Can y’all see this in the back?
Changing the font size of the Eclipse text editor is a royal pain. It is a completely undiscoverable feature. It seemed that all the 360 Flex sessions I attended had the same scene:
Presenter: OK, let’s look at some code now. (switches to the IDE, either Flex Builder or full-blown Eclipse)
Guy At The Back Of The Room: Umm. Can you increase the font size so that we can read it back here?
Presenter: Oh, OK, no problem. (fiddles with Eclipse for a few seconds) Umm. Anyone know the secret handshake?
GATBOTR: Preferences —> General —> Appearance —> Color And Fonts —> Text Font —> Change …
GATBOTR: (louder and more slowly, as if talking to one's great Aunt Ethel) Preferences —> General —> Appearance —> Color And Fonts —> Text Font —> Change …
Presenter: (kinda sorta fiddles some more, and eventually stumbles onto the right path) OK, got it.
I think the brain is wired to immediately forget such painful experiences. It almost made me long for the intuitiveness of Ctrl-Alt-Delete again. As the conference progressed, some of the presenters got wise early, and had pre-configured their IDE for “presenter mode”, but if they were like me, they still had a hard time finding it buried in the UI. I had to search the Eclipse online help the night before my presentation in order to find the setting.
Turn down the suck
I’m just guessing that this UI just sort of grew unwieldy over time, rather than by design. Maybe it is already scheduled to be fixed in the 4.x codebase. But the current experience sucks.
Preferences —> General —> Appearance —> Color And Fonts —> Text Font —> Change …
I'm counting seven clicks (7!!!) until I see a familiar font size selection dialog. There are at least three glaring issues at play:
- The "Colors and Fonts" category is too long, and by default is clipped to "Colors an". So I can't even just use the tree control to expand and navigate the categories. I have to click each expanded item to see if its full name gives me some clue about what it controls.
- Once selected, the "Colors and Fonts" panel displays the list of settings, and the "Text Font" entry is selected (it is highlighted in blue), but there are no obvious controls that suggest "click me to change the font".
- So now you click the already-selected entry "Text Font" and viola! The "Change" and "Reset" buttons appear like magic.
- OK, I know I said 3 issues not 4. I'll concede that this one might just be me. Grouping colors together with fonts doesn't make sense to me. I assume that each language controls its own syntax highlighting, so I just don't expect to be setting colors when I'm setting fonts.
How to help
A savvy Java developer (ie. not me) can probably create a wee widget to sit in the IDE toolbar and add a font size dropdown. No font face changes, no color changes, just make the existing font bigger for the text editor (or better yet, the text editor and any console/output/trace buffer windows).
There now. Assuming this saves 2 minutes of a 60 minute session, the widget you’ve just created has increased the productivity of the presenter by 3%. Not bad! U R AWESOME!!!!