A Fast Idle For IBM i Development
September 27, 2017 Alex Woodie
One thing that’s clear about Liam Allan is he doesn’t take things slow. At just 20 years of age, Allan is one of the brightest young developers on the platform. Now the British coder is sharing his latest creation with the IBM i world: a lightweight ILE development tool dubbed Idle.
There are many options when it comes to IBM i development tools, especially if open source, Web-native languages are your thing. There’s no shortage of environments for creating PHP, Node.js or Java apps. The opening of the IBM i platform has been a great thing in that regard.
But the pickings are bit slimmer when it comes to working in the IBM i’s native ILE languages, including RPG, COBOL, C, and C++. Mostly, this story is about working with RPG, which is as closely linked to the IBM i platform as a language and a runtime environment can get.
There is SEU, of course. SEU has long been a fan favorite of hardcore RPG propeller heads, but the green-screen utility is showing its age. The big dog in the fight is Rational Developer for IBM i (RDi), IBM‘s main Eclipse-based development tool for IBM i professionals. However, there are concerns that RDi’s pricing is putting it outside of the reach of some users. The size of the program is another concern.
With Idle, Allan’s main goal is finding the sweet spot between functionality and responsiveness that IBM has missed with RDi. “A developer might use this if they’re learning RPG/ILE, if they want something that will let them get the job done quickly, or if they don’t want any hassle from their environment,” Allan tells IT Jungle. “I am not trying to compete with RDi, instead I am trying to offer something that will do almost the same stuff at no cost.”
Core features in Idle include things like syntax highlighting for RPG, COBOL, CL, C, and C++; source member browsing/editing; inline error listing; and “some basic fixed-to-free RPG conversion” (unfortunately, f-specs are not supported yet), Allan says. It also provides CL formatting functionality, and lets developers generate service programs.
The product features a “simple UI, not a memory hog,” Allan tells us. It does, however, require the .NET Framework to be installed, but that shouldn’t be a deal breaker for anybody with a modern machine.
As it so happens, Allan modeled Idle after another RPG development tool, IBMiCmd, which he released on GitHub earlier this year. “[Idle’s] intention is to be a lightweight and fast editor, very much like IBMiCmd, but instead without the Notepad++ dependency,” Allan writes.
IBMiCmd was designed to work with another Allan product called Notepad-RPG, which provided colorization of RPG source stored in the IFS. Allan added IBMiCmd as a Notepad++ plugin that added the capability to download and work with source physical files and to compile the code. However, Notepad++ is a Windows-only product, so Allan set out to build another product (Idle) that didn’t have that dependency.
Allan is releasing Idle through his own website, worksofbarry.com. Users can download the product directly from that site, and browse through several resources that Allan has made available, including user documentation, an installation video, and a demonstration video.
“There is lots more coming,” says Allan, who joined Profound Logic last year. “Luckily, I am using such a system that lets me push out updates that are automatically downloaded – so people are getting new stuff all the time right now.”
The product is free, for now. But in the future, Idle may end up being a licensed product, Allan writes.