Open Source

C-Forge helps hammer out Linux development

OK, so everybody is talking about Linux. But what about credible compilers, debuggers, and other development tools? <I>InfoWorld</I> Test Center's Rob Nelson takes a look at the C-Forge tool-set.

As the popularity of Linux continues to rise, many companies are looking for new tools that run on the upstart operating system, especially in the application development arena. Integrated development environments (IDEs) that run on Linux are becoming more commonplace, but few support as many languages or run on as many Linux flavors as Code Forge's C-Forge .

C-Forge (pronounced “Code Forge”) is a powerful IDE that can enhance the ability of your developers to provide quality applications at a cost-effective price. Developers can take comfort in knowing that the product includes proven, open source external components such as the GNU C Compiler for compiling and the Data Display Debugger for debugging.

Direct commercial competition with C-Forge is sparse. Its language scope is larger than Metrowerks' CodeWarrior, which supports C and C++, yet it’s not as broad as the open source EMACS. Another Linux-based development suite, Code Fusion from Cygnus Solutions, supports only C, C++, and Java.

Users of C-Forge will need to be familiar with both the languages they use and Linux itself. All the documentation included presumes that you know how to program efficiently and know how to maintain projects under multiple directories.

C-Forge 1.3-2 gives users of earlier C-Forge versions substantial incentive to upgrade. Most notably, it offers a multiprocess log window and symbol name completion, which keeps track of all functions, objects, and resources you create. Drag-and-drop support throughout the program is complete.

C-Forge takes advantage of the Revision Control System (RCS), which is a proven technology for version control and change logging. However, it is complex and may require extra time to learn if you're not familiar with it.

C-Forge's File Editor includes such niceties as syntax highlighting and code completion. It also keeps track of all your functions and other objects. The drag-and-drop support between panes is superb. The editor also allows you to lock your files if you're using RCS, which prevents multiple people from editing the same file at the same time, thereby preventing version conflicts.

With C-Forge's well-developed Project Manager, you can easily convert old Makefile applications into C-Forge's Project format. The interface uses a tab metaphor to allow for quick switching between work areas. The only significant problem I discovered with the Project Manager was an unfortunate amount of window resizing that must be done because of larger-than-needed icons eating up precious screen real estate.

A nice advantage to C-Forge is the subscription-style licensing; for one price you receive free updates for a year and a CD every quarter that includes the latest revisions.

With its wide range of language support, useful Project Manager, and flexible configuration options, C-Forge is a productive and effective tool for programmers. Its affordable price tag, year-long subscription license, and easy-to-use interface are sure to make it a popular solution as well.

The bottom line: C-Forge 1.3-2
Summary This Linux-based integrated development environment boasts a great variety of language support and project management features and includes the most common programming tools.
Business Case As more and more project teams and individual developers clamor for Linux-based development tools, C-Forge offers a compelling combination of solid features and low cost.
Cost $150 per programmer seat; 100 corporate licenses cost $12,000; includes free upgrade to Version 2.0.
Pros Runs on any Linux distribution.
Thorough drag-and-drop support.
More than 18 languages supported.
Cons Online documentation only.
Requires advanced language familiarity.
Interface requires window resizing.
Platforms Runs on Intel processor-based machines or Digital Alpha; all Linux distributions supported.
Contacts Code Forge, Inc., New York; ; .

Rob Nelson is an IT consultant with eight years of UNIX administration experience. You can write to him here .

This article reprinted here by permission of InfoWorld.

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