Engineers are smart enough to change editors

Posted on 2011-06-07 by Philippe Faes
Tagged as: EmacsVHDL

Too stupid or too stubborn?

A few weeks ago, one of my colleagues at Sigasi (a VI user himself) stated that anybody who is not using Emacs for their VHDL work will either be too stubborn or too stupid to switch to Sigasi. (Note: this was a personal opinion and not the official company position). He had been using VI (gvim  actually) for all of his VHDL work years ago. As he learned more out about the great features of the Emacs VHDL mode, he concluded that he himself had probably been too stubborn to switch. Other text editors (VI, Notepad++, UltraEdit, Crimson) may be highly configurable and versatile, but they are not highly adapted to VHDL (or to any other language, for that matter).

The problem with the whole editor wars thing  is that no editor is really better than the next for simple tasks like editing bash scripts or INI  files. Even MS Notepad or nano  will do fine. For a task that takes only three minutes, there is little to gain from a better editor. But if you are engineering a complex system, you need good tools.

I agree that (before Sigasi existed) anything else then Emacs for VHDL was probably not the best choice. I don’t agree with the “too stupid or too stubborn” part. Many people roll in to a particular editor and get to know all nice features over the years. There is a relatively large cost to switching because you have to use a new tool. Learning a new editor is not so much an intellectual challenge as it a new habit. Most Emacs users couldn’t tell you the keyboard shortcut for “fix sensitivity list” even if their lives depended on it. Their fingers know the shortcuts . Learning a new tool and new shortcuts takes practice. It requires the insight that another tool is really better and the discipline to go through with the transition.

I think that people working with inferior editors are neither stupid nor stubborn. I think they just never got the right trigger to decide on switching to a better editor. I also believe that engineers are smart enough to consider relevant and technical arguments and to weigh these arguments against the effort of switching (and against their pride).

In my series of Sigasi vs. Emacs comparisons I would like to leave it up to you for this week. Not because I don’t have any time to write a new post, but because I want to know what you think.

  • Why do you use Emacs for VHDL (or for any other language) and why is it so great?
  • Why do you love Notepad++, UltraEdit or JEdit?
  • Why do you use an IDE and why does that beat the King of traditional Unix editors?
  • What are your criteria for selecting your code entry / code comprehension tools?

Let me know in the comments section, below.

See also

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