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A visually impaired colleague has asked me to recommend an IDE with easy-to-find and easy-to-use controls for:

  1. font size
  2. background and foreground colors
  3. changing syntax color scheme
  4. support for at least C/C++ and Java

He would prefer an IDE that is either portable or that has similar versions for Linux, Windows and Mac.

He prefers a dark background and light colored fonts and needs to sit very close to the display.

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2 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

The IDE that comes to mind, per your language requirements, is Eclipse.

I have only really used Eclipse for Java development and while it has its annoyances, it has gotten a lot better over the years. It may not live up to Intellij for some people, but overall I am satisfied with it. In general Eclipse is a platform with all of its functionality built as plugins (or plugin-like things. I am not 100% sure how it's structured). The Java Development Tooling (JDT) is bundled with the default install, and has all you would expect from Eclipse. For C and C++, there is the C/C++ Development Tooling (CDT) plugin. I have not used it, but appears to be just as feature complete as JDT.

As for your other three requirements, Eclipse allows you to customize the editor from its Preferences panel. Once you are in the Preferences panel, in the navigation tree to the left you can follow "General" to "Appearance" to "Colors and Fonts" and customize how you see fit. One nice feature about the "Colors and Fonts" preferences is that when you click on preference it will preview it for you before you apply it. While you can customze the base colors and fonts, you can also customize the syntax color schemes on a per-language basis. At least for Java, if you navigate from "Java" to "Editor" to "Syntax Coloring" there is a point-and-click interface for changing most aspects of the syntax color scheme.

To be honest, I don't know if these features are "easy" for someone visually impaired to navigate and use, but overall I have found them fairly intuitive. I have not needed to consult a manual or some other obtuse configuration file in order to change the settings to my liking.

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I have a slight vision impairment and I use Eclipse, setting the font size to either 12 or 14. I also mainly use a 28" monitor which helps. –  jfrankcarr Jun 12 '12 at 4:35
    
Is there an easy way (with less than 20 hours programming I mean) to add a control to the top level icon or menu bar in Eclipse that would allow font size and color control? –  Eli Rosencruft Jun 12 '12 at 4:51
    
The menu and toolbar are very customizable, but I am not immediately seeing anything built-in. Check out this question on SO for a link to a plugin that allows you to use keyboard shortcuts to change the font size. Even if it doesn't work, it could be a starting point for your own plugin. I am not sure changing the colors quickly makes sense, as I don't think Eclipse as "themes" as you would see in other applications. –  Jeremy Heiler Jun 12 '12 at 5:04
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As @Jeremy has pointed out, Eclipse is the IDE of choice for many. My experience with it has been less than refined, although for Java and maybe C++/C the results are better. If you never touch any other languages than Java or C++, its great. Without a plugin to support language X, you get a glorified nedit or notepad. Download the wrong plugin, and (in my experience) you spend the rest of the week getting your eclipse running again. That was a couple of years ago, it may have improved...

My main concern with Eclipse is it's 1GigByte footprint when running - OK for a desktop box with one user, but what happens when half a team of devs runs up a couple of instances each on the main server.

For me I cannot go past Visual Slick Edit. The main gain I get is the support for most languages is out the box. It's highly configurable if needed. I would recommend a large monitor (I have a 30" Display) so you can ramp up the font sizes without worries.

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