I’m expounding my usual “late-bound” tabs model of IDEs again, over on StackOverflow.

… late binding between the buffer in the editor and actual concrete thing you’re working on, gives the editing environment more flexibility and power.

Think this is out of date? One place where the idea is back with a vengeance is in the browser, where you don’t have 1-1 correspondence between tabs and web-pages. Instead, inside each tab you can navigate forwards and backwards between multiple pages. No-one would try to make an MDI type interface to the web, where each page had it’s own inner window. It would be impossibly fiddly to use. It just wouldn’t scale.

Personally, I think IDEs are getting way too complicated these days, and the static binding between documents and buffers is one reason for this. I expect at some point there’ll be a breakthrough as they move to the browser-like tabbed-buffer model where :

a) you’ll be able to hyperlink between multiple files within the same buffer/tab (and there’ll be a back-button etc.)

b) the generic buffers will be able to hold any type of data : source-code, command-line, dynamically generated graphic output, project outline etc.

Here’s something else that looks pretty cool. BuckyBase is a data-wiki where pages are like free-form records (dictionaries of key / value pairs) that can also be can be shown grouped into tabular form.

It’s fairly simple at the moment (another just-launched GAE experiment), but I can’t help thinking that in my “enterprisey” day-job I work with nothing but data which is structured like this : records that are less than normalized, sometimes viewed as separate pages, sometimes squashed into grids. Give it the ability to add a few extra-constraints, some kind of blank form definitions; hook it up to Google Visualization and let it embed Gadgets; add some more sophisticated querying … and you’ve got the heart of a small-business data-base application : Filemaker-as-a-service.

And if Google can ensure that Application Engine really is fast, powerful and secure enough to host serious applications, then it looks very promising as the new standard substrate for a whole ecology of this kind of wiki-derived tool.