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XCode for Visual Studio Users

Here’s another older article that I reckon I should just get out of the queue.
As a pretty hardcore Visual Studio user, my initial experience with XCode was awful. After using it for a while, XCode isn’t so bad. I still prefer VS as it’s more mature, but here are things that I had problems with and fixed:

Problem: It opened more windows than I can keep track of.
Answer: Turn on the three pane mode.
Problem:I was unable to figure out the auto-complete keyboard code! I asked two or three different Mac people, and no-one understood the circle icon which was supposed to be the keyboard shortcut.
Answer:It’s the Escape key! So much for being intuitive!

Random neat things about XCode!

  • Ctrl-Apple up will toggle between the header and source file. This is something I’ve always wanted in VS (I know there are macros to do it). Delphi IDE’s was really good about jumping between the implementation and interface of a class.

Not so neat things:

  • I haven’t used the debugger to much, but it doesn’t seem to let you right-click on a file global and add a watch. You must go through the global variable tree. It always loses these watches between invocations which is annoying.

From Windows to Mac

I’m not a convert, but I’ve had to jump over to port a project I’ve been working on. Here are some of my thoughts about it:

The Good

  • Spotlight is great. I don’t use Finder to launch anything. I never understood why navigating the Start Menu, or using Finder was a good way to launch apps. I usually know what I want to launch, I don’t always know where it lives in the launch structure. For Windows I had written a tool called kbLaunch which does a similiar thing.
  • Bundles are awesome. It’s nice to return to such a simple concept of an application living within a single directory. It definitely beats throwing files all over your system.
  • Having Unix command-line utilities again is really fun. I stopped running FreeBSD/Linux at home a few years ago after fighting some program to watch a DVD. So it’s been a while since I’ve had these nice tools. I might just install Cygwin on my Windows box now.
  • Apple Mail’s search is waaay faster than Outlook
  • Not a user thing, but Apple has released 4 revisions of OSX since 2001. In that same timeframe, Microsoft has only released Windows XP and 2003 Server.
  • Time Machine looks really cool. I’m a huge fan of revision tracking and having it integrated into the file system with a slick UI on top is really promising.

The Bad

  • Keyboard support isn’t as good as Windows. I’m a big fan of using the keyboard to select menu items. I can smash Alt-F F 3 and open a recent file in Visual Studio really really fast. But on the Mac, you can’t seem to open a specific menu with the keyboard. I know you can hit Command- something to get to the Apple menu and navigate over to the other menu items. But that’s really slow and frustrating.
  • Window overload. The Mac seems to be a bit too eager to create lots of Windows to keep track of. Before I found the 3 pane option of XCode, I could open 30-40 windows while editing some source code. Trying to wade through all of that was really hard. Apple seems to be trying to solve this with Expose’ and the upcomming Spaces (which seem to be just virtual desktops). I really like the tab approach that most Windows application have adopted and I feel it helps keep the perceptual hit of the UI lower. Although, ideally I think I’d like to switch to any active window with a Spotlight-like interface. Hrmm, maybe I’ll go hack that into kbLaunch!
  • Network shares. I don’t think I “get” how it works on the Mac yet. I can navigate to them fine. But they will disappear on me for some reason. Then I have to renavigate to them again. Also, I can’t seem to rename a share to something that is easy for me to remember. If 5 people share their drive as “Macintosh HD” I get 5 mounted disks named “Macintosh HD” that I can’t discern which is which.
  • Safari is brutal. Apple should just push Firefox as their browser and maybe have an OSX goodie enabled build of it.
  • This is more Googles fault. But if I search for an Apple API call, the first hit is usually a “page not found, redirecting” message from Apple instead of just going to the right place. If I search for a Windows API, I normally get the MSDN page first up.

Stuff to explore

  • Automator. I haven’t spent anytime with it yet. It seems like a nice way to glue things together.

The Summary

After actually using the Mac for a while, I like it. Having a nice looking Unix box is a good time. As I said above I’m not a convert. But it is a pleasant environment to work in. For day to day things, I’m just using Firefox and Emacs on both platforms, so it’s not too different. Windows and Mac are basically two flavors of kool-ade, but they’re both just a lot of sugar.