About editors and ActiveState Edit

Today I would like to write about deeply personal subject of every developer, about editors. A lot of my work happens in the editor. I am always on the lookout for something that can improve my work and efficiency on one hand, and on other, I don’t really want to change everything and that I need to learn everything from scratch.

However lately I’ve been on the lookout for something new. For usual tasks I’ve been using Html-Kit for long time. It is favorite of mine. Occasionally there will be other who would show promise at specific tasks, but Html-Kit was always fall-back. It isn’t perfect editor, it has code coloring and it does that well and it has configurable folders and also ftp folders which you can use to quickly access your work.For most part that is all I need to work. If your editor would mess up code coloring, it just makes your work 1000 times harder.

Lately, since I was using Rails, I’ve become aware about Textmate, Mac’s ubiquitous editor. All example videos are made using it, it is heavily promoted by developers. Since I don’t develop on Mac, in fact I find Mac not quite there when it comes to doing useful work (but then it maybe just me), I never experienced Textmate in full blown development. I did try it just to see how it works, it looks like plain editor to me, which is fine.

Anyway, so developing for Rails usually means that you would use IDE RadRails or newly integrated Aptana. Aptana is really neat IDE. It is fairly easy to use. It based on Eclipse, which means that it is bulky and slow, specially startup is slow. Since Eclipse is based on Java, it also means that it takes a lot of memory and it tends to crash occasionally. Still, however horrible this might sound, these things don’t happen that often to prevent you from doing useful work, in fact, once you start it and are in, things go smoothly. Plus you have those macros from Textmate if you want them, I never got a hang of these, seems that you really need to learn those in order to use them.

However I do much more then just Rails, so for other code I often would use another tool. I would take whatever is near for PHP. However I’ve been hearing about editors that would do things similar to Textmate. So I tried two very nice editors, e and InType. Idea about e is that it is Windows close of TextMate, while InType has somewhat more broad idea of improving your productivity. Both of them were good, well sort of. e didn’t really was able to recognize files by extension, so if I would open PHP or Ruby file, it wouldn’t be colored, which as I said, is the thing that really can blind you. So I had to manually set the type of the file. It became tiring so I started using it less and less. What I like about e is similar to Html-Kit you can set folder to be a project and easily work with files.

InType is very neat, extremely fast editor. I liked it a lot and it is very nice to use. It works with single files. Which I guess is fine, but this makes me switch from it to TotalCommander on and off. Then I would ask myself why would I do these things when Html-Kit does them all.

Just now I tried ActiveState Edit. Now this is something else. First ActiveState knows dynamic languages well, and this editor shows that extremely well. It has project view and also start page, I think they were ‘inspired’ by Eclipse. It doesn’t have any of the slugishness of Eclipse though and seems very fast and stable. I tried few things, in Perl, in PHP and Ruby and it seems extremely useful. I like how it autocomplete things, it does it just the right amount. Also it is very smart about the code and knows your objects and methods, which is awesome.  Aptana tries to do some of those things but they became so hard and slow to use that they defeat the purpose. One more great thing is Project templates. Initially it didn’t look like I might like this but it has promise. I think even thought I spent just brief time looking and working with this editor that it is made by developers for developers and it shows. At the moment it seems like perfect solution for me and I can see myself using it in the future. There is also IDE in the works Open Komodo, which I suspect I will like as well.

I think this editor existed for quite some time, just I didn’t really gave it a look. Now I am sorry for that as I can’t wait to use it more in my work.

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