The past decade has seen a burgeoning of research and development in software environments. Conferences have been devoted to the topic of practical environments, journal papers produced, and commercial systems sold. Given all the activity, one might expect a great deal of consensus on issues, approaches, and techniques. This is not the case, however. Indeed, the term "environment" is still used in a variety of conflicting ways. Nevertheless substantial progress has been made and we are at least nearing consensus on many critical issues.
The purpose of this paper is to characterize environments, describe several important principles that have emerged in the last decade or so, note current open problems, and describe some approaches to these problems, with particular emphasis on the activities of one large-scale research program, the Arcadia project. Consideration is also given to two related topics: empirical evaluation and technology transition. That is, how can environments and their constituents be evaluated, and how can new developments be moved effectively into the production sector?