Re: History of code completion

Richard Heathfield <>
8 Nov 2001 23:17:30 -0500

          From comp.compilers

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[2 earlier articles]
Re: History of code completion (2001-10-23)
Re: History of code completion (Jan Gray) (2001-10-23)
Re: History of code completion (2001-10-23)
Re: History of code completion (Geoff Wozniak) (2001-10-27)
Re: History of code completion (Marco van de Voort) (2001-11-05)
Re: History of code completion (2001-11-08)
Re: History of code completion (Richard Heathfield) (2001-11-08)
Re: History of code completion (Lex Spoon) (2001-11-08)
Re: History of code completion (2001-11-11)
Re: History of code completion (Rodney M. Bates) (2001-11-11)
Re: History of code completion (Joachim Durchholz) (2001-11-14)
| List of all articles for this month |

From: Richard Heathfield <>
Newsgroups: comp.compilers,comp.programming
Date: 8 Nov 2001 23:17:30 -0500
Organization: Eton Computer Systems Ltd
References: 01-10-091 01-10-112 01-11-043
Keywords: history, editor, comment
Posted-Date: 08 Nov 2001 23:17:30 EST

Gene Wirchenko wrote:
> Lex Spoon <> wrote:
> >> So I'm quite interested in the history of code completion in IDE's &
> >> code editors. Does anyone have any info or personal recollections,
> >> or even opinions on the merits/demerits of code completion?
> >It used to be much biger than it is nowadays, as I understand it. One
> >name for the general area is "syntax-directed editting". I'm a little
> >curious, myself, why it hasn't caught on more than it has. I wonder
> >how much it's due to a still-prevailing attitude that Real Programmers
> >can do it themselves and don't need the help?
> I can do it myself. When I know what I want, I don't want
> programs "helping" because they often get it wrong.

Ah, but the people who write this stuff actually have to use it too, so
they take some pains to get it right. MSVC's code completion, for
example, is perhaps not perfect but is nevertheless pretty darn good.

> Word is infamous for helping (read "sabotaging") in this way. I
> finally have all of its nonsense shut off, I think.


Last time I used Word (which was about two months ago on-site), it
took me 30 minutes to write a very short document. This was partly
because Word objected to my attacking its Auto-Correct settings (yes,
I was trying to shut them all down too), and hung the OS. Not just the
program, but the OS. (And this was NT4, which isn't supposed to let
that sort of thing happen.)

God bless vi.

> Microsoft Word has the setting for handling automatically
> numbering paragraphs under AutoCorrect. Considering that I was doing
> what I wanted correctly, I didn't look there until someone else
> pointed me to it. I think Microsoft has lots of gall doing that.

You may want to have a look at Lotus WordPro, which is mildly less
irritating in this regard. But vi is *much* less annoying. :-)

> Most of us can type well. I'd rather just type than also have to
> worry that a program is going to change what I type.

Well, I wouldn't buy that editor either. But shortcuts are fair enough,
as long as they are *consciously* invoked.

> >Two styles are available for syntax-directed editting. First, the
> >editor can force you to only generate syntactic forms. To enter a
> >statement, you select from some kind of menu or keyboard command what
> >kind of statement you want, and the editor will fill in defaults.
> I'd just as soon type than select from a menu. It's generally
> much faster.

Sure. Code completion tends to come into its own when you have long,
descriptive variable names. I find it pleasant to be able to type
OutPacket.Msg.P<tab>.F<tab> rather than OutPacket.Msg.Packet.FromUser. I
could have typed M<tab> in there too, but whether I can type <tab>
faster than sg is pretty debatable so I don't bother with the short cut.

In vi (or vim, rather, but I can't help calling it vi), it's even
easier. ^P cycles through hits. It's a big time saver, but of course you
don't /have/ to use it.

> If the selection involving mousing, it's even worse.
> Taking ones hands off the home row is expensive for a touch typist.

Agreed. Fortunately, the selection more normally involves <tab>, which
isn't too bad.

<snipped a whole bunch of stuff where I agree with Gene>

> A language-specific editor means that I may have to work with a
> number of editors rather than just one that I prefer.

But a well-written one will let you select the language you want it to
be specific about. For example, Brief has support for a whole bunch of
languages, and it looks at the file extension to distinguish which
language filter to use.
Richard Heathfield :
"Usenet is a strange place." - Dennis M Ritchie, 29 July 1999.
K&R answers, C books, etc:
[Enough about MS Word, please. -John]

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