Just a quick blog entry today to lament the great editors of the past such as Brief, CygnusEd, and Emacs (although many people still use this fervently, in the same way I stick to using Slickedit in Brief emulation mode), and a quick sharp word to those who think Visual Studio is sufficient for editing source code, NO IT ISN’T, it’s a bunch of crap.

I really don’t know how it happened but the horrid editor that is built into Visual Studio became the defacto standard for source code editing and programmers stopped trying to learn other better editors, probably because Visual Studio has everything built-in.

Anyway, Brief was really the king of DOS-PC based game development during the late 80s and early nineties and many of its features ape Emacs except it was far easier to use than Emacs (because of simpler key combinations and use of ALT and Function keys to help separate functionality more logically into single key presses) and more importantly it put a lot more emphasis on pane manipulation in its control scheme, hence the title of this article.

If you aren’t using panes you are impeding your performance as a programmer, seriously.  Because I was a heavy Brief user I will go over a few of its commands (if you use Slickedit you can switch to Brief emulation and try these out).  F1-F4 are assigned to pane management.  Each one is followed by a cursor key press to specify the direction of the operation.  For example if you want to split horizontally and put your cursor in the right hand side pane, you would push F3 → and of course F3 ↑ would split vertically, moving the cursor into the upper pane.  F1 plus a direction would move your cursor into the pane in that direction (also mapped to ctrl-cursor key sometimes).  F4 and a direction deletes the pane boundary in that direction, and F2 will let you move the frame boundary in the direction you press.  This simplicity is perfect for quick navigation through numerous files simultaneously, especially when you need to be looking at several files as reference at the same time.

There is some pane management like this in Visual Studio but it isn’t simplified enough and soon returns to its MDI roots and has you grasping for the mouse or ctlr-tab cycling through hundreds of windows.  (another thing about Brief was that even though the files were open in a “buffer list” they didn’t necessarily have a window assigned to them meaning you didn’t end up with your workspace littered with windows, of course this was because back in those days there was no windowing system – Slickedit gives you this also if you switch on “Multiple Files Share Window” or in older versions “Single Window Mode”)

If only the people behind Visual Studio which has had so many many years of work put into it would put a little bit more work into its editor and surprise us all, increasing the productivity of millions of programmers worldwide in one swoop!