I found that this was the case with Eclipse. When I first started learning Java a lot of people told me to start with NetBeans because it's easier, comes with a lot of predefined functionality and most of the configuration is done by default. Indeed it seemed like an easy IDE but I just hated the way it looked. The UI to me was horrible.

Then I downloaded Eclipse. I was pretty impressed with it. Everything looked shiny, fonts looked awesome and the UI in general was amazing compared to NetBeans'. So I stayed with Eclipse.

Has something like this ever happen to you? Should the UI be of such a relevance to a programmer, is this bad ? The problem of the UI extends to everything for me, not only IDE's (e.g. even on linux I have to customize the WM the way I want before starting working with it).

  • "Hated", even??
    – user1249
    Oct 31, 2010 at 21:28
  • 8
    I find it interesting how aesthetics differ between people. I find Eclipse to be hideously ugly. I actually prefer the look of NetBeans. For me, it's NetBeans' incredible slowness that turned me off to it.
    – John Kraft
    Nov 1, 2010 at 0:32
  • @John: That's interesting. I also prefer the look of NetBeans, but in my experience it also runs clearly faster that Eclipse. Nov 1, 2010 at 6:24
  • Thats funny cause im the same way. I hate the netbeans UI. I've only used it for a class of mine because the GUI builder ironically was easier and looked nicer than trying to use eclipse. But i find netbeans clunkier overall and i prefer eclipse over netbeans for functionality.
    – Matt
    May 27, 2011 at 22:38

16 Answers 16



I use VIM because it's beautiful.

Aesthetics mean a lot. If the UI is cluttered and ugly it will impact how you use the tool. NetBeans might do everything, but it looks awful and runs slow. I don't see many people using it.

  • 2
    Good UI is hard, that's why UI design has its own stack site. Programs with better GUIs are better programs. It may be the uglier program has some nicer features, but unless you require those features, its often not worth the effort of looking for them. Nov 1, 2010 at 14:54
  • 2
    @CodexArcanum: Looking at them you mean. Nov 1, 2010 at 17:25

Yes. It may be a biased point of view, but I like working with pretty user interfaces, and if the developer has gone to the time and trouble to make his user interface pretty (and intuitive), I assume that he has taken the same care with the rest of his program as well.

As a developer writing programs for others, you should have the same concern about your own UI.

Obviously, where UI doesn't matter (as in command line programs and libraries), UI doesn't matter.

  • 3
    Heck, even command line apps have an 'interface', in that some use cryptic and difficult to type parameters while others use more thought out and easier to remember parameters. Nov 1, 2010 at 5:31
  • on the other hand, it may be the case that the developer spends too much time on perfecting the UI, so he does not develop actual functionalities. In many cases, this lead to contrived tools with minimal functionalities that works extremely great as long as you don't need the advanced functionalities. In contrast with VIM/Emacs, a tool with thousands of functionalities, but you can only use less than 1 percent of them since most of those features are hidden behind some quirky keyboard combinations.
    – Lie Ryan
    Nov 1, 2010 at 17:28

A couple years ago I 'refreshed' a product's GUI - moving it from a bland Win95-ish look to something more modern. The app still worked essentially the same as it did - same menus, same toolbar layout - it just had a slicker color scheme and more modern looking icons and controls. A number of users commented on how the app was easier to use with the new GUI.

Thats just the nature of GUI's.

A cleaner GUI makes the available functionality more readily understood to the end user, and thus easier to figure out. It also looks more modern and up to date, providing the end user with extra confidence in the quality of the app.


I think sometimes the mental toll that certain UIs take is very subtle. I will often find myself switching between different UI experiences based on what kind of task I need to perform.

If I need to quickly get in-and-out of a lot of different config files, vim on the terminal is perfect. If I need to do a lot of typing, but don't need code-completion or debugger, TextMate or MacVim fit the bill. If I'm working heavily on multiple classes at once, and need to run tests or debug, I'll boot up the IDE.

I honestly believe that there is such a thing as too much interface. In my IDE, I will often find myself staring blankly at the project-pane trying to find the next file I need to work in. For me, when my fingers leave the keyboard, I tend to start to lose focus. Anything you that forces you to make a choice that isn't relevant to the problem you're working on is going to steal focus and concentration. Often, IDE are simply too widget-heavy.

We should know by now that in software, aesthetics and function are usually tied together.


Definitely. For instance, my Eclipse vs. NetBeans decision went in favor of NetBeans. Recently I started using Sublime Text editor. It's a good editor, but what differentiates it from dozens of other good editors out there is exactly the UI.


I use stackexchange sites and not other forums, just because they read&feel better.


Personally, I don't really care about UI. Terminal programs work well, so do GUIs, and terminal ones take less memory. The UI isn't really an element for me unless it enables more productivity, like say firefox over w3m (at least for me).


I'm sure it's a innate human bias to believe the prettier tool works the best, and, in the absence of any real obstructions of use, to choose that tool.

I realised a while ago that, the 'flatter' look a browser has, the more I believe it is a lighter and therefore faster browser. I use Chrome because it 'feels' lighter, although I have no real evidence it is a better browser to Firefox. Whilst I know this may be an illusion, I just like using it more.


It's quite silly to prefer form over function, in my opinion. That's not to say the two can't be combined, but since the question is whether we prefer a certain program just because it looks better, the answer is no.

  • Are you sure? If you have two technically equal programs, and the only thing that differentiates them is the looks, are you sure you wouldn't choose the better-looking just because of that? Nov 1, 2010 at 6:21

yes but i can't remember what programs exactly although its only when the functionality isn't much different cause if there is a better functionality in the crappy looking one I'll still take that one

thats why i prefer Firefox over Opera i like the customization in Firefox i love the looks in Opera


Yes, Hudson

Hudson is a continouos build engine which slowly is migrating into a distributed script engine, which just happens to be nice. Nice in its approach to how things are done, nice in how errors are reported, and nice in how it looks.

This common trait shows though very quickly when using Hudson and was the main factor that caused us to stay with Hudson.

So, the graphics are not exceptional, but nice, and indicative of the Hudson program in general.


Sure. I'm moving a number of my projects to Visual Studio 2010 from older versions. Partly it's so I can use the same tool on all my projects, partly it's because of all the great extensions for 2010, and partly it's because 2010 looks nicer and has a nicer UI. Productivity is the name of the game for software developers and if you are more relaxed and happy using a tool, you're more productive.

That said, "looks better" is in the eye of the beholder. I can't tell you how many times I've been told that Expression (Blend, Web etc) "looks better" than Visual Studio. I hate the black look, I hate that all the menus and toolbars behave differently depending on the thing you click first, I hate the tiny font and I hate that it's so cluttered and clicky oriented. I use it only when I have to. That proves I guess that I choose my tools based on looks when I can, but my point is one person's "looks better" is another "I hates it".


Not really. I don't have any design taste - my GUIs tend to be rather garish to other people! What matters to me in a UI is: How easily and quickly can I get to what I need to do? If the most common tasks I need are buried in submenus under hidden switches, and can't be customized out to main menus (or better yet, buttons and shortcut keys) than I hate it.

There is a flip side to this too, though. If the common things are easy to do, but more complex stuff is hard to find, then the UI is equally bad. IMO the perfect example of this is Office 2007. All the basic operations are right up top; but if you need hanging indents, columns, or more advanced formatting options, they are harder to find. With the old menus, I could usually at least make an educated guess as to where the option was.

  • I agree about Office 2007, I hate, hate, hate it, I want my menus back. If you didn't know any advanced thins when you started using it, you could go along happliy I suppose, but I am three years later still trying to find some things I could do with Office in 2002.
    – HLGEM
    Nov 1, 2010 at 17:39

Absolutely. I prefer uncluttered UIs with a very low graphical complexity level.

My UX is very important to me - the app needs to not get in my way. The iPod is a wonderful device for this, in my experience

FWIW, I find Eclipse-derived applications a complete pain to use. I use emacs for all editing.


Certainly for reporting tools and GUI tools/frameworks looks matter a lot.


The fact that Actors get paid more than most of us should tell you something, UI is very important! Its the same reason why people buy iPad over xxx though all they are gonna do is watch a couple of movies on it.

In my case, I have switched out of eclipse into vi mainly because my standards of gui were too high, coming in from VS. I use reddit over digg / bash.org over other clones / SO over mailing lists etc. for the same reason.

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