Komodo 4.0 : I'm trying

One of the nice side effects of speaking last month at the Vancouver PHP conference, was that one of the sponsors, ActiveState, gave out licenses for the latest version of Komodo - their IDE. Now, traditionally, I've had a really hard time using anything other than emacs for software development. I started using emacs in university 10 or so years ago, and it's just comfortable now. But, some drupal developers I know love it, so I'm giving it the ol' college try with Komodo. Here's how it's going:

The Good

  • Komodo is built on Mozilla technology. Why is that important? Well, it's a platform I believe in - that has to count for something, right? It also means that both projects can benefit each other, and Komodo is inherently cross-platform (something I still believe is important).
  • "Just works" debugging for PHP. Komodo works natively with xdebug for PHP debugging, and it works - and works well. As someone who writes a lot of "web services" type software, I see the value in being able to debug things when tools like var_dump() aren't readily accessible.
  • Some nice drupal-specific features as well as using drupal for their support site - that's got to win them something ;)
  • Emacs key-bindings

The less good

  • Performance. I don't know how Firefox does it, but it's the one XUL application on my G4 Powerbook that isn't dog slow (even Thunderbird struggles a bit). I probably just need a faster computer, really.
  • Emacs keybindings: there's just lots I can't seem to do from the keyboard. Mice and I have never gotten along, and my powerbook's trackpad is even worse. I try to avoid them as much as possible. For example, I like to periodically CVS/SVN update my working copy. Yes, there is a keybinding for this action, but as far as I can tell, I have to click on the project in the left hand side to make sure the update happens for the whole project (otherwise it only happens on the current file). Region selection is another example.
  • Komodo is not free. Again, this is personal belief (religion?), but as much as I appreciate Komodo for using Mozilla, I don't like the fact that the useful version of Komodo is not free. Had I not received a license for free, I'm not sure I could justify the cost.

All that said, I don't know that I've fully made up my mind yet. Because it's built on mozilla, Komodo is fully extensible - perhaps I could write extensions to make it just how I want it. Right now, however, I feel slow and clumsy in Komodo.

I'm going to keep trying - there is part of me that really wants to like it - but I'm not sold yet.

James Walker

James Walker (a.k.a. walkah) is an independent developer and hacker. He is a long time Drupal developer, but these days spends more time in Python, Ruby and Javascript.

You can follow him on twitter or github.

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