Redmond Diary

By Andrew J. Brust

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Code Bubbles: Disruption comes to the IDE

If you're like me, you might see the open source Eclipse IDE as a copy of, or more generously, a port of Microsoft's Visual Studio for the non-.NET world. It's not that Microsoft invented the IDE (I would credit Borland with that), but they really took the idea and ran with it for the first version of Visual Studio .NET in 2002. The question is whether someone outside of Microsoft could take the modern IDE yet another major step forward in both principle and productivity.

I think that has actually happened already, and I think the innovator in question is a second-year Computer Science PhD student at Brown, named Andrew Bragdon. His project, which he calls Code Bubbles, is an IDE that allows for editing, debugging and exploration of code in "bubbles," which remind me a little bit of the discrete note tiles on OneNote... but they're much more than that.

Bubbles actually allow for call stack traversal, saved debug sessions, sophisticated breakpoint and value watch behaviors and more. And because bubbles, unlike windows, are borderless, and focus on code fragments rather than whole files, the de-cluttering effect is unbelievably liberating. The best way to understand what Code Bubbles does is to watch the screencast video

Code Bubbles is an IDE for Java development. Why didn't Microsoft come up with something like this for .NET devs? Between the existing features in Visual Studio 2010, its WPF code editor, and the fact that OneNote's UI bears some affinity to Code Bubbles', it's interesting that Microsoft still has not thought outside of its own "box" to get us something like this.

Heck, that's easy for me to say. But it's easy for you to say that you'd like something like this in Visual Studio sometime soon. That's because the ASP.NET site within UserVoice is taking votes on this very issue. Just click this link and vote!

Thanks to my fellow Microsoft Regional Director Sondre Bjellås for making me aware of Code Bubbles, and to RD Steve Smith for creating the UserVoice voting option.

Posted by Andrew J. Brust on 03/15/2010 at 1:15 PM

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