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Bill Brown

A complicated man.

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I just got done reading a JavaWorld review of jEdit, a open-source, Java-based IDE. I’ve been using it for a long time now and I swear by it. Why? First, it’s free. Second, it is amazing in the breadth of its features. Third, I can use the same version set up exactly the same way on both Mac OS X and Windows. Fourth, it has the best source code editor I have ever come across. Finally, it is being actively developed.

I used to use ColdFusion Studio—link goes to Macromedia HomeSite’s product page because Macromedia end-of-lifed CF Studio and because the two programs share a common base—but it was always so slow, static, and Windows-only. After reading The Pragmatic Programmer’s admonition to find an editor you like and learn everything there is to know about it, I decided that all of the switching between Windows and Macintosh and using different editors had to change. Then and there I started looking for an editor that suited my needs, had a bright outlook, and worked on both platforms.

I quickly whittled my options down to jEdit and emacs. It really wasn’t a difficult decision in the end because jEdit looks and feels like ColdFusion Studio—the environment I programmatically grew up in. That was good ol’ jEdit 3.2 and jEdit’s currently in the beta stage for 4.2. It’s come a very long way. Reviewing the feature set gives but a glimpse of the editor’s power.

For the record, I’ve tried Eclipse but it doesn’t really work for me since I’m not a Java guy yet. I primarily edit HTML and ColdFusion files with a smattering of Java files while I’m learning the language. HTML and ColdFusion files don’t really follow a project-based idiom and so I didn’t feel comfortable in that environment. Once I get my Java legs, then I’ll definitely re-evaluate Eclipse since I’ve read a ton of people who think it’s manna.

Also, the JavaWorld review offers up some good reasons why jEdit is better than Eclipse or NetBeans, illustrates some ways to use jEdit to support extreme programming, and explains jEdit’s plugin architecture. It’s a pretty good review, but it doesn’t begin to describe its text editing features. You’ll have to try those out for yourself.

[UPDATE (7/21/03): Interesting review of Eclipse in Action over at Slashdot.]