Hot skills: Komodo opens up multi-language programming

Hot skills Integrated environment knits together different skills

What is it?

Komodo is an integrated development environment (IDE), which is the umbrella term given to a collection of software development tools organised in a single application package. IDEs can help pull teams of developers with different skill sets together.

The leading IDEs tend to be based around one supplier's range of products - such as the Microsoft language family - or one mainstream language, such as Java. The Komodo IDE does something different, providing an integrated environment for different open source scripting languages.

Komodo, which comes from ActiveState, supplier of the commercial distribution of the open source scripting language TCL, is the most comprehensive IDE for browser- and server-side scripting languages. It also supports framework stacks such as Ruby on Rails.

ActiveState makes much of its money by providing paid-for packaged versions of open source scripting languages, such as Activeperl and Activepython, backed up by support and training, for organisations that want the benefits of open source software but do not want to be cut off from the services of a commercial supplier.

This support model for open source has proved successful in the growth of Linux, but it has been slow to take off in other areas of open source.

Although not open source, Komodo has roots in, and links to, the open source world. In September 2007, ActiveState announced the Open Komodo Project, which will provide an open source code base from which IDEs can be created.

The Komodo IDE is built on the Mozilla platform, and the tools developed under the Open Komodo project will be integrated with Mozilla's Firefox browser.

In January 2007, ActiveState introduced a free Komodo-based editor, Komodo Edit, which includes a Firefox Extension Wizard.

Where did it originate?

ActiveState announced that it was adopting the Mozilla platform for Komodo in May 2000.

ActiveState has its headquarters in Vancouver, Canada. Founded by a group of open source champions, including O'Reilly and Associates, it was acquired by anti-virus software company Sophos in 2003, before being spun off again in 2006.

What's it for?

Komodo enables end-to-end development and maintenance of web applications. Currently at release 4.2, it provides support for dynamic languages, including code completion and interactive shells for Javascript, Perl, Python, Ruby and TCL, and Ajax technologies such as CSS, HTML and XML.

It includes a multi-language editor and debugging tools for all the languages supported, and provides project management and element sharing for multi-developer projects.

What makes it special?

Since release 4.0, Komodo has supported full web-application development from browser to server in one IDE. Multi-language web-application debugging can be carried out in one workspace.

A typical reviewer comment is that Komodo would not be the first choice for people working with a single scripting language, but it is the best choice for people working with two or more.

How difficult is it to master?

Features such as code completion and integrated debugging provide support to less-experienced developers.

What systems does it run on?

Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. One licence covers all three platforms.

What's coming up?

The first Open Komodo tools are due this November.

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