When a Web site tries to be many things to many people, it’s a rare event when it succeeds. The recently redesigned Programmers’ Heaven, one of my personal favorites, with its abundance of source code and technical articles on virtually any language imaginable, definitely comes close. Figure A offers a capsule review of the site.
Programmers’ Heaven is best described as a links warehouse. The site rarely hosts original content, instead providing value by collecting links to code and articles and sorting them into categories. With links to more than 17,837 code samples and articles of interest to both niche and mainstream developers, Programmers’ Heaven has a very large link library. The size of the library isn’t the only distinguishing feature, though: It also hosts a set of active message boards and has a bimonthly e-mail newsletter.
A clean new look
The site was previously organized in a hierarchical manner that could fool you into thinking there was far less content than there actually was. You’d have to drill down three or more pages to find the first relevant article, and each page looked no different from the last. It was easy to get lost or simply to not be able to find what you were looking for.
That was my only real problem with Programmers’ Heaven, and thankfully, the redesigned site features a more streamlined hierarchy. Drilling down into a language category provides a list of subcategories that are clearly indicated via small folder icons. That makes it much easier to figure out where you are in the vast library.
And although it’s not exactly a new feature, I neglected to mention the site’s context-driven news feeds in my original review. Each page sports a list of news headlines driven by your location in the site’s link library. You’ll see nothing but Java news while in the main Java category, and only .NET news appears when browsing the .NET links. These news links are dynamic, updating often, and usually do not include links to the big PR-heavy press releases that some sites try to pass off as “news.”
The aforementioned Language categories are devoted to the usual mainstream suspects and to some rather niche languages as well. You’ll find the requisite sections devoted to Java, Visual Basic, and C/C++, but you’ll also find ample space dedicated to Delphi, Pascal, Basic, Perl, and PHP, plus a new section for Python. Each category contains sections featuring source code, articles, and development tools relevant to that language, as well as a few specific sections: Applets for Java, VBXs and OCXs for VB, and VCLs for Delphi/Kylix.
You will find the site has categories for various platforms and operating systems like Windows, Microsoft.NET, Web development, and UNIX (really just Linux and BSD). These are organized in a fashion similar to the language sections previously described. Gone are the system utility links previously found in the Windows and UNIX sections, making them exclusively programming information lists.
There are several other categories, many of which were previously subcategories in the site’s old hierarchical layout. The Database and XML category provides links for development information on a fairly large variety of mainstream database applications, with SQL Server, Oracle, Sybase, PostgreSQL, and Interbase all represented. Web development now has its own dedicated categories, divided into lists of links of interest to both the Microsoft (ASP/ASP.NET) and non-Microsoft worlds.
Where do they get all these wonderful toys?
The majority of the links have been suggested by site members. Although membership was available before the redesign, it was not as prominent a site feature as it is now. The ability to suggest content is just one of the perks of the free membership system. It also entitles you to access community features such as message boards and a customizable favorite links list.
Speaking of the message boards, they appear to be very lively. Programmers’ Heaven offers boards dedicated to all of the languages for which the site categorizes links, in addition to job postings, game programming, COM, Palm, wireless, Windows, and UNIX development. Most of the boards are usually fairly active, with several active threads and new posts daily. Site members can create their own message groups for discussions on topics not handled by the “official” message boards.
Now more than ever, there appears to be a thriving community at Programmers’ Heaven, along with more code and resources than you can reasonably hope to exhaust in your lifetime. If you like browsing through endless lists of articles about your favorite language, you may very well find yourself in heaven. At the very least, with its well-organized link lists, Programmers’ Heaven is a blessing to those of us with terminally disorganized bookmark lists.