Smart Mobile Studio, customize your new IDE
The smart mobile studio designer has never really been any good. We wanted to use a commercial designer at one point, but due to technical limitations in the components we were unable to do so. In short, having more than one instance of a designer in the application caused some serious conflicts and instability.
Instead we decided to stick with our own variation, most of us never really used the designer because are used to FreePascal, C# and library coding under Delphi. The designer for iOS in XCode on the mac is hopeless, we we tend to create even the design in our code. So this decision didn’t have such a hard impact on us. Sadly that was not the case for our users who wanted to design HTML5 interfaces without the clutter of Dreamweaver or dullness of Web-Matrix.
So I can only say I’m sorry we had to do this, but the code generation and support for hardware was more important at the time.
But times change, and right now it’s the tools that needs attention! All in all you will be happy to learn that in the next update which is just around the corner, the designer and all it’s features has received a lot of love!
First, don’t let my insanely blue color theme in the picture above bother you, I was just playing around with the palette. You are free to either disable theme support or pick another which suits your taste better. The same goes for the text-editor colors. The IDE now ships with several preset-files, and you can create your own palette which can be saved, loaded and made default with a single click.
But back to the designer, what is really exciting is that we actually have 3 different designer modes (!) These are:
In the picture above we are using the Delphi inspired visual designer. It’s a bit dull but I must admit that for me this is the most familiar to use; and holy cow is it fast compared to our previous layout control! Christian has really outdone himself this time and created a designer we can all be proud of.
The first designer was my concoction, I never got to finish it and while it worked quite well with ordinary components, it was ill suited for threaded rendering which is required by the webkit engine. So Christian pretty much had to throw everything out and write it from scratch using Graphics32 (which he has helped create).
For those interested, take a second to contemplate just what takes place inside our designer at any given point. Because it’s not “simple” X/Y coding:
In short, this is how you can move and render HTML5 controls around inside a Delphi/FPC program just like they were ordinary VCL/FCL controls. Pretty neat right?
Either way, whatever our problems with the designer were in the past, that is now ancient history! The new form-designer is silky smooth, pixel perfect, easy to use and very, very fast!
Themes, palette and your taste in bling
Another really fantastic collection of features is how the new IDE deals with colors. We all love them and we all have different perception of what good UI design is like.
Well finally we have added the same amount of (if not more) options as Microsoft Visual Studio — from being able to customize the code editor, the gutter section and the mini-map; to applying a full theme to the IDE in general. Below is a picture of the IDE using a different theme from the image above.
My personal favorites are “Amethyst Kamri “and and “Smokey Quartz Kamri”. Some love them and others hate them. But at least you have options to change the general look and feel of the IDE! And if you hate skinning and tweaking colors, just pick the default Windows theme and load in a bog-standard Lazarus/Delphi editor preset.
When we combine all this tweaking freedom with the completely overhauled and completely dockable IDE sections, you can pretty much personalize around 90% of the application.
A forgotten feature
The class browser was a great idea borrowed from the C# Mono project, but sadly we had to down-prioritize it earlier on – and it has remained in a sort of “limbo state” since version 1.2.
In the next update you will discover that we decided to give that old gem some love too and it really shows! Indexing is faster than ever, and searching for classes and methods is finally, after what seem like ages – efficient and useful!
The class browser was never created to be documentation. If you have some experience with C# or C++ through the mono project, you will know that a class-browser is just for searching up classnames/methods without having to change file or CTRL-Click out of your current unit.
C# programmers use this like mad, and assigns it to a clever key-combo. The .net framework is huge so remembering everything is impossible. Also, when focusing on a difficult task it’s not always productive having to scroll to the top of the unit, CTRL+Click on another unit, then CTRL+F to search (and so on). If all you want is the name of that class or a member –thats what the class browser is for. Nothing more, nothing less.
More to come
Over the past 2 weeks I have availed more and more features. And we are not done yet. There have been plenty of fixes and advancements in the compiler, linker and how applications are put together. So you have plenty to look forward to!
I have already mentioned quite a bit about the RTL changes, but not all — so stay tuned for more insight into what is without a doubt the best release of Smart Mobile Studio since 1.2 (!)