Friday, June 15, 2007


Why web-based?  Well, the IronPython source code editor I am working on is one piece of a larger web-based, open source application that I am building and will become clear in future posts as to the reasons why it needs to be web based.  


In the meantime, I thought I would write about some of the available components that provide real-time syntax highlighting and other features one might want in a web-based source code editor.  After extensive research, there are 3 web-based source code editors that I would recommend.


The screen shot above comes from a portion of my web-application that I am building.  I am using Christophe Dolivet fantastic EditArea EditArea is written in JavaScript and really is quite outstanding given the number of features it has, particularly that it is free (released under LGPL license).


One of my main requirements is that it can work with ASP.NET AJAX (a free framework) and can be embedded in a TabControl as you see in the screen shot.  I will discuss the web-based IronPython interactive console in another post. 


I am really impressed with what Christophe has done, not only is EditArea fully featured, but the JavaScript source code is extremely well written using prototypes.  Further, the documentation is excellent – you would think this is commercial based source code editor.  EditArea supports multiple languages, both the software itself and the syntax highlighting it supports, for example, in my case English and Python.




Another real-time syntax highlighting source code editor I have come across is CodePress by Fernando M.A.d.S.  It is also written in JavaScript and covered by LGPL.  I really liked this editor as well.  While it is not as full featured as EditArea, it does a very good job.  It also supports many languages, but not Python at the moment.  I see it is on the todo list.  While I could get it to run in a bare bones ASP.NET AJAX application, I could not get it to run embedded in a tab control.  However, I think the limitation may be my JavaScript coding skills (I am a C# programmer hooked on Intellisense) and not necessarily CodePress itself.




Syntax Highlighter by Marijn Haverbeke is another web based, real time syntax highlighter.  It is released under a BSD like license.  It works quite well, but not as fully featured as the other two editors.  However, it is quite fast and seamless.  Dos not support Python syntax highlighting, but as in the case of CodePress, would be fairly easy to implement.  What I found really interesting was Marijn’s story on how it was designed.  Fascinating Captain!


Thanks to Christophe, Fernando and Marijn for creating and developing these real-time syntax highlighting source code editors.  It has saved me a lot of time not only from building these from scratch, but also proves a theory I have about software industrialization.  That is, it has been done before and I don’t need to reinvent the wheel.  Some people call this mashups, others reusable software or open source, or…  No matter what you call it, I am thankful that so many people are willing to share their hard work.


When will it be released?  Not sure as there still is lots of work to be done and can only work on it part time.  I wish it was my full-time job!


January 30, 2008 Update - Global System Builder is available for download at:

Official web site:

Friday, June 15, 2007 6:36:30 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Comments [2]
 Saturday, June 09, 2007

Years ago I lived in a Smalltalk world and never knew how good I had it.  As Larry O’Brien says, “Smalltalk has enough proponents so you're probably at least aware that it's browser and persistent workspace are life-altering (if you aren't, check out James Robertson's series of screencasts).


Unfortunately, in the Great White North, not too many Smalltalk jobs were available and in fact it really boiled down to programming Windows or Unix.  And somehow I found myself in the Windows world using Visual Studio and Visual Basic.  In some respects, VB was almost Smalltalk like – I loved the interpreter of stepping through code, finding a mistake, fixing it on the spot, setting next statement to run a few lines back and stepping through and keep on going.  I found myself enjoying the rhythm of it and how productive I was.  That was the thrill for me.


Then came C# which is a statically typed language, but what really got me was the rote of write code, compile it, fix compile errors, then compile it again, fix runtime errors, compile it again, step through, note the error, stop debugging, edit code, compile it again, etc.  As you can imagine from the VB world, the most common error I got was, “are you missing a cast?”  Also, my productivity just was nowhere near as fast.


A year or so ago, I came a