Multilingual ActiveState Komodo 5.0 conquers Perl, PHP, Python, and Ruby projects with strong debug facilities, excellent code control, and an unbeatable set of utilities
The latest release, Version 5.0, updates the IDE's source code control (SCC) wizardry to give development teams seamless checkout across distributed code repositories. Newly added support for Mercurial, Git, and Bazaar complement Komodo's existing coverage for CVS, Subversion, and Perforce.
New code formatting tools, which support Perltidy and PHP Beautifier plug-ins, promise to help teams homogenise dissimilar coding styles — a common disorder of distributed development. And overall, Komodo's workspace has been cleaned up and made easier to customize, which should help new users more easily get their bearings. Plus, multiple workspace instances can now be run simultaneously.
Detracting from an otherwise superb product, Komodo does not yet support development in .Net languages such as C# and ASP.Net. I would also like to see steps taken to integrate collaboration tools — along the lines of efforts coming out of N-Brain, for example, where the UNA IDE bundles a whiteboard and chat facility.
Why spend good money on an IDE when a plethora of free Python editors and open source Eclipse plug-ins are readily available for the download? Quite simply, it's a matter of capability and pedigree.
Eclipse plug-ins such as EPIC's Perl Editor are perfectly fine, but not nearly as extensive or feature rich as Komodo. Third-party tools such as Zend Studio for PHP or Wingware's Wing IDE for Python are also exemplary products. But these one-trick ponies do little to bridge team effort across multiple languages. A single, standardised IDE for all dynamic language development promises to reduce training requirements and boost team efficiency and productivity.
Further, ActiveState's enterprise distributions offer pre-compiled, quality-guaranteed builds with service level agreements, support, and interim point releases that, in my experience, are typically packed with new features — not just bug fixes.
I'm certainly not suggesting that C++ programmers dump Visual Studio or that Java jockeys jump from NetBeans to Komodo. But developers used to the robust features of first-rate IDEs won't find them in the spartan tools available for dynamic languages. For dynamic language development, I've yet to discover any open source tool that can match the scope of functionality in Komodo.
The dragon's lair
Getting started with Komodo involves installing language-specific interpreters and compilers, but is pretty much a no-brainer. I was up and running quickly.
I find the workspace easy to navigate. All the standard aids are present: tabbed document access, handy toolbox, colour-coded syntax guides, and code folding to obscure blocks of code for easier navigation. Komodo is able to import projects based on file system — replicating the structure — and can import and export packages for easy distribution among teams.
The code browser shows a hierarchical tree view of all your code — classes, objects, methods — that provides quick navigation. A sort-and-search facility lets you easily flip through different views, such as the current directory, current file, or any open file.
Based on actual code analysis rather than static dictionary lookups, Komodo's code completion and background syntax verification are top-notch — definitely among the best I've used for dynamic languages. However, it would be valuable to see code completion extended beyond objects and namespaces to include variables as well.
Komodo's code fragments and macros help streamline workflow. Apart from some issues with dialog boxes not displaying correctly, macros performed well in my tests. Because Komodo macros allow user interaction via prompts, they can provide more flexibility than static automation.