Why am I writing Padre?

It is probably not that interesting for most of the people but I have my excuses. What is more interesting - at least to me - is why others are involved.

After all there were already more than 40 people who made some contribution to Padre.

So I asked them to start writing down why are they involved. Some of them have already added themselves to the developers page and we started a separate page for translators though that one is new and has no been filled yet.

So why do I write Padre?

There is a short explanation on that page but let me bore you with a longer one here.

I have been teaching Perl 5 for almost 10 years now. Both beginner level and advanced courses. In the beginner courses the majority of the people use Windows with about 20-30 percent using Linux. Most of the Windows users use Notepad++ or a similar editor. Some of them can configure their editor to run the perl script right from the editor, others don't even know how to enable syntax highlighting for Perl 5. Some of the people on Windows don't know what the command line is but even those who know how to open the command prompt are either afraid of it or just dislike it.

Mind you these are not stupid people or anything like that. Some of them have many years of hardware design behind them. They are just used to some kind of IDEs.

Others might use Linux/Unix but many not by choice. In many cases the company they are working for gives them telnet access to an oldish Unix machine and tell them to code in Perl. They hardly know vi, they don't know how to configure syntax highlighting and they don't know how to install any other editor.

I have been using vim for many years and I can testify that it is a superb editor. Emacs is similarly strong but I have not used it since university. The problem with both of them is that they are totally different from the editors most people are used to and their learning curve is long and steep. It takes several months or even years to become familiar with them. Most of the people don't want to invest that energy and I certainly don't have the time for that in a 4 days long Perl 5 course.

So I usually tell them to use whatever they are familiar with. I think I never had a student who picked Eclipse or Emacs. There were a few using vi/vim but most of the people used Notepad++ or a similar Windows based editor.

I don't think my students are too different from the average people learning and using Perl. Most of them will never write a full blown web application. Heck most of them won't have a need for object oriented coding as they write only 100-200 line long scripts in Perl.

They never get really familiar with Perl and they will always have to deal with strange code written by others. With all the other tasks they are required to do in their primary language or tool they will keep wondering what is $_ when they see it and will be surprised when they don't.

They will wonder what is the relationship between $_ and $_[0].

So my first objective was to provide a simple Notepad++ like editor with strong support for beginners or people with relatively little experience with Perl.

For example I'd like to make sure that Padre users will be able to highlight $_, press F1 and get an explanation. In case they highlight $_ from a $_[0] expression Padre should be clever enough to point this out and give an explanation on @_ and @_[0].

I knew it is a big task though I did not think it is soo big. In any case I knew I cannot handle this alone, especially as I am not such a good programmer. So from the very beginning I tried to make it interesting, accessible to experienced Perl 5 developers and in turn they made it fun and hackable.

Unfortunately most of the experienced Perl developers are also hard-core vim or emacs users and it is nearly impossible to move them away from their editor. Luckily there were a few who got interested by the idea of having a lot of control over their editor and that made the difference between a failing one man project to a project with a lot of potential.

Then at one point came the idea to integrate Parrot and Rakudo and try to provide a platform for Perl 6 development as well. With the awesome work of Ahmad M. Zawawi Padre has a lot to offer to anyone who wants to write Perl 6 code. With some more work we'll be able to integrate Parrot even better and then Padre will be able to handle any language running on top of Parrot.

While there are still lots of problems with Padre and installation can still be difficult it already more or less has the same power as Notepad++ on both Windows and Linux and probably on Mac too and it has some extra features that even vim people started to steal.

Published on 2009-07-02 by Gabor Szabo

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