I have a new assignment at work and now find myself at yet another Windows shop. They are making embedded systems, but have for some strange reason decided that Windows is the only development platform to use. After only a few weeks here I’m noting a growing irritation with the tools offered for my use. The amount of forced mouse usage is astounding and the main tool, Visual Studio, is turning out to be the main culprit. After a week or so of exposure to VS I’ve found what I consider to be a serious flaw with a tool for developers: it doesn’t scale.
- No hierarchical structure It doesn’t scale very well with the size of a project. The concept of having a solution with a number of projects is not bad. But the implementation doesn’t scale. A project can’t have sub-projects, which means I can’t really layer the code in the IDE in the same way I do on disk. The only thing I can do is organise viewing of files through the concept of filters.
- All configuration is manual, part 1 MS seems to have optimised for small projects. All configuration is kept in XML files, and the only interface to them is a set of property dialogues (some which can be resized, others not) requiring an amazing amount of pointing and clicking to get anything done.
- All configuration is manual, part 2 MS have optimised for beginning new projects. Getting started is amazingly quick, but once you reach a size of about 10 projects it becomes daunting to fix anything that requires configuration in all projects. Making sure that all configurations are correct is a major undertaking, and requires an insane amount using the mouse. Some earlier versions of VS seem to even have made it impossible to edit the common settings of configurations properly; a simple mistake and the value of one configuration is lost.
- Experience There are no shortcuts to discover. The configuration is all in XML, which means it’s not really possible to jump out of VS and use a text editor for fixing up semi-broken configurations (like dealing with someone’s decision to place all intermediate files and final results in the top-level solution directory).
So, how do Windows developers cope with this? Don’t they use VS? Do they police the configurations diligently to ensure no silliness creeps in? Or are they all using tools to address these points (like CMake)?