As you know, we’re big fans of RSE and its related tools found originally in WDSC and more recently in RDP. There are many, many features that come in that toolset directly from IBM—so many that we keep learning new ones all the time. But as many things as are there, there is still a long list of nice-to-have features that aren’t there. We published a wish list some time ago about some of the additions we’d like to see. Some of these have since become available and many more are on IBM’s RFE (Request For Enhancement) list.
The fact that these tools are built on Eclipse means that it’s not always necessary to wait for IBM to implement a feature. Eclipse was built from the ground up to allow developers to plug their own features directly into the toolset. Fortunately, many people have done just that. More fortunately still, many of these plug-ins are available for free.
We want to share just a few examples of some of the plug-ins with some specific IBM i functionality that we are aware of. We haven’t personally tried many of these plug-ins yet, but perhaps some of you have. If so, we hope you’ll let us know (via the comments) how you like them. Also please let us know about plug-ins that we’ve missed. We’re sure there are many more out there. Please help us add to the list.
Many software companies have plug-ins that interface to their (usually) host-based software. Examples of these include many of the source control or change management products, such as those from Arcad, PTC (formerly MKS), Aldon and SoftLanding. In addition, there are plug-ins that interface to tools such as DBU from ProData and Surveyor from Linoma and probably many more. If you use the corresponding software on the host, these plug-ins can provide a great way to integrate your editing environment with that software.
For our purposes here, we’re interested more in tools that are more generic in nature that don’t require other software (other than RDP or WDSC, of course) to be installed to make use of them.
Are you frustrated by the limitations of RDP’s Templates and Snippets? Someone on the WDSC-L list on Midrange.com was and developed a plug-in with much more robust template functionality called FreeMarker. If this sounds interesting to you, visit this site for more information or to download that tool.
Several other people on the same list use the QuantumDB plug-in for database access. It is not written specifically for IBM i but does work with DB2 for i. For more information, see this site.
We mentioned Arcad Software’s tools related to their products above. They also offer some generic tools for RSE users that do not relate to nor require installation of their products. They have a 5250 emulator plug-in. And their latest tool is a Data Area Editor plug-in. You can get more information and fill in a request for download of these free tools here.
SoftLanding also offers a generic set of tools called RSE Extensions Plug-in. It offers several utilities, including a spooled file viewer (it was created before RDP had its own and still has some advantages over the “native” one), a message queue monitor, a Data Area editor and tool to display Data Queues. You can get more information and download the tool here. We noticed that the website says the latest version is verified through RDP 8.0, so if, like us, you’re already on 8.5, you may want to check around, perhaps on the Midrange list archives, to see if others have experience with it at that level.
The newest set of plug-ins for RDP that we’ve seen is from Germany. There are two plug-ins from Task Force IT Consulting GmbH. One is a version of the TN5250J Emulator that lets you run an emulation session within the workbench. The other is a set of tools called iSphere. iSphere contains a Message File Editor, a Binding Directory Editor and a Compare/Merge Editor for source members.
We’ve just installed iSphere and we’ll be reporting on our progress with using it in our next EXTRA article, which will be available in two weeks. So if that one sounds interesting to you, take a look out for that. You can subscribe to the free IBM i EXTRA newsletter here. If you don’t want to wait for that and want to try out iSphere for yourself, take a look at it here.