One of the things I’ve heard on every KDevelop sprint is: we should be light, like Kate but with our added value.
We’ve addressed this in many ways so far: we’ve optimized the code for performance so it’s more responsive and starts reasonably fast, we’ve made sure most done is accessible using the keyboard so we don’t feel clumsy and overwhelmed by all the options.
Today, I wanted to reflect on 2 things:
- What do we miss to be that ideal light editor?
- What’s a good lightness inspiration?
Otherwise, TLDR, there’s a video below.
What do we miss?
The avid Planet KDE reader will know that being light is a complex concept, there’s many ways to perceive lightness: Is Kate light? Is KWrite light?
When we talk about lightness, we generally refer to different metrics. If something is worth waiting for, we wait, and that’s fine. We don’t want to feel we’re wasting our time. A good example there I’d say it’s Chromium. It’s probably one of the heaviest beasts we run on our systems. Nevertheless, it doesn’t feel as such (at least until you run out of memory).
There’s another point of view: We bomb users with features. In fact, it’s awesome to have features and it shouldn’t be a trade-off. On the other hand we’re never using all features at the same time, optimizing that would be awesome. We should work on it: identifying the different workflows and creating user interfaces that enable them.
What’s the role model?
One of the developments that have struck me the most during last years is Kate. Instead of focusing on the editor, it went the KDevelop route: it has started to offer all of the information at once (especially odd, given that there’s quite some feature overlapping).
More generally, if I look at what others are doing, I see two major groups:
On one hand, there’s atom.io and sublime that seem to be doing something very similar. Most of the components they have we have as well, but then the focus is rather different: they have very few visual interaction components, mostly just the menu, so you can just play with the text and you know where to go look for stuff. UI’s are usually embedded in the source code view.
On the other hand, there’s Eclipse or Visual Studio that do something quite similar to what we do: present everything in the traditional desktop application way with docks and a couple of smart tricks, because they try to tackle the whole workflow problem.
I understand how we got to where we are, but I also really understand why people can prefer something like atom. My feeling is that “It doesn’t make me feel like I should be debugging while I’m coding”, even though they oversimplify on some areas.
What do I propose?
I decided that I wanted to feel what’s to work without all the clutter, so I implemented a Concentration Mode for KDevelop. I stripped most of the visual stress, so usually we’re left with the good ol’ katepart editor, with all KDevelop‘s features. I’ll become my own guinea pig: now that I have it clean, how do I use the tools? Can I still do the same things? As discussed on the mailing list, this has had some fruits already.
I think it’s really cool: code, code, code, quick open and shortcuts.
Now, a bit of a video implementing what I discussed here.
What to look for:
- We get to hide the navigation handle, leaving only the toolbar, the document title and the central view.
- The toolviews are still accessible.
- The menu is still accessible
- For now, I can decide to just see what I’m working on. Now.