Product Review – RPG-Alive

Version Tested   2.6.3

Earliest OS/400 Release   V3R1/V3R6

400times Score   10/10

Visiting An Old Friend

My first look at RPG-Alive was one of the first articles I wrote and RPG-Alive, like my writing skills, has come a long way in the 12 months since the first posting.

For those who missed the first review, RPG-Alive does what it says on the box, it brings RPG-Alive. By running a small program that resides in the Windows Systray, any occurrence of SEU through an emulation program (Client Access, Rumba and Reflection are supported), becomes a fully functional editing guide that improves code visibility and provides features that will knock the spots off of most GUI editors.

RPG-Alive, as previously mentioned, is perhaps best known for its ability to highlight starts and ends of nested groups, to easily recognize comments, and to help with getting your SEU session to “learn” and auto-complete lines for you.

This ability, is indeed, the core function, but RPG-Alive has evolved into a simple but immensely time-saving utility, that has grown with the changes to OS/400 and covers everything that V5 can throw at it. Using easy to remember keyboard key combinations, source can be entered more easily than you can possible imagine.

For instance, if you are not sure of a certain OpCode (a novice programmer might know it when he sees it), or want to change an OpCode for a different one, just position the cursor in the OpCode column, hit the CTRL ArrowUp/ArrowDown keys, and the available OpCodes will be cycled through until you stop. No drop down boxes, no use of the mouse, just instant access to the data you need.

Of course, OpCodes have rules assigned, and the rules need to be adhered to to get the syntax correct. RPG-Alive assists with this function by highlighting the various Factor/Result entries that need to be completed. Take a look at the image below. By cycling through the available OpCodes and changing line 387 to “FOR”, the underlined section shows the space that I am expected to fill. The indent bar changes color, because I am entering a different nested group.

It also shows me, that there is an ENDIF where an ENDFOR should be, by the fact that the RED line terminates in BLUE. Now, I have missed tricks similar to that in the past, DO’s and END’s all tie up in terms of numbers, but often I get blown away by a mismatch. With the introduction of new start and end types, possibly nobody would believe it’s going to get less frequent!

What you have is a visual pre-compile check, that will not fix junk code, but will give the compiler a sporting chance. 

Get by with a little help

Help is available on every turn. I am not referring to application help, but more importantly, to help with SEU statements, OpCodes and syntax. 

CTRL F1, brings up the help window

But window based help is not all you get. RPG-Alive will also:

  • Highlight source in secondary source views (The Browse Window)
  • Work with DDS and CLP source (differently of course)
  • Work in either 24×80 or 27×132 display mode
  • Can be used in debug
  • Where nested groups span more than one page, the learn feature can be used to keep track of starts and ends etc.
  • Match Ends
  • Delimit subroutines and procedures
  • and a lot, lot more.

Interestingly, there is no pre-processing of source. All changes are viewed real time, without even any screen refreshes causing the screen to go input inhibited. Amazingly fast!

Intelligent Prompting

One of the remarkable functions that RPG-Alive provides, is the ability to tab to various columns, intelligently.

This example illustrates that by entering some partial statements into a source member, RPG-Alive has started to think about what it needs to do, and starts to highlight the areas that you are working in. Notice that no source line numbers have been allocated, due to the fact that enter has not been pressed. I have chosen to use abbreviated codes so that I can demonstrate the beauty of the auto complete feature.

In the next illustration, I have used CTRL-SPACE to tab to each of the source entries. You will notice that the abbreviated fields have been expanded, and auto-completion and capitalization has been initiated. Also notice that enter has still not been pressed.

In reality, auto-completion occurs only on the line that you are working on, and revisiting a line is assumed completed unless it is changed, although again, enter still does not need to be pressed. The END to ENDIF conversion was handled using the CTRL UP/DOWN as described earlier.

This functionality also underlines the available field options that can be completed for a particular OpCode. For instance, if an OpCode permits a Factor1 entry, the field space is immediately highlighted. And all in glorious Technicolor!

It takes a small bit of practice to remember to hit the right key, but  the benefits are immediately obvious.

RPG-Alive for /Free!

/Free as in Free Format RPG that is. This product is ready for V5 OS/400, and support is included to help you get the most out of the newest thing to hit the streets. 

As Alex Roytman, President of Profound Logic Software Inc. explains:

“The /free format support includes auto-completion of operations, keywords, built-in functions, subroutines, and sub-procedures. It also supports context-sensitive help for the operations and built-in functions. These features are accessed via the Ctrl-Space and the Ctrl-F1 keys respectively. We decided not to put any outline in /free format because the source code lines should already be formatted accordingly by the developer, but things like delimiting subroutines for free-format begsr and endsr statements will still be present.”

And as the list of BIF’s gets larger, a little on-screen guidance is a great thing.

Liked it then, love it now!

And I don’t think we can say more than that. 400times is proud to promote innovative products that use new technologies to help the backroom staff do the job better by utilizing current (or legacy!) skills, and in our view, not many come better than this! 

Low cost, almost zero learning curve, productive, and plain great. Give it a go, download your free trial here.

But whatever you do, don’t let the 3488 see it. It will blow a tube.

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