Application of the Week

#ApplicationoftheWeek – Komodo Edit

Tough one, this week.  I’ve been on leave for a couple of weeks, so there’s not a great deal I’ve been using.

Five minutes back at work and I’m now up to my neck in editing code.  Which is nice!  I like doing this!  I also like having a decent editor on hand to help me with the tricky stuff.  And, because I’m a poor IT manager with no budget for expensive tools (hah!), I like my editors to be free.  Oh, and they’ve also got to work on both Windows and Linux.  So, no pressure!

In the past, I’ve tried…

  • Eclipse – Java-based, okay for working with PHP but very resource-hungry
  • Aptana – better for web work but based on Eclipse so suffers from the same resource problems
  • Dreamweaver – Lovely on Windows, sucks on Linux.
  • n|vu – Spin-off from the old Netscape Composer.  Nice for pure HTML but no use at all with php
  • SCITE – My Windows text editor of choice
  • Quanta+ – My Linux web editor of choice

Finally, though, I’ve settled on Komodo Edit.

Komodo Edit Logo

It’s the streamlined version of Komodo IDE from ActiveState (those wonderful people who bring Perl to the world). Alright, so there’s no WYSIWYG editor but then I’ve got 2 monitors and always have the project-in-progress open on the second monitor.  It has code hinting, variable completion, an excellent find and replace, good project management and the ability to hook up to my remote servers and edit files directly there.  One thing it doesn’t do that it’s big brother does is work with versioning repositories like GIT and Subversion.  No big loss for me, I’m a one-man coding operation.  Here’s a comparison of what’s different between the two versions, see what’s added in the IDE version and see if you need to shell out the cash.

If you want to take your work with you, Komodo Edit can also be run from a pen drive as a Portable App.  Granted, it’s a little slow to launch the first time it’s run on a given machine (we’re talking go-and-get-a-coffee-and-newspaper-to-do-the-fiendish-sudoku slow here) but it does mean you can have your projects and editor with you at all times.

It’s a very generalist editor, it works well with all manner of different code types, so it doesn’t have some of the bells and whistles many of the other editors possess.  It doesn’t have the web toolkit integration of Dreamweaver, for example.  If you’re wanting to work with jQuery, you’ll be doing it by hand.  But that’s also one of its strengths – it’s not spoon-feeding you stuff you could do with learning, it’s helping you learn it in the first place.

Give it a try for a week and you’ll know whether you love it or hate it.

Over to you…

Other code editors are available.  From Firefox plugins to full-blown integrated development environments to plain old Notepad.  What do you use?

Application of the Week

Unplug the mouse, you don’t need it any more… #applicationoftheweek

We’re tethered to our computers these days.  Tethered by the mouse.  That thing that hovers under our hand and slows us down as we hunt for just the right icon, the right location in the start menu for that programme that we’ve just installed.  Today’s application of the week takes away a lot of that hunting.  So, without further preamble, I’d like to introduce Launchy (

One of the things I miss when moving from Linux (home) to Windows (work) is the ability to launch programmes with a few keystrokes.  In every Linux installation I’ve ever tried, the combination Alt-F2 brings up a little dialog box into which you can start typing the name of a programme or the path to a file and then hit enter to run/navigate/etc.  I’ve been caught trying to do this a few times on Windows and wondering why nothing was happening.

Y’see the first computer I had was an Acorn Electron.  Aside from having to load stuff from cassette tape and find typos in the BASIC listings they’d print in magazine, one of it’s defining features was the distinct lack of a mouse.  Fast-forward a few years and I inherited an IBM 286 from my Dad when he upgraded the office computers.  It ran Windows 3.1 (slowly) and didn’t have a mouse (I think it was run over by a boom lift in my Dad’s warehouse).  So I learned keyboard shortcuts.  It’s stood me in good stead:  When they unveiled Office 2007 with the big shiny button instead of the File menu, I was  happy to find that Ctrl-O still opened files and Ctrl-S saved them.  Anything that I *could* find then was a bonus.
But I digress.  Launchy.  Yes.  To quote Launchy’s website…

“Launchy is a free cross-platform utility designed to help you forget about your start menu, the icons on your desktop, and even your file manager.

Launchy indexes the programs in your start menu and can launch your documents, project files, folders, and bookmarks with just a few keystrokes!”

Launchy Screenshot

It adds functionality that’s lost in Windows and adds a turbo-boost to the functionality that’s already there in Linux.

First time you run Launchy, it searches your Start menu (on Windows) – and a few other locations, like the Desktop – for programmes to run and then you choose which to run by typing their name.  First time you run a given programme you might have to type pretty much the full name before it twigs which one you’re after.  Second time, unless you’ve got a couple of programmes with very similar names, you’re down to one or two letters.

Testing requirements at work mean I’ve got Office 2003, 2007 and 2010 installed on my computer.  Swapping between them is a pain in the backside.  First time I used Launchy to run Word 2010 I had to type in pretty much all of “Microsoft Word 2010” so it got the right one.  Now it’s on the ball and I’ve just got to hit “w”.  Outlook is now “o”, Chrome is “c” and so on.  Simplicity itself.

Instead of stopping what you’re doing, reaching for the mouse, clicking “Start” then “Programmes” and so on and so forth, all you have to do is press Alt-Space (the default shortcut for launching Launchy, this can be changed under Options) and type the first few letters of the software you need.  Much, much faster.

The other thing it brings is some much-needed good looks to the process.  The best that can be said about the default Linux behaviour is that it’s “functional”.  Launchy is skinnable and there are currently lots of skins to change Launchy’s appearance (I stopped counting at 90).  So no matter what your OS theme, colours or wallpaper, there’s a skin that will suit.  The default’s pretty cool, too.

Then there’s the plugins.  Not content with just making it easier for you to run programmes there’s all sorts of stuff that extend Launchy’s functionality.  Shutdown your computer with a few keystrokes, integration with the task manager, Python and .NET scriptability…  Fantastic.

Launchy is a beautifully simple programme to work with, it runs in the background in a most unobtrusive way, only appearing when summoned to work it’s magic.  It doesn’t need admin rights to install, will happily sit in your Home directory, works on Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems.

This is one of those programmes that, once you’ve used it for a while, you don’t know how you lived without it.  I’m going to include it in our default build here at work

Other keyboard-based control programmes are out there.  Next week I’ll take a look at one that’s aimed more toward developers…