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Microsoft Programming

Visual Studio 2010 Forces Tab Indenting 390

Posted by kdawson
from the one-man's-readable dept.
An anonymous reader writes "For years, Microsoft has allowed Visual Studio users to define arbitrary tab widths, often to the dismay of those viewing the resultant code in other editors. With VS 2010, it appears that they have taken the next step of forcing tab width to be the same as the indent size in code. Two-space tabs anyone?"
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Visual Studio 2010 Forces Tab Indenting

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  • by Foredecker (161844) * on Monday January 25, 2010 @12:26AM (#30885938) Homepage Journal

    This tab thing makes Slashdot front page and the following didnt? Windows 7 way hotter than Vista off the line, now more popular than all OS X versions [engadget.com]. Okay then...

    How is this tab things news or interesting at all? Here is what Brittany Behrens a PM for the editor team said:

    Hi Brien,

    Thank you for logging this issue. Before making this change we solicited feedback on the decision to combine Tab Size and Indent Size from a wide variety of sources, including public blog posts and forum threads, and found that the vast majority of user feedback was in favor of combining the two. If its seriously impacting your code to have Tab Size always equal Indent Size, it is possible to write a short editor extension to override the Tools->Options dialog and set the two options separately. If thats something youd be interested in, please let me know and Ill see about posting sample code for how to do this.

    Im resolving this issue as By Design because we intentionally combined these options for VS 2010, but please feel free to post again here if you have any further questions or comments and well be happy to help.

    Thanks for trying Visual Studio 2010 Beta 2 and sending your feedback!

    Brittany Behrens

    Program Manager, VS Platform - Editor

    (bolding above mine for emphasis)

    Gee, the team solicited comments, did some research and made a change that people wanted. Of course, any change will make somebody unhappy.

    Brittany even volunteered to give folks a simple editor extension to make the settings different for those that want it. My assumption is that anyone using Visual Studio is a developer and capeable of using such an extension, or writing it themselves. It is not difficult.

    -Foredecker

  • by j741 (788258) on Monday January 25, 2010 @12:33AM (#30885978) Journal

    This tab thing makes Slashdot front page and the following didnt?

    Windows 7 way hotter than Vista off the line, now more popular than all OS X
    versions

    Of course id did; it's a developer tool so it immediately has street cred at /.
    Everything else that has nothing to do with coding or Linux is immediately a 3rd rate info byte unworthy of these hallowed pages ;->

  • by black3d (1648913) on Monday January 25, 2010 @12:43AM (#30886024)

    This tab thing makes Slashdot front page and the following didnt?

    Windows 7 way hotter than Vista off the line, now more popular than all OS X
    versions

    It's kdawson's shift. He'll never post any article that's even mildly favorable of anything Microsoft related. However, if you can find a story that says some kid in Sweden doesn't like the Windows 7 box-colors, you've got yourself a kdawson front-pager! :)

  • by mgkimsal2 (200677) on Monday January 25, 2010 @12:58AM (#30886128) Homepage

    They're a meta character, and the meaning can be changed later.

    * If I'm hitting the tab key and it's inserting X spaces, and I hit the key once too many times, I have to hit delete X times instead of just once.

    * If the code is reused in a new environment where everyone wants their indentation levels at 4 spaces instead of 2 or 3 or 8, you have to reformat a lot of code manually. If tabs are used, remap the sizing of the tab character and you're done.

    * The tab character itself has some semantic meaning - indent. The space is a word and symbol separator. Use an indentation character when you want to indicate indentation.

  • by Artraze (600366) on Monday January 25, 2010 @01:00AM (#30886132)

    I find the use of spaces irritating and stupid, to be equally blunt. I mean, the tab is a character that exists _specifically_ for aligning text. It behaves predictably across editors and allows easy changing of width for various programmers. You never have to worry about half indents choking the editor. Why replace tabs with spaces? So you can hit the space bar a thousand times whenever you need to edit something outside a programming editor? So you can't change indent size without some obscene editor voodoo that may change the spaces and corrupt your diff history? But I doubt I'll ever understand... Most of the "benefits" I see people listing for using spaces I consider either more true for tabs, or disadvantages.

  • by yvajj (970228) on Monday January 25, 2010 @01:02AM (#30886146)

    The biggest benefit to tabs (especially if you code in a corporate environment) is that people can view the code based on *their* preferred indentation / spacing e,.g. I may like my tabs to be 2 spaces, another developer may prefer 3 or 4 spaces.

    By setting up their IDE / editor to their preferred tab width, the code indents to the way they like it.

    By forcing all your tabs to be spaces, anyone else viewing the code will be forced to view / edit it in your indentation.

  • by Nikker (749551) on Monday January 25, 2010 @01:04AM (#30886164)
    I don't have to backspace many times when I remove nested loops and they always line up properly (a personal thing that drives me nuts when two lines in the same scope don't line up) and it only needs one tap of a button to make it done. Hitting the space bar isn't a bad thing but it just feels inefficient when you have to repeat it so many times also most editors will allow you to highlight code blocks and use tab or shift-tab to increase/decrease white space which I'm not sure if they will do the same for you for spaces.
  • by Wumpus (9548) <{IAmWumpus} {at} {gmail.com}> on Monday January 25, 2010 @01:06AM (#30886186)

    No.

    They solicited input from each other and in a blog post that generated a handful of responses. They did this to eliminate "a class of bugs" in the new editor that was triggered by setting the two numbers to different values. Which means they had a bunch of bugs (probably due to confusion between the two settings in the code) and someone had the brilliant idea that the bugs will go away if they just crippled the editor in such a way that the bugs will never be triggered. They solicited input, very quietly, and did it. This also means that the workaround they offer (writing a fucking extension, for fucking crying out loud - what is this, emacs?) will trigger all those bugs because they didn't fix them.

    Idiots.

  • by nmb3000 (741169) <nmb3000@that-google-mail-site.com> on Monday January 25, 2010 @01:15AM (#30886268) Homepage Journal

    So, for all those tab fans, what is it about tabs that you find useful?

    1. I can have my indent be 2 spaces and you can have it be 8 spaces, all without changing the source code.
    2. Files are not constantly being changed and updated in the source control system due to the number of spaces changing as different developers edit the code.
    3. If I want to print out a section of code, I can modify the tab/space equivalency so that the lines easily fit on the page without wrapping.
    4. Tabs provide a one-to-one relationship between the level of indentation and the number of characters used. This isn't usually a big deal, but in terms of parsing and editing I personally find this more elegant than using spaces (an inconsistent many-to-one relationship).
    5. It saves electrons. One tab character generally fills the shoes of four space characters. That's a savings of 75%! Smaller storage and transmission requirements means fewer servers in the datacenter which means less heat created which means smaller refrigeration units which means less energy consumed which means fewer greenhouse gases emitted which means less global warming which means continued survival of the human species.

    So there you go. In addition to just being more manageable and flexible, using tabs over spaces will help ensure the future existence of the human species on this planet.

    Okay, so while the last point was in jest (mostly ;), I stand by the first four. Honestly, I've yet to see any pro-spaces people give any substantial reasons (when applied to modern computers and development tools) that spaces work better than tabs.

    So, for all those space fans, what is it about spaces that you find useful?

  • by Blakey Rat (99501) on Monday January 25, 2010 @01:16AM (#30886274)

    If you use Tab characters, everybody on your team can pick whatever tab level they prefer. In short, everybody's happy.

    If you use Space characters, and you prefer 4 spaces but someone else prefers 2, well, then they're fucked. (Or you're fucked. Somebody's going to be unhappy.)

    Frankly, from a logical perspective, I've never figured out what benefit spaces have over tabs... my guess is that it's related to, "I learned programming in 1976 and damned if I'm going to change my extremely ancient and obsolete habits for you young un's. Also, get off my lawn!!"

  • by liquiddark (719647) on Monday January 25, 2010 @01:16AM (#30886276)
    Herb Sutter once observed in relation to C++0x that when it comes to complex, interesting questions of language design, very few people are even vaguely qualified to comment, and when it comes to issues of whitespace every idiot on the planet has an opinion. And when those idiots get the chance, they'll post those issues as news on an aggregator of some sort (ok, that last part wasn't Herb Sutter).
  • by scdeimos (632778) on Monday January 25, 2010 @01:18AM (#30886282)
    You're confusing the tab key with the tab character. Do you expect to see arrow characters in your code when you use the arrow keys on your keyboard too?
  • by harryjohnston (1118069) <harry.maurice.johnston@gmail.com> on Monday January 25, 2010 @01:20AM (#30886298) Homepage

    They're a meta character, and the meaning can be changed later.

    * If I'm hitting the tab key and it's inserting X spaces, and I hit the key once too many times, I have to hit delete X times instead of just once.

    Or press shift-tab or undo...

    * If the code is reused in a new environment where everyone wants their indentation levels at 4 spaces instead of 2 or 3 or 8, you have to reformat a lot of code manually. If tabs are used, remap the sizing of the tab character and you're done.

    I don't think it's really all that hard to automate the process of changing the indent spacing. In my experience, a bigger problem is changing other formatting conventions, such as where to put the line breaks.

    * The tab character itself has some semantic meaning - indent. The space is a word and symbol separator. Use an indentation character when you want to indicate indentation.

    While I see some value in what you're saying here, I'm doubtful that giving an invisible character semantic meaning is wise. It means you can't tell easily the difference between valid and invalid code. (Yes, I really hate makefile syntax!)

    I also note that your latter two points only apply if the tab size is also the indent size.

  • by harryjohnston (1118069) <harry.maurice.johnston@gmail.com> on Monday January 25, 2010 @01:26AM (#30886332) Homepage

    I find the use of spaces irritating and stupid, to be equally blunt. I mean, the tab is a character that exists _specifically_ for aligning text. It behaves predictably across editors [...]

    Not in my experience it doesn't!

    You never have to worry about half indents choking the editor.

    I don't understand what you mean by this.

    Why replace tabs with spaces? So you can hit the space bar a thousand times whenever you need to edit something outside a programming editor?

    Ironically, one of the reasons I prefer to use spaces is so that the code is readable when I do want to edit (or view) something outside of the programming editor. Code with tabs in it is usually completely messed up.

    Ah, well, it'd be a funny old world if we were all the same!

  • by nmb3000 (741169) <nmb3000@that-google-mail-site.com> on Monday January 25, 2010 @01:26AM (#30886336) Homepage Journal

    I know it's bad form to reply to yourself, but really Slashdot? THAT is how you render an HTML ordered list? What blind, drunk monkey on an acid trip designed that stylesheet?

    Of course the icing on the cake is that in the preview it was properly rendered as an ordered numeric list. WTF, Taco?

    Oh, look at the name of the CSS files responsible: idlecore-tidied.css. Makes sense now I suppose. Anything to do with idle.slashdot is already horribly broken.

  • by harryjohnston (1118069) <harry.maurice.johnston@gmail.com> on Monday January 25, 2010 @01:38AM (#30886420) Homepage

    That's a valid point, although I'm not sure how you avoid a mixture of tabs and spaces, which would make the code look completely wrong (instead of just a bit wrong!) for everybody else.

  • by harryjohnston (1118069) <harry.maurice.johnston@gmail.com> on Monday January 25, 2010 @01:40AM (#30886442) Homepage

    Don't get me started on makefiles. An syntactically significant invisible character? Dumbest idea ever.

  • by John Whitley (6067) on Monday January 25, 2010 @02:01AM (#30886548) Homepage

    It behaves predictably across editors and allows easy changing of width for various programmers.

    I'm amazed that you can utter this with a straight face. "behaves predictably" and "allows easy changing of width" are pretty much diametrically opposed concepts, at least if you actually share your code with any other human being. If tab-width were somehow a universally self-describing attribute in text files, then this could fly. But without it, we're left in a place where others viewing your code open the file (or heaven forbid, use cat/more/less!) and then feel fscked.

    I'll also observe that a number of popular editors don't even have clean per-project (or per-file) concepts of tab-width setting and such settings are often clunky in the best of those that do.

  • by Technomancer (51963) on Monday January 25, 2010 @02:13AM (#30886600)

    in cross-platform project is to force everyone to use spaces only.
    The shit that happens to code with tabs that get edited on unix and windows and different editors make the text to travel towards the right side of screen at exponentially increasing speeds.
    Add some retarded editors and direct copying of sources between unix and windows without going through source control system that converts line endings and you will also have empty lines being added as well.
    The end result is 1/100 ratio between code and whitespace.
    Hello from the trenches ;-)

  • by nullchar (446050) on Monday January 25, 2010 @02:47AM (#30886770)

    And if you prefer to look at 2 or 4 spaces per tab, you're hosed. Tabs-only is best. Then each person can set the level of indent they want to see. As long as you don't mix spaces and tabs, you're fine.

  • by lorenzo.boccaccia (1263310) on Monday January 25, 2010 @03:17AM (#30886946)
    I personally like to use tabs, so when I open the file my editor represents the tabs as width as two spaces, while my colleague uses a four-spaces-for-tabs setting as he prefer that way.
    you can't do this using spaces.
  • by Toonol (1057698) on Monday January 25, 2010 @03:44AM (#30887084)
    I think you may be verging on the insane.
  • by emt377 (610337) on Monday January 25, 2010 @04:44AM (#30887434)

    How hard is it to find an editor that will handle TABS nicely?

    It's not just about editors, but about terminal windows as well. Just such a simple command as "svn diff file.c | more" will indent at 8 stop tabs, causing unreadable wrapping. The problem is everything from Terminal.app (or gnome-terminal or whatever you use) to 'more', to diff vewiers, web svn tree browsers, trac, post-commit email, etc, has to be made aware of non-8 stop tabs and keep your individual preference. This is turn adds a need for login (or navigation options) - and just adds bloat and complexity for something that has a very simple solution: use spaces.

  • by Qu4Z (1402097) on Monday January 25, 2010 @05:48AM (#30887682)

    I think the issue is more that tab and space are visually indistinguishable.
    A good guideline is that you should be able to glean all the semantically meaningful data from the source code even on a hard-copy. I can certainly see a newline in hard-copy (although I can't tell whether it's \n, \r\n, \r or whatever). Similarly, I can see tabs in hard-copy, but I can't tell them apart from spaces, so in that sense it's wrong for them to be any more semantically meaningful.

  • by osu-neko (2604) on Monday January 25, 2010 @06:04AM (#30887756)

    Dude, the editor takes care of that for you. Why micromanage spaces and alignment when that's what computers are good for? There's a reason things like ReSharper exist. I never ever use tabs (option is set to insert spaces instead), and I've never had to deal with any of these issues the "tabs not spaces" crowed insist exist if you use spaces.

    So, what you're saying is, as long as you're using the right editor, it'll take care of these things for you, it's only a problem for people who pull it up in a different editor that doesn't do the same micromanagement yours does. I point this out not because you're in any way wrong, but for some reason fans of using spaces instead of tabs often complain that the way different editors deal with tabs is a problem, while acting as if this isn't a problem in the other direction. Personally, I find the behavior of tabs across editors to be far more consistent than the way spaces are treated, because some editors do exactly as your does (and should), but more do not, or they do some random subset of all the nice things they ought to do, like making a single delete drop a whole indent level, or just a space, or how the arrow moves through them, e.g go one space? one indent level? go directly to the first non-space? Will it even let me arrow back beyond the first non-space character? Sometimes yes, sometimes no, sometimes a space at a time, sometimes an indent level at a time, etc. There's no good argument to be made in favor of either spaces or tabs in which one cites inconsistent editor behavior, it cuts both ways, but space-indenters always seem to cite these inconsistencies as if it somehow only affects tabs and not spaces.

  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Monday January 25, 2010 @06:21AM (#30887854) Homepage
    That's a very unfair characterisation; there's much more to kdawson than just Microsoft bashing. Specifically, if you have some shitty snake oil vapourware that you'd like to peddle by shilling an advert thinly disguised as an article, he's your guy.
  • by harryjohnston (1118069) <harry.maurice.johnston@gmail.com> on Monday January 25, 2010 @06:40AM (#30887950) Homepage

    From a purely pragmatic perspective, my main problem is simply that I've found it impractical to use tabs consistently. Some lines always wind up having spaces in them instead, and since you can't see the difference, you can't easily fix it.

    (Also I don't like seeing eight-character indentation when I need to view the file from the command line or in notepad, but that's a minor point.)

  • by smartin (942) on Monday January 25, 2010 @09:07AM (#30888712)

    It is really unfortunate the IDE's let people change the tab setting and even more unfortunate that IDE's like Eclipse and IntellJ come with it incorrectly set to 4 spaces. This has the effect of totally buggering the code when viewed in any context other than one with the same settings. Printers and most code viewers use an 8 character tab stop.
    Yes things work fine if you forbid mixing tabs and spaces in indent but, in my experience this does not work in practice.

  • by Bake (2609) on Monday January 25, 2010 @09:24AM (#30888846) Homepage

    Never had a problem with tabs until spaces get in the mix, and then different conventions completely screw up your code.

    In other words, everything is nice and neat with tabs until some asshole starts putting spaces into the code for indentation/alignment :-)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 25, 2010 @09:34AM (#30888930)

    It also makes lining up parameters on multiple lines look like complete and utter ass because that usually requires a combination of tabs and spaces.

  • by siride (974284) on Monday January 25, 2010 @11:15AM (#30890284)
    I'm sure that's it. It's not that Windows runs all the software that people actually use, or that it runs correctly on the computer they buy, or that devices they buy will work with it instead of requiring installation of special programs from God knows where that may or may not work depending on your kernel version, etc. There's plenty of shit on the Windows platform, but at least people who aren't programmers can get work done.
  • by IBBoard (1128019) on Monday January 25, 2010 @03:58PM (#30894694) Homepage

    Because using only spaces never causes confusion. Using only TABs can cause confusion in many cases, even if one never uses spaces for indenting.

    I'd disagree there, but to each his own.

    For example, you comment one line temporarily for a test. What happens to the tab that's now following a start comment character(s)?

    Erm, it is still there, just as if it were a space? And some IDEs may even still keep your code lined up and not indent it further than its neighbours, or else it'll behave the same as spaces.

    You merge two lines into one, what happens to the tab characters that are now inserted in the middle of a line?

    What happens to the spaces in that situation? Same thing.

    You break one line into two, will you need to convert the spaces into tabs?

    Which spaces? Editors will have one of two behaviours: 1) be "intelligent" and keep the indenting at the same level (so it'll tab it the same depth) or 2) be "dumb" and drop it to the start of the line, at which point I tab it back to place with a couple of key strokes.

    You cut and paste text from somewhere else, how will you make sure that the indentation contains only tabs?

    How do you know that the indentation contains only spaces? ;)

    Have you ever copied text from a web page? From a PDF file? From a scanned+OCR'd paper?

    Yes, yes, no. In the first two cases it works sometimes and not others, depending on whether it was done with tabs or spaces. The advantage if it was done with tabs is that it'll work no matter my tab width, where as spaces are going to be wrong for someone who uses 8 where people use 4 or whatever.

    We have one character that means 'blank', having another one just for the sake of the few people who want a specially personalized indentation is a complication we can live without

    No, we have one character that means "insert a single character space, such as might be found between two words" and one character that means "move the text to a fixed position according to the tab stop/width". Why overload one character when you can differentiate with two? ;)

    How can you ever be sure that in those and many other situations that all your lines contain the exact number of tabs?

    How can you be sure that they contain the right number of spaces? Every time I've worked with space indenting then I've ended up realising that one method block was indented by 5 spaces instead of 4 only at the point where I paste some code that is indented 4 spaces. Tabs, on the other hand, are generally quite obviously wrong because they're a full layer of indenting out of step.

    How can you be sure that your OCR, your document editor, and your PDF reader are configured to the same tab width as your code editor?

    By configuring them? PDF shouldn't make a difference, since PDFs are about identical presentation. OCR and document editors are customisable, but even if they aren't then half of the point of tabs is that they can fit whatever width.

    If your OCR reads 2x8char tabs instead of 4x4char then you've got half the indentation when you read it and it needs fixing, but it is just as likely to read 10/11/13 instead of 12 or whatever when using spaces. That's just called sanitising your inputs. Besides, how frequently do most people OCR their source code?

    If people really want to use spaces then that's fine, I just find it interesting that so many of the reasons for spaces being better can apply equally well to tabs being better!

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