First Look: Komodo IDE 5.0

This month, ActiveState released Komodo IDE 5.0, the company's latest integrated development environment (IDE). Komodo supports multiple programming and markup languages, including HTML, JavaScript, PHP, Perl, Java, Python, C++ and more. It does not support some .NET languages at present, such as ASP/ASP.NET, C# and VB.NET.

Komodo's interface is vaguely similar to other IDEs following the Eclipse model. It allows developers to switch between documents easily via a variety of panes and tabs.

The crowded toolbar may seem daunting to developers used to simpler interfaces. Perhaps a better approach would be to simply let buttons disappear rather than gray themselves out when not relevant. However, sometimes the buttons disable themselves where they really shouldn't, which is particular problem when it comes to source control.

Komodo supports many of the popular source control resources (SVN, CVS, etc.) but the source control buttons are grayed out on PHP projects. I've found that it is possible to manage almost anything with source control (including PHP), so this is one instance where the IDE's design poses a hindrance.

Another problem is that the "new document" button on the toolbar does not provide a list of file types to select. Users must choose the file type through the File menu, which is somewhat inconvenient.

Komodo features tutorials for many of the languages it supports. Initially, I was happy to see this, since many IDEs would benefit from having at least some built-in language documentation. However, these tutorials turned out to be sample projects with a brief explanation in a help file, rather than the language reference I was expecting. To eliminate confusion, I feel that "Sample project" would be a more accurate label than "tutorial."

Komodo made the actual coding process easy, with automated code guessing and syntax highlighting. I attempted to create a C++ project and a PHP project to test Komodo. In both instances, I found that I needed an external compiler and debugger for C++ (such as g++/gdb) and an external PHP interpreter (like Easyphp) to test what I had built.

The product describes how to install the PHP interpreter. However, it did not provide a recommendation for adding the C/C++ compiler/debugger. Of course, that's not an issue if you are working only on HTML and JavaScript projects, since you just need a browser for testing.

ActiveState put a lot of work into Komodo, but the IDE market has changed and thinned out over the years, and Komodo is not a free solution. These days, developers can opt for powerful multilanguage IDEs such as Eclipse that are completely free. Other IDEs, such as UNA, are available as a free version alongside a more powerful retail product.

Komodo is not a bad product, but it faces a tough slog in a world where the competition literally gives itself away. Komodo IDE 5.0 is currently available as 21-day trialware for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X, and it can be accessed here.

About the Author

Will Kraft is a Web designer, technical consultant and freelance writer. He can be reached at [email protected]. Also, check out his blog at