I have a long history with IntelliJ IDEA and in overall I love it. Sure there are tons of minor (and also more than minor) issues but it’s just like with a marriage – you have to find a partner who’s flaws you can tolerate. IntelliJ IDEA is such a partner for me.
But there is a thing I really don’t understand at all – for years I hoped JetBrains reconsiders, but it seems to be a lost cause. I believe their diagramming is just plain terrible. And the reason is not how the diagrams look like – even though while some UMLs are nice most dependency diagrams generated from any bigger POM file are virtually unusable.
The worst part of the whole experience is mouse control over the diagram:
- Mouse wheel scrolls vertically, but terribly slow. Zoom would be much better. Use Ctrl+wheel. But even if you unzoom as much as possible, you often don’t see anything because the canvas is much bigger and the diagram gets lost somewhere. Tip: Try to find it in the middle using scrollbars for orientation.
- If you ever tried to drag the viewport (aka hand tool or something) you find out that all the intuitive ways don’t work. Even worse, they stand in your way. Use Ctrl+left mouse, BTW.
- If you try middle mouse on its own you’ll experience the most weird thing – after you drag with middle mouse, nothing happens. But the moment you move the mouse cursor a magnifier appears on the spot where you ended dragging. No clicking makes it go away. Tip: Just press Alt, seriously. Don’t ask. With Alt you can actually move the magnifier around.
If you’ve ever seen dependency diagram in Eclipse you probably can’t understand the layout of IDEA’s diagrams – or anything else around them for that matter. In the aforementioned dependency diagrams you either see a cobweb of lines with pixel-sized boxes, or hardly more than couple of boxes you can actually read at the same time. I tried various layouts and I don’t like either really – and it’s not my visual taste, it’s how unhelpful their layout typically is.
There are some things to like, I guess. I like how you can navigate them with quick search (typing). But that’s about it. Why the visualization and layout engine is how it is and why the controls are so counter-intuitive is beyond me.
Of course, if you’re more regular user of these diagrams you’ll probably get familiar with the controls. Not sure about the layout though. I don’t know how much these flaws are related to the used commercial yFiles and how much is IDEA’s integration.
Conclusions? Don’t forget that Alt to get rid of that magnifier. 🙂 I personally believe the diagrams could have been much better and easier to navigate, perhaps even without a commercial engine. That would also enable the community around the free IntelliJ Platform to build something on top of them.