Nat! bio photo


Senior Mull

Twitter Github Twitch

XCode - A subjective critical look at Apple's IDE - Part I

I think I have enough spare time to comment on some of the mis-features of XCode. It's generally more fun to talk about how things suck, then how things just work great.
iTunes, iCal, Mail (if it ain't sucking up my CPU and crashing) and virtually all other applications from Apple are indeed insanely great. There are just two pieces that have been continually sucking.

One is the Finder. The other one is the IDE. Well lets make that three: PackageMaker also gets a dishonourable mention. :)
I don't wanna think too long about this, lest I start remember more and water down my argument :)

My pet theory is that Finder is the most unliked project at Apple. Any coder tries to get out of there as quickly as possible, leaving the destitute and the noobs to their fate. The next level to ascend to is the IDE team. There is no love for those either, since they probably get flak from all the internal camps (old NeXTies and old MPW and CodeWarrior users) at Apple. I envison the IDE coders to be a small group that sits in the dining hall very far away from the others but uncomfortably close to the Finder group. Avoiding eye contact with others groups they silently and cheerlessly eat their meals. Their hope is to produce the great IDE that gains them respect and love, yet as hard as they try, compensation eludes them.

The Finder has shown remarkably little progress over the years. It's goal seemingly is to reach a state of usefulness and at best general onobstrusiveness. The Finder will in likelyhood never reach a state of Wow!

Things are different with XCode. The product certainly has a number of cool features and I think with some cleaning up it could become very cool. Unfortunately right now, I like to paraphrase the ars technica article I would be more comfortable with this if the Finder IDE team was aggressively purs[ue]ing its own vision. IMO lack of vision is also currently the main problem with XCode.

For part one I wanna nitpick about the icon.

Icons of XCode, PBX and PBWO
XCode, Project Builder (Jaguar), Project Builder WO (Pre-Mac OS X).

If you look at the right two icons you will see that Project Builder's icon is merely a reorganized and higher resolution version of the old icon. You see some paper with program code on it, a metal thingy (NIB) with four screws and a hammer. Well it was the same name with an added space (PBWO used to be called ProjectBuilder) so little surprise.

What always has been peculiar about this icon was the hammer, as in general coders do not use that as an input device. One can say that some people are hammering away at their code so on a conceptual level the hammer fits the code pages. In the visual part of things the hammer seems more appropriate for the metal thingy in the picture, though a screwdriver (like on Interface Builder) would seem even more appropriate. Finally the hammer has some connection with the "builder" in the name "Project Builder" and most likely was used just because of that :).

The story of this icon: You are a modern day construction worker - that creates projects out of objects and code.

So we got a new shiny hammer for XCode, but the other elements have gone missing. The code has been replaced by some blue prints and the metal thingy has now completely vanished. Nothing left to hammer at visually, nothing by transfer. And there is no connection with the name anymore. The blueprint shows the default icon for applications, which is the only closure in respect to development tasks in that respect.

The story of this icon: You are some guy - that hammers applications together from blueprints.

Somehow this seems to be less than previously. The guy with the hammer has been dumbed down! :)

The XCode icon would look better on a technical CAD software.
As the new IDE isn't called Project Builder anymore but XCode, Apple should have made also a more radical departure with the icon. The current icon is visually faultless but in formal terms lacks luster. Reusing the hammer was the traditional and easy and wrong way.

At least the icon is predominantly blue. Blue is an easy crowd pleaser. Ask any artist, the blue pictures sell better :) So it was easy to sell this icon to the IDE group.