IDEs are Uncohesive

I dislike IDEs. I enjoy being able to swap out pieces of my development toolchain, bit by bit, without having to wait for someone to write a new plugin. I am a grumpy Unix programmer.

This Fall quarter, I took a class about software design. Yes, yes, the course title is “Individual Software Development”, but that’s not at all what it was about. We discussed CRC cards, Design Patterns, Design-by-Contract, and all sorts of ways to make your programs better.

One of these was cohesion.

It’s a generally accepted idea in software engineering that your programs should be cohesive; that is, each part should do one thing and those different parts should all work nicely together.

You might recognize this as one of the most well-known parts of the Unix Philosophy:

Write programs that do one thing and do it well.

IDEs are completely in violation of this principle - they do everything a programmer might want an application to do, and the same issues arise as with a poorly-cohesive method.

Remember that convenient method that calculates a value and then prints it out? It’s a little bit of a pain now that you want the value, but don’t want to send it to stdout just yet.

Remember that nifty way to manage versioning of files inside your editor? It’s a little bit of a pain now that you want to use Fossil instead of CVS.

It frankly astounds me that programmers would apply a lesson to one part of their professional life without applying it to another. In fact, many of them will vehemently defend both positions.

Save your future self - make all your tools tightly cohesive.