Working In Python – Dilemma #1

Sun 27 July 2008 by Garry Bodsworth

I am still cleansing my body after escaping the confines of Visual Studio, hence the post about “regressing” (although in hindsight it is the wrong word, perhaps progressing is better).

I am now having to do development in Python on a Mac (personal choice), and this leaves me with a variety of dilemmas. For a start I have never coded in anger on Python but it seems fairly easy to grok and pick up.

My first dilemma is what do I edit my files in… I have played around with four choices so far.

Eclipse
This was my first port of call because I have used it before. It also has the plug-in PyDev which provides autocomplete and other niceties beyond syntax highlighting. I have ony begun to scratch the surface of the system, mainly because there is so much and it is presented right from the start rather than starting simple then gradually adding features. Since I was only evaluating I chose the free version of PyDev but it started popping up regular dialogs to remind me there is a paying version which kind of annoyed me.

Smultron
A nice and simple text editor which provides syntax highlighting for Python (although it doesn’t get the three double-quote comments correct). I like it, but you have to open the files in order to edit them rather than having an interface onto the file system to speed up the process. You can create a project to simplify it, but it requires some upfront work.

TextMate
The de-facto standard for editing files on the Mac. The feature I like the most is the project side tray. Drop a folder onto it and you can access the file system for that folder to your hearts content which is really helpful when traversing lots of files. It is also very configurable but I don’t think I have even scratched the surface yet.

Aquamacs Emacs
Certain people I have had the pleasure of working with in my career are part of the elite Emacs Users Group, it is a top secret organisation based on open-source where with a few touches of a keyboard they can probably bring about some kind of world-spanning event. Aquamacs is the best Mac version of the editor I found and I have been playing with a small amount. For an emacs it does not look out of place on the Apple desktop, and it is obviously still the most configurable tool on the planet. If I can get myself up and running on this I reckon it will probably be a contender. Also, version 1.4 has just been released.