Free RPG Editor is Open Source, Runs on Linux
September 15, 2009 Alex Woodie
RPG programmers who are looking to escape the limitations and fees associated with IBM‘s flagship RPG editor, Rational Developer for i (RDi), now have another option with RPG Next Gen, a free and open source RPG editor that is based on Eclipse and runs under Linux. Created by Mihael Schmidt of Germany, the RPG Next Gen project is still fairly young, but it shows promise as a lightweight and easy-to-use source code editor.
RPG Next Gen was released to the public at version 0.5.1 in May, and was updated to version 0.5.1 last month. The software and its plug-ins provide basic RPG source-code editing features, including the capability to browse and filter QSYS libraries in a tree view, to edit fixed- and free-format RPG code, to submit compile jobs, to view the results of compiles, and to export source code to another computer. It also comes with handy features like color coding and syntax highlighting, code locking capabilities, wizards for data areas and userspaces, a spool file viewer, the capability to enter comments, and a local source history log, among many other features.
Schmidt did not create RPG Next Gen to replace or replicate all of the features delivered by RDi or even WDSc, which IBM will stop supporting next April. IBM has teams of people in the Toronto labs working on RDi, which is a very full-featured and mature product. RPG Next Gen, by comparison, is developed and supported solely by Schmidt, although he does welcome assistance.
Instead, Schmidt says he created RPG Next Gen so he could have most of the functions of RDi or WDSc, but have them under Linux, his preferred operating system. RDi, of course, runs only under Windows. RPG Next Gen runs on Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X.
Also influencing Schmidt’s decision was RDi’s price tag (it costs $795 per seat, on top of the cost of the compilers), and the relative heft of RDi, which is a feature-rich product spread across six CDs. RPG Next Gen, by comparison, is distributed as a quick 27 MB download. “People want/need a simple, lightweight editor with a graphical user interface–especially now that RDi costs some extra money,” Schmidt says via e-mail.
The fact that RPG Next Gen runs on Eclipse gives it a feature advantage over RDi in some categories, Schmidt says. “When I compare what I get for free with Eclipse in the Java development section and what I would have to pay for RDi, it is much too expensive,” he says. “And the LPEX editor in RDi has not half the features (and the quality) of the Java editor of the Eclipse project.”
Word of RPG Next Gen is just starting to spread, but there are signs that the product could tap into a vein of support within the System i community. Aaron Bartell, lead developer at Krengel Technology, gave RPG Next Gen a positive review in a story in the August issue of IBM Systems Magazine, which is available for review here.
Schmidt sounds happy to continue building out the functionality of RPG Next Gen, whether or not he gets help from the broader community. “I think most users compare the editor with WDSc/RDi and want just the same feature set,” he says. “As I am currently the only developer on this project, I have to set priorities.”
Features currently slated for the next release of RPG Next Gen include: support for templates (for free-form and fixed-format RPG); “content assist” for built-in functions and opcodes; and ILEDocs support for procedures.
Schmidt would like to work on more features, including more refactoring features, content assist on variables, and support for source indenting/formatting. But those features will take some time as they are quite complex, he says, so don’t expect them soon.
RPG Next Gen runs on 32-bit versions of Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X, and 64-bit versions of X86 Linux. Interested RPG developers can download the RPG Next Gen software at www.rpgnextgen.com.