The IDL Workbench is much simpler in IDL 8.0.

The result is a much faster and nimbler Workbench experience, at the cost of a few features (both non-IDL related Eclipse features and ITT VIS added features from previous versions). For example, perspectives are gone entirely now; instead of “IDL”, “Debug”, and “Visualize” perspectives there is only a single layout for your editors/views.

But other, more useful features, like software update for plugins are also gone. Plugins now must be downloaded directly and copied into the features and plugins folders in the idlde directory of the IDL distribution. I downloaded the Subversion plugin and have it successfully working in the 8.0 Workbench. You now have to manually check for updates and re-install them instead of having the Workbench just automatically check every time it starts.

The best new feature of the Workbench is an integrated command line/output log that looks like a TTY-based command line. Maybe it is my command line bias, but this is much more intuitive than separate views of the command line and output log (I have seen many, many users repeatedly clicking in the output log, trying to enter a new command because they see their last command echoed in the output log).

The Workbench plays a bit nicer on Mac OS X by launching like a normal application instead of creating another icon in my dock (as does the Help system). It’s a small thing, but it’s a bit easier to deal with two IDL-related icons instead of four icons, which was starting to dominate my dock.

I haven’t missed the removed features yet (I used the “Debug” perspective for everything and I can manually install plugins for the few that I use), but I only use the Workbench about 10% of the time I use IDL. Overall, the speed and simplicity gained from the removal of the features seems well worth it for me. I like the focus on improving usability of the Workbench instead of just adding more and more new “features” that I may or may not use.