We released our first Windows IDE around 1996, V3 of our compilers. It was one of the earliest Windows GUI for an embedded compiler at the time. The look and feel of the IDE remained generally the same up through V5 of the tool release. Around 2000, we released the V6 compilers and rewrote the IDE to be fully 32-bit. The V7 IDE, released around 2005, has been largely the same as the V6 look-and-feel wise.
For various reasons, we believe it is time to rethink our IDE strategy. “More pretty” is always a Good Thing. “More code assistant features” is definitely a Good Thing. Debugger integration is, likewise, a Good Thing. (Of course our core competence and focus must still be the compiler: we MUST have excellent code quality. After all, our customers ultimately depend on it.)
The solution that seems to make the most sense would involve leveraging a 3rd party product. The non-free ($$-wise) products would add cost to our end users (a potential Bad Thing.) If we look at the free ($$) solutions, there are really only two choices: Eclipse and Visual Studio. Eclipse is still too slow and bloated, and it’s getting more complex by the day. So, that leaves Visual Studio.
In fact, Microsoft now has something called Visual Studio Express, which is free to download and use, and it appears that we can extend it to integrate our compilers with it. By leveraging VS Express, we get Intellisense, code folding, and all the modern editor, browsing and project managment features. Of course, it is still not a trivial task to base our next-gen IDE on it, but the cost will be significantly less than rolling our own solution from scratch.
All in all, sounds like a good solution to many of our needs – and our customer’s. 🙂
// EDIT: I just got words from Microsoft that the Express version is not extensible. We will need to consider this data. A possibility is to continue to support the current IDE as the light weight solution, and provide a Visual Studio Shell extension as the premium solution. The VSX shell will be available in the base product, but will require the users to purchase Visual Studio. A good number of users already use Visual Studio so it may still be a good way to go.
// richard & karisu