Becoming a Better Developer Part 5: Don’t Use a Dull Knife

A friend of mine once worked with a developer who, as everyone else fired up their copies of Visual Studio.NET (Microsoft’s graphical development environment that has all the bells and whistles you can imagine), would start a UNIX emulator on his Windows XP machine and crank up Emacs, an ancient, stripped down, no frills text editor.

When I heard this my jaw dropped. To make matters worse, anytime this guy had difficulty with indentation or line wrapping (since he could only see 80 columns) he would rant and rave at the other developers, telling them how their code should be formatted this way or that way to match some archaic standard that somehow made developing in a 20+ year old text editor seem to make sense.

I don’t doubt that Emacs is a good editor (I used it for a few years back in the early 90s, actually), but the bottom line is that as computer languages have evolved so have the tools we use to work with them. There’s a reason we don’t build web applications with COBOL…it’s not the right language for the job.

I know the learning curve of switching tools is painful, but in the long run you have to use tools that make you the most productive and that don’t wreak havoc on the rest of your team.

If you’ve used the same knife for 20 years there’s probably a sharper one out there.

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1 comment so far ↓

#1 http:// on 10.25.05 at 8:40 am

Perhaps this guy use an up to date Emacs version which has a lot of great features .NET doesn’t yet have. Lots of plugins are available and you can add yours EASYLY. See some features here and perhaps you’ll understand : http://www.phillylinux.org/slides/emacs-20050504/intro.html this site doesn’t talk about great XML features but you could find them easily. And you perhaps don’t know, but there is 98% chance that your bank, your assurance works with COBOL software for a simple reason : it works and don’t crash since 30 years! I agree that a Delphi or .NET software have a great interface… But think that 95’s softwares doesn’t work anymore, and have an old and sad visual aspect… And then think that you will develop again and again the same .NET softwares to match with platform and technology evolution!