First Look: UNA Collaborative Edition 1.0
On Thursday, I got a look at UNA Collaborative Edition Version 1.0, an integrated development environment offered by N-BRAIN Inc. John A. De Goes, N-BRAIN's president, demonstrated the Eclipse-like product, which was first unveiled in March.
UNA works with many languages, such as Java, C/C++, Perl, PHP, HTML/XHTML, XML, Pascal, Linux shell script and others. The interface reminds me of Eclipse, so I was able to jump right in. Like Eclipse, UNA has a workspace pane on the left, a functions pane on the right and a console pane on the bottom. The graphical user interface is pleasant, with custom skins for borders and title bars.
In a one-on-one demo, De Goes showed UNA's advanced search and replace capabilities. Everything in the code of a project is indexed in the background, so searching for a text string is nearly instantaneous. Search and replace functions are also bound to specific key combinations, presenting a much faster alternative to traditional window-based search/replace tools.
External programs, such as compilers and debuggers, are managed through UNA's tool system. To compile or run a project, a tool must be created to point to the compiler or to the compiled executable. De Goes told me that having compilers configured by default is a planned feature for the 1.1 release, so the current tool-related drawbacks are only temporary. Also, having compiled binaries appear in the workspace along with the source code is another planned feature. UNA offers support for CVS, Subversion and other version control systems.
The function that sets the collaborative version of UNA apart from the free personal edition (and every other IDE) is the group-work capabilities. With UNA collaborative edition, all members of a dev team can work on the same project simultaneously. Changes made by any group member are applied globally in real time for the benefit of all other members.
In my own test run with De Goes, addressed in detail in the June 2008 section of my blog, he and I were able to work on different parts of a C++ test program simultaneously. Our combined effort got the application working over a shorter development time. This sort of functionality seems helpful for teams that need to collaborate over great distances.
The version of UNA that has group functionality offers 128-bit encryption as a feature, and uses a traditional client-server model to work instead of peer to peer, according to De Goes. In this way, one of the members of a dev group must act as a server for the others. Despite this requirement, there was very little lag. The program worked smoothly during my session.
UNA 1.0 personal edition is free, while the collaboration edition is available at $300 per user. N-BRAIN offers discounts to micro-software companies and open source groups. More information is available at N-BRAIN's Web site.