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   Re: Auto-completion in editors

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Rick asked:

> >Why do so many people still edit in programmer's text editors rather than
> >the specialist XML tools? 

Having just gone through this process in the last few weeks, let me share my 

I initially tried to use XMLSpy (4.2 IDE) and Tibco's TurboXML tools to write 
my GPSml schema.  I looked around for other tools but specific support for 
schema's is still pretty scarce out there.

Both tools have GUI's that are quite unintuitive and seem to make XML (and 
especially XMLSchema) editing quite a chore.  We are only editing a 
heirarchical tree conceptually, so I don't understand why the vendors keep 
trying to complicate matters.  You keep having to flip between different views 
which is distracting.  And you are constantly searching for various 
facets/attributes/particles across many different panels/windows/locations on 
the screen, most of which have no rhyme or reason.  The TurboXML tool was 
also very slow (it's written in Java) and thus was not near responsive enough 
for editing tasks (on my 400mhz box which desparately needs a faster cpu for 
such stuff).

I ended up constantly switching between the graphical view and a source-code 
text view.  Furthermore, XMLSpy kept eliminating white space automatically 
(and I have not found an option to turn this behaviour off)....eliminating extra 
blank lines that I was using to separate different ComplexType declarations for 
readability thus mangling my source in an unacceptable way (Contrast this 
with Dreamweaver for HTML, which can be configured to not touch your 
original HTML in any way).  

This highlights another problem, in that higher level tools tend to produce ugly 
code.  Granted, this is more prevalent with programming IDE's rather than 
XML tools, since XML is much more rigid in it's structure than a programming 
language.  It is pretty easy to generate decent XML/XMLSchema source from 
a higher level graphical tool than it is for Java, et al.

So it ended up more productive for me to just sling the tags in a decent editor 
(I use JPadPro....fast, snappy, excellent find/replace capabilities, and colour 
codes/indents the syntax for XML, Java, Perl, C/C++, etc.) (Sales Pitch: 
speaking of JPadPro from modelworks.com, which I have been using for 
years, it's cheap, fast, powerful, extensible and the support is good.  It also 
has intelligent tag auto-completion if your instance document uses DTDs.  The 
author says he is working on the same for XMLSchemas too).  I ended up just 
using the XML tools to check validation (of the schema itself and of test 
instance documents).

It seems, you always have to get the hands dirty in the source at some point. 
Whether you are coding HTML using a tool like Dreamweaver, XML using 
XMLSpy/TurboXML, or some graphical high-level IDE for Java/Perl/C/etc.  The 
mental context switch is very unproductive (it interrupts the "flow" when you 
are in the zone slinging code). With the disadvantages that current high level 
editing environments all seem to have, it is usually easier and more productive 
to just stay at the source level (with a good context-sensitive editor).

I would LOVE to find a decent XML/XMLSchema editor...that was fast, had 
graphical display that is intuitive and easy to use.  But I have not yet found 
such a beast.  (Sounds like a market opportunity to me! ;-)  ).  I believe that the 
market is still nacent in this area.

I believe this is a situation that somewhat parallels the use of IDE's in the 
programming world.  Most experienced and highly productive developers (in 
my observations) use a decent editor (emacs, JPadPro, SlickEdit, or even vi) 
coupled with a debugger.  Graphical IDE's tend to be slow, bulky and just get 
in the way for experienced developers (having built many hyper-performance 
development teams).  IDE's hold out the marketing promise of turning a 
junior/intermediate/less experienced developer into a veteran hotshot.  
Unfortunately the marketing hype does not deliver in the real world. Caveat 
Emptor reins supreme.

My two cents worth....

Andrzej Jan Taramina
Chaeron Corporation: Enterprise System Solutions


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