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Programmer Studio Version 4.0

Whisper Technology
25-29 High Street
Leatherhead, Surrey
KT22 8AB
United Kingdom

US toll-free: 888.465.8145
International: +44.1372.360080
Fax: 888.465.8146
International: +44.1372.360090
E-mail: sales@whispertech.com
Web: www.whispertech.com

Programmer Studio includes the 3000-based server software and the client interface IDE that is required for the client PCs. Support is available for Win95, Win98, and WinNT systems as well as Linux and HP-UX on the server.

Programmer Studio for the HP 3000 runs on all HP 3000s using MPE/iX 4.0 or later. Pricing is user-based ranging from $599 each for up to four copies, to $299 each for 50-99 copies. The version that doesn’t use the custom 3000 server is only $299 per copy, no quantities required. Subscription and support program is 30 percent of the purchase price per year and includes phone in, electronic support and new releases of the software. All prices are in US dollars.



July 2001

Beyond Projects, On to Changed Lives

Newest version of Whisper Technology’s development tool a must-have for coding

Review by Shawn Gordon

Programmer Studio has been around for about four years now, and it is the editor I use and make my employees use. Version 4 is just out. I hadn’t reviewed the product since version 2.0 (although I did use 3.0) so it’s time for another look.

As a programmer’s editor, virtually all the languages and file types for the HP 3000 are supported in this product, even Qedit saved files. You can also edit schemas, MPEX expression programs, Powerhouse code — pretty much everything. There actually isn’t anything that stops you from editing any file that you want. This file support really concerns the product’s built-in types for syntax highlighting and code structure recognition. Once you’ve used syntax highlighting, you’ll wonder how you got along without it.

Up until Version 4, Programmer Studio was strictly project-oriented, so you can have multiple files associated with any particular project which can contain a variety of language types all living and playing nicely together. Figure 1 in the left pane shows an example of files in a project. One nice new feature is that you can now edit a file without having to create a project to do it. This might sound trivial, but it is a huge convenience for using Programmer Studio just as an editor instead of an entire project management tool when you don’t need one. You can also compile files without a project. While the project metaphor is great, there are plenty of times I wanted to just work on a single file, and had to create a project for it.

The project paradigm works great when you are working on systems: You can have your copylib members in there, job streams, associated command files, database schemas and so on. Having all the project information close at hand is extremely convenient when researching or coding a project.

Another nice new extension is the product’s ability to save the project files on the server. Now you can really get organized and assign Programmer Studio project files to a programmer, so they check it out (assuming you are using version control) and they’ve got everything at hand without guessing. By using this ability to build and organize folders within a project, you can easily manage and keep track of even the largest of projects.

Programmer Studio has the ability to parse the structure of your program and present it in a coherent fashion. Take a look at Figure 2: While I’ve expanded some of the structure trees, what you see here are alphabetized lists of paragraph, variable and function information, including copylibs, include files (and if I managed to convince them, COBOL macros). By double clicking on anything in the left pane, the main pane will immediately display the proper section of code. Then you can use some bookmarks to let you bounce around your code quickly and efficiently (more on bookmarks later).

How does it work?

In the pre-4.0 days, you always had to run the Programmer Studio server on your 3000. This wasn’t true of their Unix-based server component; you could just use FTP and Telnet for the same result. Now you can either continue to use their server, or just make use of FTP and Telnet. The file types you are going to be playing with will dictate which method you want to use. Anything that the HP 3000 implementation of FTP doesn’t understand as a native file type will need to be accessed using the PS server.

Most people on the 4.0 beta program say that they think the FTP option is faster. My own experience seems to be that it’s slower, but it could all just be subjective. The other thing I didn’t like about the FTP option is that it seems to poll the server pretty often, like every 30 seconds or so. If you look at the bottom pane in Figure 1 or Figure 2, you will see that I have a network trace window open and the FTP feedback is being displayed here. That is how I knew how often the pings were happening, because I could watch it scroll by.

On the client end you have a very slick, standard three-pane Windows interface that displays your project, your code, and your server messages, or find results (see Figure 1).

The client and server pieces will work together in such as way that if you try to save a file that has changed on the host from when you brought it down, you will be stopped and warned. You can still choose to overwrite it, but this at least gives you the opportunity to check out what is going on first.

Another option is to simply download the code and work on it, saving it locally. This has the advantage of allowing you to work in your favorite environment even if you can’t get connected because you’re on the road, or because, heaven forbid, your HP 3000 is down for some reason.


Since I last looked at Programmer Studio two years ago, here is a summary of other features I haven’t already mentioned which I found new in this release:

• A new user-interface, which I’m still getting used to. It will seamlessly edit both Windows and server based files — the server information is now defined separately from the project and is an attribute of the file. This makes local and remote edition much more straight forward. You can now include files from multiple locations (servers) in a single project.

• Programmer Studio supports TELNET and FTP for transferring and compiling files as an alternative to their custom server on non-HP e3000 platforms.

• Programmer Studio now includes support for Sun Workshop DBX and Perl debuggers. This is in addition to the product’s support of HP 3000 XDB and Trax debuggers, and GDB on Linux/Unix systems. It also has an integrated hex file editor for Windows/FTP binary files only. A project-based ClassView incorporates definitions from multiple project files. The syntax (structure) view is displayed alongside code editor. This is much more convenient than the prior versions, when it was displayed in the source editor area. Compiler errors are highlighted using regular expressions; Perl programmers can appreciate this.

• I love the new split-screen editing feature. It is very convenient to have multiple views of the same file open, and eliminates one of the main reasons I used bookmarks. You can now block mode select (via Shift+Drag), a feature that I liked from Co-Edit — it lets you grab an arbitrary block of text.

The software also includes improved code parsers for C/C++, Java and COBOL’s include variable definitions. And now Programmer Studio does auto-complete to complete known syntax items. This is another real time-saver once you get used to it. It’s improved its COBOL line tag support, added support for embedded languages such as HTML in PHP, and does auto (background) syntax-update.

There are others, but I think you get the idea. The product supports files in Unix, DOS, Mac and Qedit formats, and all your standard MPE files, including Posix. Of course, the product still has all the features I covered in my 1999 review.

I liked the facility to attach host-based events to a file — something like a STREAM command for a JCL file, or a command file to compile and link your code. In any case the results of commands are displayed in the lower pane that has the various status windows. The tabs allow you to select which status window you want to display in an intuitive format.

What I found really handy was the “Find in Files” option that allows you to search for strings or regular expressions in ‘n’ files. This is better than a generic file set because you can ctrl-click file names and select non-name-related files as your search set.

Installation and Documentation

Installation is either from a download from WhisperTech’s Web site, or via CD. In either case you will need to install both the client and the server software unless you use the FTP/Telnet combo, which is what I use. The client side is a standard Windows installation and proceeds without incident. The installer is intelligent enough to remove prior installations if required, with your permission.

The server side of the install is a store-to-disk file format and is easily installed after the upload. The product requires that you run a server job all the time so that you can connect. I use this for my older version of Programmer Studio, and again it wasn’t required here, but it is available.

At the time I looked at the product, the documentation and help were still a bit sparse. Usually these are the last bits of a version upgrade, and I got an early look at Version 4. Having been a long-time user this wasn’t really an impediment for me. I know that an appropriate manual will be available with the final release, just as with prior versions.

Support from WhisperTech is terrific, even with them being based in England. I typically use e-mail, and I get quick responses, even when it’s 10 PM their time.

The TestDrive

I got a bit more adventurous with this version now that I do a lot of work with Linux, Python and C++. I must say, the Project Wizard and file open logic is really very smart. When you point the product at a server, it does a great job of figuring out what system it is and what protocols are available. All of the options are recursive, so while you can go and configure servers as a menu option, you can also do it dynamically from within the ‘New Project’ dialog — it’s just a bit counter-intuitive. You can see an example in Figure 3.

Now what was really cool was building a project that had a local HP 3000, a remote one at my friend’s house who is also on a cable modem, a local Linux server and a remote server in Romania all configured for file sources in my project.

Programmer Studio remembers all the information for each file — and if you go to open a file and it hasn’t already been cached, then Programmer Studio will log on to the appropriate server and grab the files. In the case of my Romanian server, the connection was a bit flaky because of the telecom infrastructure there, but Programmer Studio was able to deal with it and I could work with files offline and sync them up later.

For my projects I loaded up some Python and C++ from Linux and some COBOL, C and MPEX expression programs from MPE. I really liked how the program structure was so quickly parsed. For example, in the case of Python, each of the ‘def()’ statements were distilled down into Functions under the syntax tab, and under COBOL these became the paragraph headers. By double-clicking on the function name I was taken to that section of the code where the function definition, or paragraph starts.

All in all it was quite fun to do things like this. It would be really nice if they had a Linux client, but I suppose I’m in the minority wanting that feature.


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Programmer Studio is an absolute must-have for writing code. With each new release they take a giant step forward in functionality and usability, and this new 4.0 release is no exception. My only real regret in test driving the software was a lack of the integrated debugger support that’s part of the 3.0 release. I don’t imagine the feature is going to change from the prior release, and it was quite nice, if a little confusing to set up initially.

The learning curve for Programmer Studio is pretty minimal. You can be productive in about 10 minutes, and if you take a couple of hours to browse the documentation and play with the product, you will find a wealth of features and time saving techniques. Some bits aren’t as obvious as they could be, like how you automatically stamp COBOL comments at column 72 with your initials and a date stamp. Either a little doc research or an e-mail to tech support will answer such a question pretty rapidly. Programmer Studio is so flexible that it would be pretty hard to explain in documentation all the ways you might use it.

If you write code, you have to get this product — it will change your life.

Shawn Gordon is president of theKompany.com, Inc., a developer of Linux tools, and has worked with the HP 3000 as programmer, developer and consultant since 1983.



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