ActiveState Goes Open Source

While Eclipse percolates all over the Java world, ActiveState is betting that its dynamic language-focused IDE will fill an open source gap. The company's Komodo IDE 4.2 gave birth to a free version in February, Komodo Edit, but giving away the basic tools wasn’t enough. In October, Komodo Edit was repurposed and rereleased, as open source, under the Open Komodo project.

Shane Caraveo, the Komodo lead at ActiveState, said he expects Open Komodo to generate more interest than Komodo Edit did. “What we're trying to do is build a community around Komodo. We started with Komodo Edit. But people don't…get involved with free products, as [much as] they do with open source products,” said Caraveo.

While Eclipse is obviously the 800-pound gorilla in the open source IDE world, Caraveo said that its Java heritage could be the one thing that turns people away from that platform. “Eclipse is a great environment for what it was designed for, but a lot of people don't like Java-based environments. Open Komodo gives an alternative for people,” said Caraveo.

That alternative brings a much heavier focus on dynamic and scripting languages than Eclipse currently offers. Caraveo said that Open Komodo works with more than 50 languages, all of which are supported through syntax highlighting. But the primary languages for which the IDE was designed are JavaScript, Perl, PHP, Python, Ruby and TCL. Mix those with the built-in support for HTML, XHTML and CSS, and Open Komodo is tailor-made for Web application developers not using Java, said Caraveo.

Open Komodo is missing a few things that are available in the commercial Komodo IDE. There is no debugger built into Open Komodo, and the regular expression generation tool has also been removed. Additionally, the HTTP inspector, designed to help troubleshoot AJAX calls, is not included.

“There are just things we will never get around to doing as a commercial organization,” said Caraveo, explaining the decision to go open source. “That's why I wanted to get a community built around this. We don't have an XUL IDE. But there are a few people in the Mozilla community who want that. It's such a huge undertaking to build a complete development environment,” said Caraveo, hinting that the Mozilla Foundation may now repurpose Open Komodo to support XUL (XML User Interface Language).

Open Komodo is available online for free at