iSphere Upgrade Bolsters RDi Even More
November 7, 2018 Alex Woodie
When it comes to IBM i programming tools from IBM, Rational Developer for IBM i (RDi) is the integrated development environment at the top of many professionals’ wish lists. However, the IDE’s functionality is lacking a few departments, which provides an opportunity for innovation in the community, as IBM originally envisioned. One of the projects that’s been running with the ball is the popular iSphere project, which recently unveiled a new release.
iSphere is a free plug-in for RDi and WDSC that was first released by Frank Hildebrandt of Task Force IT-Consulting back in 2013. The original idea behind the plug-in was to provide IBM‘s two IDEs with functionality that IBM i professional grew accustomed to using in SEU, the green-screen development utility that predates the WDSC and RDi, but not found in IBM’s core Java-based IDE.
iSphere adds essential features to RDi/WDSC, including a message file editor, which allows developers to edit message file descriptions within a message file. It also includes a binding directory editor that lets developers edit binding directory entries within a binding directory. Users will find a file search that is up to 60x times faster than the search found in the RSE (Remote Systems Explorer) component of RDi, according to the iSphere project.
The open source project also boasts a compare/merge editor that’s handy for comparing and merging source physical file members, as well as a spooled file subsystem to open spooled files in text, HTML, and PDF formats. It sports an RSE Filter Management component, as well as various editors, viewers, and monitors for working with data areas, user spaces, data queues, and message subsystems.
In short, iSphere sort of makes RDi whole again.
In recent years, Hildebrandt’s colleague, Thomas Raddatz of Tools/400, has taken the lead in the iSphere project and has spearheaded the development of new features, not to mention providing technical support for users of the product through the Web. In early October, Raddatz announced that the beta for iSphere version 3.5 was ready for testing by the community.
Among the new features and changes found in iSphere 3.5 are:
- The new “iSphere RSE Command Management” feature, for importing and exporting compile commands.
- The new “iSphere RSE User Action Management” feature for importing and exporting user actions.
- The new “Display Module View” menu option for *MODULE objects to display a debug view.
- The new “Export to Member Filter” menu option in the iSphere search result views.
- The capability to create filters or Excel exports from selected items in the iSphere search result views.
Many of the features in the new release of iSphere – which supports RDi version 8.0 and higher and WDSC 7.0 and higher – were the result of user feedback. Raddatz says he welcomes additional user feedback to get ideas for enhancements in future versions of the tool.
This eagerness to interact with the RDi/WDSC community to enhance the IDE’s functionality is arguably what makes the iSphere product so unique in the burgeoning IBM i open source community.
One iSphere fan, the Sourceforge users “robertjacobsit,” says iSphere is “job-changing.” “I have been programming in RPG using Rational for about 6-7 years, and I find myself using the iSphere plug-in, in one form or another, 10-20 times PER DAY,” the user writes. “Thomas is extremely responsive and genuinely wishes to make the plug-in better any way he can. I have made 3 or 4 requests, all of which have been addressed, and usually within only a few days! I can do my job without the plug-in, but I sure wouldn’t want to.”
Originally available in just German and English, the product has been translated into Dutch and Italian.