Friday, September 16, 2005

Programming Tools Pt 2

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I am a Software Junkie! I freely admit that I have a need to find the next great piece of software that does something really useful. Over the years I have collected, tested, and used thousands of programs for the PC. To give you an idea of how bad it’s become, I offer the following.

I started collecting PC software just after IBM offered the PC-1 (1981 or 82). An Intel 8086 processor, less than 64Mb of memory, and two 5.25 inch floppy drives. MSDOS was the operating system and Basic was THE language (pre-Windows). In those days, the Basic Interpreter was part of the BIOS, so all you had to do is boot up the system and go. Most programs were either compiled assembler or Basic. Anything you bought from commercial sources was in a compiled state so you never knew for sure what it was written in. But it didn’t really matter. Some of those companies have long since disappeared, leaving curious and unusual pieces of them scattered across the landscape.

As time progressed, those of us that had the time and resources available wrote programs to do various and sundry things. Mostly games and graphic ‘things’ that really didn’t do anything useful other than demonstrate something of interest. All of these programs, and lots of others, were collected by Interest Groups and PC User Groups from all over. One such group, PC SIG, has been around almost as long as the PC. They have produced huge libraries of PC software that include databases, compilers, games, and all sorts of other programs. I managed to buy into a few of their libraries early on and that’s when I got started collecting.

Now, every once in a while, I would run across a software package that is so good, has so many features it blows my mind. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does I just can’t keep it to myself.

Well, I’ve found one! Actually, Karen found it, and knowing how I am about software, thought I would find it interesting. Little did she know!

The program is ConTEXT and all I can say is “WOW!” I have never seen a text editor as feature rich, or as flexible as this one. Oh, I have had editors that I am fond of, but this one knocks my socks off! And it’s FREE! The author, Eden Kirin lives and works in Croatia. He states on the web site “ConTEXT is a small, fast and powerful freeware text editor, developed mainly to serve as secondary tool for software developers. After years and years searching for suitable Windows text editor, I haven't found any of them to completely satisfy my needs, so I wrote my own.” I’m glad he did write his own!

The program uses ‘highlighter’ files to highlight language keywords and structures. There are 170 languages supported currently, each available for download. In addition, there are 39 language translations available. As installed you can select any of 20 programming languages and 30 international translations. And that’s just the beginning. If the editor doesn’t have the programming language you need, go download it from the web site. They have almost everything from ‘0 to z’ in their list.

If you need to use a code template to get started, this thing has a bunch of them. The list of features is as long as my arm so I can’t give them to you here, as much as I would like to. I do, however, urge you to take a really serious look at this editor. I’m including any Main framers out there in this. You need a PC editor that understands IBM ISPF forms? This one does, and a whole lot more. The template and highlighter definitions are modifiable, too, which means you can add new ones or change old ones if you need to.

If you’re seriously into programming or want to be, this is the editor to have.