Freebie of the Month: PSPad

A good plain text editor is the Swiss army knife of every programmer. Unfortunately, the Windows operating system offers only the “Notepad” program in this category, which is the equivalent of a $1.50 plastic knife. If you want to do more than opening an occasional README.TXT, then Notepad is definitely underpowered. This situation has created a market for commercial text editors, such as Ultra-Edit, CodeWright, EditPlus and others, which are excellent products, however, these programs are not free. In the open source arena there are well known editors, such as GNU Emacs and vim, which have evolved on the Unix platform. These editors are very powerful, but they are quirky and not exactly easy to learn and use. Why put up with a learning curve, when more user-friendly products are available? A multitude of freeware text editors with varying features is available for the Windows platform.

When I searched the Internet for a freeware editor, I was looking for raw power, speed, and features. In that order. The PSPad editor written by the Czech author Jan Fiala fits the bill perfectly. First of all, it is fast. Even on a modest Pentium IV computer, it starts up in less than two seconds. This is an important characteristic, since a text editor might get loaded dozens of times in succession for viewing or changing different files. It also makes it convenient to use PSPad when I don’t want to fire up a “heavy duty” IDE, such as Eclipse.

PSPad’s look is neat and functional. It presents itself with customisable tool bars, tabbed editor windows and a logically structured menu. Text windows can also be floated or tiled. The feature set of PSPad can compete with commercial high-end products. It includes syntax highlighting for dozens of programming languages, auto backups, macros, hex edit mode, integrated diff comparisons, pluggable text converters, customisable short-cut key map, spell checker, support for Windows, Unix, and Mac line endings, support for different character sets, HTML formatting and HTML validation through Tidy. This makes it ideal for editing a wide variety of file types from C++ source files to HTML pages, SQL statements, XML files, and shell scripts.

One feature I really liked is the multi-language code explorer, a feature that is otherwise only found in high-end IDEs. The code explorer seems to be capable of displaying almost anything from the DOM tree of an HTML document to a PHP or Java class. However, the most important aspect of a text editor for me is powerful search and replace capability. In this area, PSPad once again delivers. PSPad supports Perl-compatible regular expressions for search and replace operations, which is a make-or-break criterion for automated text processing. It also supports search and replace in multiple files, even recursively in subdirectories, which is again great for automated processing. The only limitation is that it cannot do both at the same time. It either processes regular expressions or multiple files, but not both. I am not sure why this limitation exists. Without it, PSPad would be pretty close to perfection.

Open source on the rise, says IDC

According to a recent IDC survey based on over 5,000 developer interviews in 116 countries, open source is gaining momentum. The phenomenon extends well beyond the traditional Linux user groups and computer hobbyists. IDC comes to the conclusion that open source software ought to be viewed as the most significant all-encompassing and long-term trend that the software industry has seen since the early 1980s.

Presently open source products are used in three fourths of all organisations and there are several hundred thousand open source projects under development. IDC says that the pervasive influence of open source will ultimately impact the software industry on a large scale and that it will fundamentally change the value proposition of packaged software for customers. Open source products already begin to play a prominent role in the life-cycle of major software categories.

IDC’s research indicates that open source software is presently deployed by 71% of developers worldwide. 50% stated that the use of open source products in their organisations is growing. Finally, 54% of the surveyed organisations are themselves presently working on some type of open source product.

The study offers additional insights into the proliferation of open source software:

  • Throughout the coming decade, open source will take over a percentage in the low double digits of the software market and elicit fierce price competition

  • The effect of open source on the software life-cycle and on software innovation will outweigh the importance of price effects in the market

  • Three different business models will be vital for vendor success in the software industry: the software revenue model, the public collective model, and the service broker model

  • Core competencies different from the traditional software production and marketing will determine vendor success in markets dominated by open source software

Dr. Anthony Picardi, senior vice president of Global Software Research at IDC, explains: “Although open source will significantly reduce the industry opportunity over the next ten years, the real impact of open source is to sustain innovations in mature software markets, thus extending the useful life of software assets and saving customers money.”

Picradi concluded that “business requirements shift from acquiring new customers to sustaining existing ones, the competitive landscape will move towards costs savings and serving up sustaining innovations to savvy customers, along with providing mainstream software to new market segments that are willing to pay only a fraction of conventional software license fees. Open source software is ultimately a resource for sustaining innovators.”

Freebie of the month: Picasa

This week’s free software is not exactly a newcomer. The digital image management software Picasa was purchased by Google two years ago from its original manufacturer. Since then it is offered by Google at no charge: http://picasa.google.com. I stumbled upon Picasa when I was looking for an easy-to-use image manipulation software for my parents who have recently bought a new digital camera. Easy-to-use was the keyword, and it seems to me that software cannot get much easier than Picasa. Granted, the image manipulation features are not very powerful, nothing compared to Photoshop, Gimp, or Paintshop, but they provide all the essential hobby photographer functions, such as contrast, colour, crop, straighten, crop, and red-eye adjustment, as well as a number of filters including sharpen, B&W conversion, saturation, tint, etc. The real power of Picasa, however, lies in its image management features.

The software makes it extremely easy to create and manage large image libraries. You can easily find images, copy and send single images, and keep track of new additions. The user interface is polished and innovative; it has a definite Mac feeling. The full-screen slide-show and time-line viewing functions are great. Perhaps the best thing about Picasa are its one-button features. By clicking a single button, you can export a selection of images to a web page, send images as an email attachment (Picasa resizes them automatically), print images or order prints, create a photo collage, or create a gift CD. In addition, Picasa provides functions for exporting photos to an online blog at Google’s www.blogger.com service, or adding photos to the Picasa Web Album, likewise a Google service, which allows you to create and share photo albums.