Are you a malleable code editor?

Let me explain malleability by telling you a short story. There was this guy, let’s call him Vincent, who was learning programming and the intricacies of using a Unix machine. The default editor software taught was the vi editor, and Vincent was having some trouble with it.

Copying and pasting was frustrating. Vincent had to remember vi had an edit mode and a command mode. He frequently typed in code and was surprised that a bunch of gobbledegook was on screen because he was in a different mode (the “u” undo command was extremely handy). Even moving up and down lines of code was a challenge (until he found he could still use the direction keys instead of h,j,k,l).

After a while, Vincent could use the vi editor fluently, editing his code with ease and thus able to focus on the logic and code. It’s not as easy as Notepad on Windows. It’s just a little different.

Then Vincent’s classmate and fellow student, let’s call him Paul, said he had a better way of writing code in Unix. “I’m using pico,” he said, as though that was the most sensible thing anyone could do, accompanied with an irritating smug on his face. It had a *gasp* white background with black text, and works similarly to Notepad.

Vincent was like, whatever. He had gotten used to the black background and light-coloured text on the Unix machines, and frankly, didn’t care that the vi editor had that colour palette. In fact, it helped Vincent in distinguishing the Unix and Windows editing environments, simply through a colour distinction.

Paul’s appalling passion for pico was palpably pedestrian. Vincent felt using vi on Unix, and Notepad on Windows was just fine. Of course, Vincent had enough sense to use Dev-C++ instead of Notepad…

Couldn’t let go, or couldn’t adapt?

I found the editing habit of one of my colleagues… intriguing. He’s an ASP.NET developer, or he compiles web applications targeting the .NET framework anyway.

When he needs to edit code, whether it’s the .aspx or the .vb code-behind file, he would open the code file in … Notepad. Or Notepad+. Or some other text editor meant for general use. I can’t remember which.

After he’s done, he would save the file, then switch to Visual Studio and compile the code. Basically, code was edited outside of Visual Studio, and the IDE was used only for compiling and debugging. I still can’t fathom the reasons behind this…

I had another colleague who had another intriguing habit. There were some C++ code files on our Unix machine, where the executable was to run in Unix too. Did he use the vi editor? Of course not.

He would transfer the code files to his computer via FTP. Then he would open them in Visual Studio, the only IDE capable of editing C++ code files on his computer (other than Notepad. We’ve been there. Moving on…). The editing was done in the IDE, never mind the limited Intellisense since the code file was the only file in a “project” as reference.

Since he can’t compile the code anyway (the code references Sybase libraries, which was on the Unix machine), he transferred the code files back into his directory on the Unix machine. Then he switched to the Unix environment and compiles the code.

Is there something wrong with the “indigenous” code editor for that code and environment?

I don’t see a noticeable enhancement for the change in editing tools. So I’m stumped. Perhaps you can provide an answer to the riddle.

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