Thursday, September 8

XEmacs Wins

Mostly because you can configure it seven hundred ways to Sunday, and after lots of fiddling I arrived at an init.el I kind of liked. It has room for improvement. It probably shouldn't rely on cscope for tagging, becasue that's platform specific. It probably should fall back on plain old tags. Onwards to do some actual coding then: programmers are the only people who can get so preoccupied with sharpening an axe they forget about the damn tree.

Wednesday, September 7

Grand Text Editor

I find myself prevaricating between editors. I know I have to pick one and stick to it, but I can't make up my mind which. I've narrowed it down to a few promising candidates, all cross-platform.

  • Emacs.

  • XEmacs is pretty much *the* editor if I want to code in Lisp, as it has Slime, one of the most interactive and potentially productive programming environments I've ever seen. The Emacs Code Browser gives me IDE-like organisation and navigation. It integrates nicely with gdb and the shell. The con side is that the tagging is poor, and requiring more than three keystrokes to do anything useful makes it difficult and "slow;" feeling to work with. It's so configurable it's difficult to zero in on a single working style with it. The learning curve seems endless.

  • Gvim.

  • Vi - Improved. Another editing heavyweight, and the keystrokes are both brief and seared into my brain as I've been exposed to it on and off throughout my career. Frankly, if it wasn't for the amount of Lisp I do, it'd be my editor of choice. It doesn't have anything like ECB - but it does have sessions - a collection of settings that can be quickly saved and restarted. Which is fine for keeping track of different projects. It also as a huge collection of scripts and customisations, like Emacs..The keyword completion is wicked, but it's not context sensitive like Intellisence.

  • JEdit.

  • JEdit is another contender. It handles sessions and tags pretty much as well as Vi and XEmacs do. It's set of plugins are not as comprehensive as vim or XEmacs, but there's enough for the job. It's main benefit is a more modern gui and a slicker feel. Comfort is an important factor. The plugins are very Java-centric, and I suspect this editor would be a powerhouse for a Java coder, but I'm not so sure about how it would pan out for a C++/Lisp coder.

  • Visual Slick Edit.

  • The only commercial editor of the bunch, and the slickest. It intelligently does completion of structure and class members, parameter lists, and does incremental tagging in the background: as a result I'm more productive when coding in C/C++ with this editor. It gave me a real competitive advantage over my Visual Studio bound colleagues back in the days of Visual Studio 6. Although they have since caguht up. It can handle Python and there is a script for Lisp support on the website, which I haven't tried.Lack of Lisp is a major minus, otherwise this would ne a no-brainer. Although, perhaps I could use this in conjunction with the LispWorks IDE.

    So which one do I pick? They all have something I want, and they all miss something else. Can anyone spot anything I've missed? Some plugin or mode that would give one an advantage over the other? Shorter XEmacs keystrokes? Intellisense for vim or JEdit? A good Lisp mode for Visual Slick Edit?

    Monday, September 5

    Goodbye Slackware

    One of the first things I've done with my newfound freedom since leaving Reflections is to review all my Linux installs. For a long time I've been soldiering on with the redoubtable Slackware. However, I resolved to give Debian a try, and frankly I'm amazed by what I've seen. Compared to Slackware install was fast, friendly and trouble-free: network, video, and sound were all auto-detected, and the graphical login came up first time.

    Gnome is gorgeous, too, all point and click and "just works". Even this post came straight from the desktop blogging tool, rather than via Firefox.

    Every time I revisit a mainstream distro, I'm amazed by the progress. Frankly, if something like this came pre-installed, damn few people would touch a Windows PC. Mind you, Steve Jobs has probably recently come to the same conclusion, so there maybe hope, yet...meanwhile, it's back to my Lisp rendering follies, I guess.