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June 23, 2004

Graphical Source Code Editors

I want to eliminate some confusion in my earlier post about source code editors becoming more graphical. Michael Teper said that I went off the deep end.

By graphical, I don't mean any UML, flow chart or diagrammatic view with drag and drop. It's still a text editor, in the sense the Word or PageMaker or FrontPage is a text editor.

Such graphical editors won't actually appear much different from text editors; they may even look the same as text editors, with some differences.

  • Block orientation. Code will be block oriented rather than line oriented. Think of each code block (preceded and followed by a curly brace) as behaving like a table cell. Navigating out of a block may done through cursor keys. In this situation, a block would alway have a ending curly brace, even if the curly braces don't show. When a block is created, it exists in full form, not like the situation in regular text editing where an open brace may not have yet been closed by an ending brace; this is because the block exists as a fully constructed object in memory, which is being rendered in the view.
public class Program
int main (string[] args)
Console.Write("Hello world");
return 0;

  • Dynamic code formatting. No more worries about indentation, semicolons, etc.
  • Optimized presentation.  The expression 1/2 may display vertical in fractional form.

This article on SCID explains the concept much better than I could.

The best parallel of this is HTML editing, which can have both a design and a code view, except that HTML was always intended for presentation. Design mode is the graphical view, and it always produces syntactically correct HTML. It also provides higher-level services, and, by changing the CSS it refers to, one can actually change the appears of HTML in design mode.



In all seriousness, that is one of the ugliest web pages I've seen in a while. It looks like a developer's idea of good graphic design, which is invariably a total disaster. I don't know how seriously I can take comments on presentation from a page like that. Really hideous.

If you are letting developers make graphic design decisions, you are in big trouble, and probably deserve what you get. And I say that as a developer who has been put in that position many times..

While I admit the site is ugly, lack of graphical skill doesn't necessarily imply that one's ideas are of poor quality.

Or you could just use Python and not have to worry about those ugly braces right now. :)

"While I admit the site is ugly, lack of graphical skill doesn't necessarily imply that one's ideas are of poor quality."

I agree, but I am not confident that the rest of the world feels the same way. And the topic is, really, about the quality of visual presentation, so I think it is relevant in this case.

It's the same reason I can't take advice on an exercise regimen from Steve Ballmer. ;)

Wow Jeff, way be a dick *and* miss the point. Once you've abstracted away from bare text you can format it however you like. You could even hire an artist to do it for you.

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