Omnicore tackles the IDE

Developers are a restless breed when it comes to tools. Though we all have some currently-preferred method of composing code, from simple text-editors to full-blown IDEs, we're almost all willing to look at new alternatives. That's what Omnicore are counting on as they polish X-develop, their forthcoming cross-language, cross-platform IDE. It's already in open beta, so I grabbed a copy and poked at it for a while.

One of the key features of X-develop is its flexibility. You can use it for Java, J#, C#, or VB .NET development, and it runs on Windows or Linux. Thus it's entirely possible that a single X-develop installation could replace two or more other tools, saving you money while making your life easier by letting you memorize fewer shortcuts. There's also built-in language extensibility: one of the project types lets you build your own language plug-in to support anything from your own domain-specific language to a general purpose object-oriented compiler (assuming that you know enough to write a compiler, anyhow). New language plugins are written in Java.

There are a lot of tools here to make coding easier. These include simple refactorings (extract method, introduce variable, and so on), custom searches (find all methods taking a particular type, for example), and shortcuts for time-consuming but straightforward operations like implementing an interface. You can customize code formatting to match your own style. The IDE also checks for errors on the fly, and offers suggested changes when it thinks it knows what you meant to do.

X-develop is also up-to-date as far as language support goes. Java developers can use new JDK 5.0 language features, while .NET users get the .NET 2.0 goodness (assuming in all cases that the proper underlying libraries are installed. Solution files are compatible with Visual Studio .NET 2003/2005, and it uses MSBuild to compile (so you'll want to test this on a box with Visual Studio 2005 installed, or at least the .NET Framework 2.0 SDK). On the Linux side of the house, of course, Mono serves as the underlying .NET-lookalike technology.

Overall, the IDE has a very clean feel - there are many fewer bells and whistles than you'll find in, say, Visual Studio. If you're the type of developer whose day is spent writing actual code instead of interacting with servers and using visual designers, you ought to find time to download the beta and take a look. They're offering free licenses for testers who supply valuable feedback.

About the Author

Mike Gunderloy has been developing software for a quarter-century now, and writing about it for nearly as long. He walked away from a .NET development career in 2006 and has been a happy Rails user ever since. Mike blogs at A Fresh Cup.

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