait a while before getting another shot.
So why did I do all this? To write code faster! I love Vim and the vi interface, but I like trying new things. I might switch back after a few months if I can find out how to obtain what I like about TextMate in Vim. Being rather extendable, Vim is capable of much more than I have demanded of it. However, the main point is that it is important to me to try out new things periodically, or else I will never learn of the coolest new things (like I did when I learned Ruby in 2001). I also periodically revisit things, such as Emacs about 18 months ago. I did not switch, but getting reacquainted with it eight years after my last time seriously using it was fun.
I like to encourage everyone to pick up new things every once in a while. Do not settle in a groove and stay there for the rest of your life. Mix things up a little! If you do not like your new adventure after a few days or weeks, you can always switch back! It is fun, and may be profitable, too. Of course, if you are the kind of person reading this, you probably already do this. Carry on!