Beyond the Baby Duck

Animals’ behavior of "imprinting," becoming socially bonded to the first moving object they encounter, has been nicknamed "baby duck syndrome" — a label that’s sometimes invoked to describe the apparent emotional attachment of developers to their source code editor of choice. That attachment may also be economic: when you consider the third-party add-ons that a developer may have acquired, or even just the investment of time that’s been made in learning an editor’s short cuts and configuring its customization settings, one risks a seriously negative reaction when inviting a programmer to try something else.

The power of editor ecosystems is especially apparent in the world of Eclipse, where plug-ins proliferate and the craft of writing new plug-ins is itself a growing focus of developer talent. On the principle that the rich get richer, it’s no surprise that has initially targeted Eclipse for full-featured Apex Code development.

Also evident is the gravitational field of Visual Studio: a recent interview seemed to find my most important comment to be a statement that if developers wanted to write Apex Code from Visual Studio, I was confident that someone would make that possible. I was thinking more about our partner ecosystem than I was about any investment along those lines — I don’t know if any such effort is planned — but the recent news about a freely downloadable Visual Studio Shell increases my confidence that someone will decide that this is worth doing.

Meanwhile, coders’ editors like Visual SlickEdit soldier on. If Eclipse and Visual Studio are the F-150 pickup trucks of editing, Visual SlickEdit might be the BMW 3-series in that space — with a slate of new features in the latest 2007 release that might even get a baby duck to think of finding a new Mom. Flash and Python support improvements especially caught my eye. The product’s aids to developers are packaged in stand-alone form, in a plug-in for Eclipse, and as a set of add-in utilities for Visual Studio; if anyone has built an Apex Code configuration for SlickEdit, I’d love to know about it.

As any number of t-shirts and MIT graffiti declare, Hackito Ergo Sum.

June 19, 2007