Review of Turbo Edit/iX
Shawn M. Gordon
Text editors are a tough product to review, people like an editor for no other reason than that they have used it for a long time. Look at all the people who still swear by the UNIX vi editor, which in my opinion is barely better than the old DOS editor EDLIN. Anyone that knows me, knows that I swear by the CSL editor QUAD, which I have been using for about 10 years now. The two major players that have survived the editor wars was QEDIT and SPEEDEDIT, both of which I have used.
Turbo Edit is a fairly new editor on the HP compared to it’s competitors, but it’s been around for four or five years by now. I have seen it at various trade shows, and had always been impressed, and it seemed time to finally do a review of the package. Turbo Edit is really geared, and optimized as an editor that is designed for the programmer. I ran Turbo Edit on a 925 with 32 meg of memory and 1.2 gig of disk. I tried it on a reguler terminal, under WRQ’s Reflection for Windows and Minisoft’s WIN92 terminal emulators.
Tubo Edit is a full screen character mode editor which minimizes keystrokes through the use of function keys, special keys, and a user defined shorthand (Macro) facility. In Turbo Edit a file is commonly referred to as a ‘Buffer’, and a ‘Window’ is a view to a ‘Buffer’. Up to fifty buffers containing up to fifty files can be manipulated simultaneously (including Cut and Paste between buffers). Different buffers may share the same text file, thereby providing different “views” of the data when displayed in multiple windows
Up to four windows can be opened on-screen and operated independently. Each window provides a ‘view’ into the text file via a buffer. When multiple windows are opened, each window may provide a different ‘view’ into the same text file or a different file. Take a look at figure 1 to see two windows into the same buffer. This feature is great when you are working down in your
A really neat, and unique feature to HP 3000 editors as far as I know, is the Macro Facility. This is a keystroke recorder that collects any sequence of keystrokes for execution as a Macro request. Macros can be named and stored to disk. This feature will be more and more useful as you get familiar with Turbo Edit.
So what happens when you run Turbo Edit. Well you get a full screen with your code on it. You can then use the cursor control keys to arrow, or page through your code. What is really slick here, and I am absolutely amazed they were able to implement it, is the word wrap feature. This works just like a PC based editor, if you have your cursor in the middle of a line and press return, the text from the cursor to the right margin is wrapped down to the next line and removed from the previous line. This one feature is incredibly difficult to implement, and it works beautifully in Turbo Edit. You are also able to advance your cursor a word at a time, go to the end of a line, go to the beginning of a line, insert lines, cut or copy lines to the Save Stack, the list goes on.
Since I mentioned the Save Stack, I should explain it. This is a special buffer that is used to store blocks of deleted and copied text, in a LIFO (Last In First Out) order. The text can later be inserted into any active buffer for full Cut and Past operations. Speaking of Cut and Paste, you have pretty much unlimited ability to mark, cut, join, and paste lines and files, including the ability to operate on columns within rows, so you aren’t limited to simple row copying, which most editors are.
If you are confused at any point about what commands are available for you, and you don’t have your Quick Refernce Guide handy, just press function key 8 twice and it will pop-up the online help, as seen in figure 2. As you can see, Turbo Edit has used up just about every possible key combination, so it’s going to be a while before you memorize them all, that’s what makes the online help so nice.
You may be wondering, like I did, how all these function keys and key codes work together. Basically the function keys operate as a request to a specific function, as opposed to a command. For example, if you were to press function key 5 the ‘Go To…’ key, you would then need to supply on the of the ‘Go To’ codes. For example you would press function key 5 followed by the right arrow key to position the cursor at the end of the current line. This sequence of events is fundamental to Turbo Edit, however there are control key sequences that you can use instead for some of the functions. The one I learned early on was
I really liked the fact that you can control backup generations of the code. This will automatically do revision management for you to a certain degree. If you don’t have the backup groups already created the software will ask you if you want them created when you go to save your file, a nice touch. A feature that sort of works in conjunction with this is the timed auto save. You can have your file automatically save based on a timer variable value. I guess the UNDO facility also fit’s into this category. An Undo list is automatically maintained by Turbo Edit to provide reversal of each edit request. Nothing like being able to undo your mistakes.
One feature that I think you will find particularly helpful is the compare buffers edit request. This will take two open buffers, compare them to each other, and generate a third buffer that contains the changes. So what you have here is an online, interactive environment that allows you to do a little revision management. Used in conjunction with the backup option, you can easily go back and look at the differences between versions. If this feature was a standalone product you would probably pay at least as much as you do here for the editor.
Another neat little feature for COBOL programmers is the ability to automatically create ‘tags’ at the end of each line that you are adding or changing. Many shops use this to keep track of who did what in the code, and it is rather tedious to maintain. Along the same vein, you can set up a file of keyword replacement patterns. So for example, you could set up a keyword so as soon as you typed DBGET, Turbo Edit would replace it with CALL “DBGET” USING. This is another big boost in code generation. One other ‘code’ type feature that was really nice is that when you press return to go to a new line, the cursor positions at the same point as the beginning of the previous line. If you write in COBOL, you are probably used to hitting the space bar about 5 times every time you go to type a new line. As I stated at the start of this review, Turbo Edit is a programmers editor.
>I could go on for a long time about each of the features, but let me sum up quickly. Basically all of the editing features that you would find in an MS Windows based word processor are in Turbo Edit. In addition to those sophisticated editing functions, there are a whole slew of other features, some of which I talked about, that make programming in Turbo Edit a real joy.
Usability (also installation)
The installation is very standard, load the tape, restore a command file, reload the tape, execute the command file. My only complaint is that the installation didn’t clean up it’s command file from PUB.SYS after it was done.
The software is very usable, setup consists of either setting their supplied UDC for the editor, or using their supplied command file. There are a bunch of default parameters that can be controlled via variables, and these all seem to be documented.
Well the software edited, my changes saved, nothing disappeared, and the program never aborted, even when I tried to make it abort by feeding garbage to the prompts. Turbo Edit get’s high marks for reliability.
The performance in Turbo Edit is really astounding. I don’t know what they are doing, but it zips along like you wouldn’t believe. It didn’t matter how many buffers or windows I had opened, it always was fast.
Supportability (including Doc)
The telephone support is very good. I always got a person, and I always got a quick answer. All of my questions had to do with executing particular functions. The 151 page user manual isn’t bad, but it is meant as a reference guide, and not a training guide. The interactive tutorial in Turbo Edit is worth the short time it requires to go through it. It runs you through the basic features, and get’s you familiar with the product. The addition of a quick reference guide is very handy, I referred to it quite a bit.
This has to be by far the slickest editor I have used on the HP 3000, incredible functionality, speed, pretty much everything is there. I do have a couple of complaints however, it took me forever to figure out how to open a file, and how to quit the editor. These two commands, as well as saving a file, are the three most basic commands you will use. The quick reference card, or the doc should have this in big bold letters. There is definitely some learning curve here because you are not use to the editor commands, but it shouldn’t take to long to get use to the basics and be ready to start using the more sophisticated features.
I really loved this editor, the word wrap, and word advance, as well as the auto save, line tag, and a whole host of other features, including the source comparison, really make Turbo Edit the host based editor to beat in my opinion. I know it’s not easy to justify paying this kind of money , and it is competitively priced, on a host based editor, but with all the productivity features it really will pay for itself I think.
Turbo Edit/iX version 3.13
Dennis and Schwab, Inc.
505 East First Street, Suite B
Tustin, CA 92680-3305
Product is available on DAT or Reel tape, requires HP SUSAN number for demo, includes one 150 page manual. Price ranges from $495 for a single user consultant copy to $7,500. Support is included for the first year, and is 20% of list price each year there after.