I was having a conversation on Twitter, and… hm? Yes, Twitter’s one of those new-fangled thingies that nobody can really explain to you why you should be bothered with it. Yes, email works perfectly well, as do the telephone and the telegraph. This opinion piece isn’t about Twitter; it’s about why I think SEU is a wonderful, useful tool. Just like the telegraph.

I feel I must begin by saying that I don’t plan on convincing anyone to switch from SEU to Code/400, WDSC or RDi. I’m not even going to argue that SEU is bad. I made a very good living with SEU, but I have to say that my good living wasn’t because of SEU – it was despite it.

I had an eye-opening experience in the early 1980s with another green screen editor called XEDIT. XEDIT ran on mainframes like the IBM 3081 (it still might for all I know!) XEDIT isn’t all that different from SEU except for one thing: XEDIT can be scripted with macros using REXX. I’m willing to bet that this sounds like ‘I was having a conversation on Twitter.’ That’s because SEU never had a macro language, despite being written during the same time frame as XEDIT.

I spent a little time looking at IBM marketing material for RDi (no, IBM marketing is the subject of a different IMHO piece, not this one.) Well, maybe one dig: I don’t think the marketing people have advertised what appeals to an SEU user. With abject apologies to the dedicated IBMers who worked on making and advertising this list, I don’t think these are all that appealing:

  • Colorized source
  • See more lines
  • Content assist
  • Outline view

Frankly, the ability to see more lines is the best of that lot, but it wasn’t what drove me to Code/400 way back when it ran on OS/2. It was the ability to extend the editor through macros. Not coincidentally, REXX macros. For what it’s worth, neither WDSC nor RDi have a decent macro facility. So why do I use WDSC? It’s better than SEU in almost every aspect.

The only place WDSC doesn’t beat SEU hands-down is that WDSC runs on a PC and SEU runs on IBM i. I don’t worry about that today as much as I did when a big PC had 768k of RAM and it took minutes to open a source member. If I asked you to take some notes on this IMHO piece, you probably wouldn’t fire up SEU; you’d fire up some Notepad-equivalent on your PC. It’s not demeaning SEU to say that it’s not the best editor for every task, and it’s my opinion that the quality and stability of WDSC / RDi is such that they are noticeably better than SEU.

One of my favorite WDSC uses is to open the same RPG source member twice. Then I can work on a subprocedure PR and PI at the exact same time. No more scribbling line numbers or code fragments on scrap paper, although Alt-q will jump between two pieces of code, too.

I think the killer application of WDSC has got to be the integrated debugger. If you never edit a line of code in WDSC, at least use the debugger. Truly a work of art; very easy to use. What else does WDSC do that SEU can’t? How about copy/paste a 30-line code fragment from email or the web? With SEU, it takes multiple steps because of the forced page break. In WDSC, paste as many lines as you like. Of course, there ARE more visible lines of code – I have 40 visible on mine right now. One thing I hardly ever hear IBM mention: Regular expression search. For instance, let’s say you want to find a subprocedure PI? With regular expressions, it’s easy! ds*ProcedureNames*pi With SEU? Keep pressing F16… Something else that’s very, very nice: When you start work tomorrow, WDSC will re-open all the members you had open when you shut down last night. If there are 6 source members involved in your current project, you get to pick up where you left off.

To my knowledge, there’s nothing that SEU can do that WDSC cannot. There are several things WDSC can do that SEU is incapable of. Individually, they might not be very impressive, but taken together, the improvements that WDSC provides allows me to be less bothered by having to constrain my thoughts around the limitations of my editor. SEU is OK. WDSC is better.

That Twitter conversation? It was about a panel discussion on IBM i programmers doing Python, PHP and .NET development. It was me who noted that IBM i programmers would develop in PHP when SEU got a PHP prompter. WDSC, based on Eclipse, has prompters for PHP and Python.

I didn’t find out how good a PC editor was until I tried one. Lots of IBM i programmers won’t even try, and I think that’s a shame. In my humble opinion.

About Buck Calabro:
RPG has been my living since 1978, still writing for green screens after all these years. Still trying to keep up with technology.