The Great Windows Code Editor Hunt: Komodo Edit

Komodo edit logo
Komodo edit logo

Second up on my list of code editors to review is Komodo Edit. No we’re not talking about the paid IDE but the free version.

The Good

Komodo Edit is developed on the Mozilla platform which means it’s a cross-platform code editor just like Firefox is a cross-platform web browser. As I said when I started there is an extra point for any editor that is cross-platform since I do end up spending some time each week on Mac and Linux. Add that to the price tag of FREE and you’ve got a decent editor to try.

Editing code in Komodo Edit
Editing code in Komodo Edit

Komodo has lots of options for configuration. Prefer a different colours scheme? Yeah you’re only a few clicks away from having a multitude of choices. Need to change how indentation works on files? Again a click or two and you’re all changed up. Use Emacs key bindings evidently Komodo Edit supports that as well, though I don’t use them so I have no clue on how well it supports them.

Another point in for Komodo Edit is the amazing extensions. When I needed proper colour coding for HAML in a project I just opened up the extension manager typed in HAML installed, and restarted Komodo Edit and I was ready to go. Need jQuery support, no problem search your extensions.

pick your poison with addons
pick your poison with addons

When I started this whole quest I also made a project browser a requirement for a code editor to be considered. Komodo Edit has a great project browser. It’s easy to navigate and clear.

The Bad

Edit: Checkout the response from ActiveState in the comments to some of my ‘Bad’ points.

While building on the Mozilla platform gave Komodo edit a leg up by making it easy for developers to extend it, there are also some downsides. Who hasn’t given up on Firefox after you’ve been using it for a year or so and it just takes forever to get up and running? I mean my 95-year-old grandmother has done three laps around the walking track before Firefox has loaded. Komodo suffers from this as well. It seems to me that Komodo Edit is just as slow to start as Firefox is on a given system. I have Komodo Edit installed on two systems. One is a bit new and Firefox is still snappy and so is Komodo Edit. The other systems is pretty powerful but has been around on the same install of Windows for a bit and both Firefox and Komodo Edit give you enough time to go get groceries while they start. Never seems to matter if it’s warm or cold, they’re just slow.

komodo is slower than dreamweaver
komodo is slower than dreamweaver

While I said this is a code editor hunt I know some people might take issue with including Komodo Edit here. Really Komodo Edit is an IDE. Start a new Ruby on Rails project from within Komodo and you get a bunch of extra ‘helper’ files and stuff it thinks you need. While this might help a new developer it also hinders them long-term. So the extra crap is a point against Komodo Edit.

Again in the beginning I said that I gave points to an editor that was cross-platform and while Komod Edit is the Linux install is less than desireable. I was never able to get the launch icon to show up properly in my Ubutnu Netbook Remix properly. Sure there is probably some place I need to put the .desktop file but as I said last week it should just work. I should have to go hunt around for how to make it work. Komodo Edit needs to work on their install process in Linux.

While the project browser is great on Komodo Edit it also sucks. At different times I’ve had issues creating new files in the project window. This has happened while working on both WordPress and Ruby on Rails projects. I was also never able to find a way to open and close the project browser from the keyboard. While this isn’t really an issue on my dual 22′ screen desktop it is annoying on my 10′ netbook. You can close it from a button at the top of the tool bar but that is less than desireable.

Komodo Edit also adds a project file to each project. If this was it’s only fault then it would hardly be a big one but combine that with some of the others above and it’s just a pain in the ass to add yet another thing to my .gitignore file.

Conclusion

The biggest point here is how long it takes to open. Cold or warm even Dreamweaver would win a start-up race and be on its second beer by the time Komodo Edit gets to the finish line. The slowness is something I’m just not willing to suffer.

The few other big things are the fact that working on projects in Komodo can separate you from your code as it throws all it’s IDE features at a project. The the lack of a great keyboard navigation so you always have to go back to your mouse, and the less than desirable install on other platforms just put the whole package over the top. It’s something to try if you’re looking for a code editor but it’s on my list of products I wish were a bit better, then I could use them regularly.

2 Replies to “The Great Windows Code Editor Hunt: Komodo Edit”

  1. Thanks for reviewing Komodo Edit! I thought I’d respond to few things in “The Bad” list though:

    Slowness:

    There are a few things you could try to improve general performance. They’re mentioned in this FAQ:

    http://community.activestate.com/faq/how-improve-komodos-editing-performance

    … but these are mostly tips to improve performance once Komodo has started. If Komodo is really slow while starting, drop us a line at support@activestate.com so we can look into it with you – there might be something that we can fix.

    Desktop icon on Ubuntu / Linux install:

    The Ubuntu Netbook Remix UI seems to handle *.desktop files differently than Gnome or KDE. There are a lot of different X window managers and desktop environments out there for Linux, so getting it to “just work” is a pretty tall order. We’ll keep at it though.

    Projects:

    You don’t have to use the Project manager if you don’t want all the bells and whistles. If you’re just looking for a sidebar for quick access to your files and directories, I’d recommend the JSTreeDrive extension:

    http://community.activestate.com/xpi/jstreedrive

    Key Binding for Show/Hide Projects:

    In Komodo, check “Help|List Key Bindings”. By default, you can close the Projects sidebar with “Ctrl+Shift+P”. If you don’t like any of the default key bindings, you can change them under “Preferences|Editor|Key Bindings”. With a little exploring and tweaking, you should be able to do everything in Komodo without ever touching the mouse.

  2. Thanks for the response. I’ll look into the items mentioned. I have really wanted to like/use Komodo Edit and have used left/returned to it many times over the last year. There are lots of compelling features and the price is right.

    Keep up the good work.

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