What is the Best IBM i RPG Code Editor in 2021
Most people migrated from SEU to RDi (Rational Developer)
But there are other code editor choices out there, so let’s have a look at a few different options:
What is the best FREE RPG Code Editor?
What is the best PREMIUM RPG Editor?
What is the best Editor for RPG, CLP, DDS and SQL in 2021?
Back in the days of terminals, no internet and green screen access only – IBM’s native code edit SEU, in all its green screen 5250 glory, reigned supreme for decades.
Every IBM i programmer will be very familiar with SEU (Stoneage Editing Utility). Introduced nearly fifty years ago (doesn’t that make you feel old?) it was the standard code editor on the old AS400 and Series machines.
In 2008, with the launch of a major operating system upgrade (IBM i V6.1), IBM announced that support for the old SEU was being withdrawn: IBM wants people to adopt their flagship code editor for IBM i Software Developers — RDi is Rational Developer for i. But SEU still exists, is useable, but is no longer updated as new program language features are released. For a decade SEU’s syntax checking has been frozen at IBM V6, so trying to write modern IBM i code in SEU is a nightmare as it flags all these new features as errors.
IBM RDi is an Eclipse based code editor for IBM i Developers used for writing modern RPG, CL, XML, JAVA, PHP etc code. In earlier released Rational Developer was called WDSC “WebSphere Development Studio Client”. But with a complete rewrite of the IDE it was rebranded and re-released as RDi (Rational Developer for IBM i). If you are not using an IDE code editor then your developers are probably stuck with the twenty year old text based code editor SEU “Stoneage Editing Utility” 😉
There are various IBM i Code Editing Solutions ranging from opensource and freeware to modern commercial products.
So, in no particular order, let’s have a look at some of them:
GREEN SCREEN 5250 CODE EDITORS
SEU – IBM Source Entry Utility
The STRSEU (Source Entry Utility) command allows you to create, change, display, or print a source member.
I’ve called this *FREE* but it’s not really. You have to install the IBM Licensed Program. SEU is part of the IBM® Rational® Development Studio for i licensed program.
If you use SEU to enter source in a database file, SEU adds the sequence number and date fields to each source record. You can edit, delete and add records between existing records. For example, if you add a record between records 0003.00 and 0004.00, the sequence number of the added record can be 0003.01. SEU will automatically arrange the newly added statements in this way
Sadly, SEU was frozen and IBM ended all enhancements over a decade ago, back in IBM I v6.1. Despite this, it’s still commonly in use at many IBM i Shops. Using SEU is painful — it does not have any support for *FREE RPG ILE nor any of the RPG %built-in-functions that added with every new release. SEU is no better than a NOTEPAD editor, but also running with the limitations of a 5250 green screen.
If you open modern RPG ILE Code denoted by **FREE on the first line, SEU will spit out errors throughout the code because it does not recognize modern RPG code layout.
Legacy style code editing used by any programmer with grey hair or that came from older System38, AS400, iSeries machines
Unsupported and out of date
Standard terminal mode interface
Can only view page of code at a time
No DO/UNDO functions
The list goes on
PC CODE EDITORS
IBM Rational Developer for IBM i (RDi)
Rational Developer for i is the official RPG development tool, it’s Very good. Very extensive. Very expensive.
IBM® Rational® Developer for i is IBM’s code editor for IBM i software development. RDi provides an integrated development environment (IDE) to create, maintain and modernize IBM i applications. It integrates developer tools such as search, edit, build, analysis, refactoring capabilities and code debug. Built on the Eclipse framework for faster, easier application development and modernization.
IBM releases frequent language enhancements to RPG, so moving to RDi is the only was to stay current with IBM i syntax changes and rapid code development.
Rational Developer for i is my editor choice. It’s has some really neat functions like refactor, convert code to sub procedure, the ability to hunt and find variables in the program source code and seeing where values are changed (even subfields of data structures) make this stand head and shoulders above the primitive code editors like SEU.
The IBM i Code Editor fully support by IBM
Regular updates as new opcodes are added to code
Powerful features which boost rapid application development
Compile and Debug Functions
Easy to use
Slow to load
Heavy Application with big install
Visual Studio Code
Note – this is not Visual Studio. This is a separate editor from Microsoft.
Just like Orion and Notepad++, by default source code is stored in the IFS within Visual Studio Code. This technique is being adopted across the IBM i community and is, almost definitely, the future of source code storage. Visual Studio Code is growing in popularity. But it’s not limited to IFS – various plugins can extend VS CODE’s abilities and will allow access to native IBM i Database structure of LIBS and Files (SCHEMAS and TABLES to you SQL propeller heads)
The nice thing is that as Visual Studio Code user base grows – so does the list of plugins that extend VSC into new arenas. We can install a number of RPG plugins to look at:
Visual Studio Code – IBM i Languages Syntax Checking
Somewhat decent syntax highlighting for IBMi languages such as RPG, CL, DDS, MI, and RPGLE fixed/free.
The plugin author says this uses a regex to add syntax support for the main IBM i Languages:
Pretty much all I did was crawl through various IBM documentation on my lunch breaks and throw some regular expressions in here when I got the chance. The regex I made probably isn’t too efficient and it does mess up sometimes, but I think it works for like 90% of cases I’ve come across.
NOTE: This plugin was derived from the following RPG LANGUAGE PLUGIN from Niels Liisberg. So, choose one or the other IBM i Languages Syntax Checking is my favourite.
Visual Studio Code – RPG Language Plugin
This offers RPG source highlighting and syntax checking for ILE FREE RPG from version 7.1 and above. You can follow this project at https://github.com/NielsLiisberg/RPG-for-VSCode
Visual Studio Code – ILEDITOR 2 code-for-ibmi
This is the best IBM i Software Development plugin for Visual Studio code. In my Humble opinion of course! (or IMHO as the cool kids type it)Me.
Maintain your RPGLE, CL, COBOL, C/CPP on IBM i right from Visual Studio Code. Simple, easy to use with some nice features:
- Member browser and editor
- IFS Browser and editor
- Object browser
- Settings: Compilation, library list, etc,
- Error lists show up in Problems automatically
NOTE: In order to use extension, the SSH Daemon must be started on IBM i (Licensed program 5733-SC1 provides SSH support. STRTCPSVR *SSHD starts the daemon). Install from VS Code You can find the extension in the VS Code Marketplace! More detailed documentation is available here
Industry Standard Code Editor
Growing list of slick plugins for VS Code
Fast and Easy to use on any PC, Linux or Mac machine
ILEDITOR2 – allows LIB/FILE as well as IFS source editing
This supports RPG well, but it’s not a native RPG focused code editor
Debug functions are missing for RPGLE (at time of writing but I’m sure will appear soon)
This is a great low cost alternative to RDi. For €99 per year, you get a decent competitor to RDi. Missing some features but it’s a good alternative considering the price.
One other benefit is that it has a free version for users of PUB400 (MiWorkplace – Editor for IBM i) PUB400 offers a free alternative to RDi?? Yes, you read that correctly. It can be used without any charge. You get a fully functional version of MiWorkplace with a preconfigured connection to the one and only public IBM i server pub400.com. There are no excuses anymore why you can’t learn something new on IBM i.
Since being bought by REMAIN Software it has new features and support
Easy to use
Since being bought by REMAIN Software the price has increased from $39 to $99 per year
Does not have a REFACTOR function
Orion is a simplified browser-based editor. IBM has ported this open-source editor to IBM i and included syntax highlighting for RPG, CL, COBOL, DDS, and UIM. Orion automatically saves your source as you make changes
If your source is in the IFS, you can use Orion. Orion is an open source browser based editor that has been included in 5733OPS option 8. It is still a little lean, but may be a competitor to Notepad++ depending on your circumstances. Orion is a simplified browser-based editor. IBM has ported this open-source editor to IBM i and included syntax highlighting for RPG, CL, COBOL, DDS, and UIM.
Orion automatically saves your source as you make changes, a feature I like. It also has built in support for Git, which is also included in 5733-OPS.
Free – if you have 57330PS installed on your IBM i System
Only supports IFS based source system
This is essentially a notepad editor, not an IDE (interactive development environment) but with its multi-tab layout and ability to extend functions with plugins it’s a struggling alternative to SEU.
There is a plugin for free-format RPG which extends notepad++ into the world of very basic RPG editing.
Another plugin giving you the ability to execute remote commands and compile.
The last time I look at these plugins they did not support *SRCPF, instead forcing you to use the *IFS for source code storage – which I like but may be a showstopper for you
NOTEPAD++ is a free code editor
It’s a terrific upgrade to your basic NOTEPAD editor
Extensible plugins for NOTEPAD++
Basic syntax checking
Upload/Download of source only works with IFS
Having to pay premium $$ for a program source code editor grinds my gears – nearly a thousand dollars for IBM’s offering and other premium products ranging from $99 to $350 per year is painful for us freelance developers.
Come on IBM – Release a lightweight, desktop Free RPG Editor!?
HONORABLE MENTION – Deprecated RPG Code Editors
ILEditor was an editor for development of ILE applications on IBM i. ILEditor will support development with any ILE language, be it CL, RPG, COBOL, C or C++. Error listing and syntax highlighting is available for all ILE languages.
Websphere Development Tools – although its free it’s also very old, doesnt support new RPG code and replaced by RDi
RPG Next Gen – I really liked this and used it after WDSC and before moving to RDi. The author has moved to a commercial route, checked out it’s replacement (Mi Workplace)