King of the dynamic IDEs

Multilingual ActiveState Komodo 5.0 conquers Perl, PHP, Python, and Ruby projects with strong debug facilities, excellent code control, and an unbeatable set of utilities

Many pros, a few cons

Komodo's integrated debugger and testing facility are simply terrific. Traditional variable watch lists and static breakpoints are augmented by conditional breakpoints (based on a specific value or event, such as an exception). The unit testing interface also facilitates plan definitions (either globally or within a Perl, PHP, Ruby, or Python project) and helps locate errors quickly and easily across multiple files in complex projects.

For Perl developers, Komodo offers perks such as the brand new Perl Development Kit 8. PDK provides a regular expression utility that lets you build and validate regex statements (see screen image) against live data, and it allows you to create and maintain cross-platform executables targeted for stand-alone execution on any supported platform.

Another nice addition in PDK 8 is the GUI interface to the Perl::Critic package. The facility delivers analysis of your source files and verifies against established policy guidelines -- great for keeping teams in sync with best practices. I particularly liked the option to interactively walk through code scans versus static report dumps.

For Web-related projects, Komodo provides a convenient, built-in browser and an HTTP inspector that delivers real-time, granular insight into request/response transactions. The split-screen interface is a real timesaver during debugging, allowing me to step through an XSLT debug session and the live XML doc at the same time. Komodo also includes an interactive shell to the interpreter, so statements can be executed directly for prototyping and session interaction.

On the minus side, Komodo lacks a GUI toolkit. ActiveState used to include GUI construction for Tcl, but the tools for GUI development have been withdrawn.

ActiveState could also do a better job with the developer aids. A good number of sample project templates and code snippets are provided for each of the supported languages, but most offer little more than basic skeletons. More functional code samples would be warmly welcomed.

Finally, ActiveState's PPM (Perl Package Manager) -- which facilitates module management and updates in the company's Perl distributions -- is still not supported on 64-bit installs. I'm hopeful this gets resolved sooner rather than later.

But Komodo's shortcomings are greatly overshadowed by its advantages. If you're in need of an IDE that can flexibly bridge multiple languages, support distributed teams with ease, and ultimately improve code quality and streamline development cycles, you'll want to take a close look at Komodo 5. An extremely flexible licensing scheme, allowing developers to run Komodo concurrently on all supported platforms (Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux) from a single license, only sweetens the deal.

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