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From: John Wiegley
Subject: Re: IDE
Date: Sat, 10 Oct 2015 11:31:13 -0700
User-agent: Gnus/5.13 (Gnus v5.13) Emacs/24.5 (darwin)

>>>>> martin rudalics <address@hidden> writes:

> I never use side windows so I can't tell whether they still work. I have
> written a frame-tabs.el package based on side windows but I don't use that
> either. At the time I installed the side windows functions I also added a
> texinfo section but Stefan later asked me to remove it. That info does not
> reflect later changes to the code so it might be outdated. You have to live
> with the doc-strings which should be fairly accurate.

We should define what we want from a "more IDE" Emacs. For example, I do not
want window-layout functionality. That's a presentation aspect of IDEs that's
entirely separate from what I want from them.

Right now we have a pretty nice infrastructure for things like indenting code.
That is, there are standard keybindings (TAB, C-M-\), a standard per-buffer
override variable (indent-line-function), a standard command
(indent-according-to-mode), and ways for packages like Yasnippet to override
the meaning of TAB without ruining functionality.

I think that what an "IDE is" has little to do with what it looks like. Emacs
being a better IDE, to me, means making IDE-like functionality a first-class
citizen, as we do with indenting. This would provide a core for fancy display
modules to build on top of.

I also don't think core Emacs should *provide* this functionality, since
that's impossible, given how many different languages and use cases there are.
It's more about giving developers a common API to base their work on, so that
we maximize collaboration between them.

Here is a list of functionality I think should be first-class, structurally
speaking (that is, an API will exist, but it may not do anything until a
contributor implements the functionality for their language). The ones with
a * mean areas where we're already succeeding to some degree:

  * indentation (see above)
  * syntax highlighting (font-lock)
    help at point
    documentation lookup (sadly, fewer projects use Info these days)
  ? completion
    semantic editing (for example, paredit)
  * compilation (M-x compile)
    live compilation (flymake/flycheck)
  * REPL (comint)
    running tests
  * debugging (GUD)
  * version control (VC)
    code coverage
    app interaction

The reason I don't have a * next to completion, despite having so many things
capable of doing it (company, auto-complete, ido, hippie-expand, helm, ivy,
etc., etc.), is that there are too MANY ways to do it. This is where I think
proper IDE support could help.

If we have a single paradigm for "determining interesting details about the
buffer, and near point", with the ability to refine the query based on what is
need, optionally cache results, etc., then the competing libraries we have
today could share functionality. The present day `all-completions` function is
too spare to fit this bill, so it's less of an IDE feature in my book and more
just a Lisp library function. For example, I've written nearly the same
backend code for at least 4 different completion/lookup packages, and each
time I wonder how we could do better here. The differences are so minimal.

To reiterate: I think Emacs becomes more of an IDE when it provides the
backbone of an IDE, and not when it looks like one. We have some pieces of
that backbone already, which have avoided fragmentation in those areas, but we
need more. A standardized way to do tooltips, popups, visual completion
selection (or at least the structure), REPLs that interact with buffer
contents, etc., would give us a foundation to move to the next step.


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