Open Source

Is the new Komodo 5 toolset worth the upgrade?

Vincent Danen reviews the new Komodo 5.0 toolset for developers. Do new features and enhanced performance make it worth the upgrade?

ActiveState recently released the latest version of their Komodo tools, the free Komodo Edit and the commercial Komodo IDE. What's the difference between Komodo Edit and Komodo IDE? Aside from cost, there are quite a few that make Komodo IDE an appealing choice for many programmers.

Komodo Edit offers a project manager and a code toolbox aside from the multi-language editing capabilities, including support for PHP, Perl, Python, Ruby, Tcl, Javascript, and markup languages like CSS, HTML and XML. It is also cross-platform for Linux, OS X, and Windows. In addition to this, Komodo IDE offers support for debugging scripts and applications, provides an interactive shell, the extremely useful Rx (regular expression) toolkit, and source code control integration (for Subversion, CVS, Perforce and a few others).

If you've used Komodo in the past, you know it's a stellar product but was marred in some areas due to speed. Komodo 5 uses the new Mozilla codebase — the same used in Firefox 3 — so it is faster. Komodo 5 also adds support for new source code control systems, namely Git, Bazaar, and Mercurial.

So is being based on a new Mozilla codebase and adding support for a handful of new SCC systems worth the upgrade cost if you're using the last prior version, Komodo 4.4? At first glance, I didn't think so. But after having played with it for a bit, I've found some nice additional features.

For one, the new additions to the SCC systems are not the only thing that has changed. The support for existing SCC systems has also been greatly enhanced. One of these enhancements is the ability to commit an entire changeset to version control, rather than just one file at a time. You can use this same functionality to create patches of changes without committing as well.

Another new welcome feature is improved support for code formatting. Personally speaking, I have a real issue with messy spaghetti code and sometimes find it extremely frustrating when dealing with other people's code. Komodo now makes it easier to keep code clean and consistent. It allows for the use of external tools such as Perltidy and PHP Beautifier, and also contains its own simpler internal code formatting tools.

Finally, if you found the user interface of Komodo 4.x a little cluttered and difficult to use, you'll find that Komodo 5's interface has improved. Due to all that Komodo can do, it's still quite busy, but it's much more logically organized and laid out now. It also looks better, largely due to the new Mozilla code it is built on.

The final question, then, is the upgrade worth it? Only you can answer that, but it was for me. If nothing else, you owe it to yourself to check it out. And if you don't need all of the "uber-developer" features, the free Komodo Edit is also available and may be sufficient if your needs are more moderate.

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About Vincent Danen

Vincent Danen works on the Red Hat Security Response Team and lives in Canada. He has been writing about and developing on Linux for over 10 years and is a veteran Mac user.

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