Thursday, June 12, 2008

Newspeak - The Hopscotch IDE

In my last post on Newspeak, I ended with the conclusion that I needed to further my education. Well, I've broken the back of Haskell and pure functional programming so I feel confident commenting on Newspeak again.

First thing to say is that I feel silly for doubting Gilad and his team in the first place. There is a lot I could say about Newspeak, such as the benefits of using Newspeak in a pure functional style with the associated ability to exploit multi-core processors, but I won't. There is now a paper on Newspeak and I am sure that many others will pick up on these salient points. No the thing that has blown me away is this paper by Vassili Bykov on the Newspeak IDE interface called Hopscotch.

I'm still half way through the paper, but Vissali's style and approach reminds me of when I first read the blue book by Adele Goldberg. In a world were we have all become pinned in by our prior context, Vissali as the ability to see the user interface problem afresh and has come up with an elegant approach which emphasises usability and productivity.

His argument is that the "form" metaphor that we have all become accustomed to, is inherently modal and leads to a fragmented user interface. Instead Vissali chooses to borrow the document metaphor from the web, which he extends so that it is domain object aware. So in Hopscotch a class becomes a document containing other domain objects such as nested classes, methods etc, each of which have their own presentation. The IDE is aware of the structure of the underlying class, and orchestrates show/hide, and navigation between the sub components of each class. Vissali explains this a lot better in his paper.

My main reason for blogging is that I haven't read something that sounds so appealing, elegant and obviously right, since when I first read the Blue Book on the Smalltalk language. To be honest, I haven’t felt so excited about software in a very long time indeed. I can’t wait to get my hands on Hopscotch, which hopefully should not be too long now, since Newspeak will be open sourced. I have a very strong feeling that Newspeak is going to turn out to be something very special indeed.

1 comment:

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