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[cobol-dev] Tabs in the COBOL

I agree about the Tabs.  We need the (somewhat) standard option of
replacing tabs with spaces. 

-----Original Message-----
From: cobol-dev-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxx
[mailto:cobol-dev-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Ken Grubb
Sent: Thursday, June 09, 2005 12:43 AM
To: 'Development discussions about the COBOL IDE for Eclipse. '
Subject: RE: [cobol-dev] Cobol in 3.1

Jens Doll wrote:

> did you try out the Eclipse 3.0?
> What is your opinion about it?
> Can you tell us about your experience? 

If you're entertaining input from others, here are my thoughts.

I downloaded and installed Eclipse and the COBOL plugin.  I spent a bit
of
time with it both at work and home trying to see what it would and would
not
do.  In general, I've been most unimpressed.

The company I work for is planning to make Eclipse our standard editor;
however, I suspect it will be a very significant uphill battle.
Persuading
programmers has been likened to herding cats.

We're a Tandem COBOL shop so it's my understanding that Eclipse won't
afford
any compile benefits other than basic syntax checking if a program has
no
database access.  Some of the programmers use the Tandem editors EDIT
and
TEDIT.  Others use FTP clients to transfer code back and forth and PC
based
editors like CodeWright, UltraEdit and TextPad.  TextPad is what I use,
and
after 6 years I'm reasonably skilled and have managed to extract a fair
bit
of efficient useage from the tool.

One of the main reasons I choose TextPad is that it's one of the few
Text
Editors that facilitates what one might term the "significant column"
aspect
of COBOL.  Whereas most programming languages and IDEs have a tab
setting
for indenting to improve the readability of code, in COBOL there are
sometimes columns into which certain characters must go, and the matter
isn't subject to negotiation.  However, actual Tab characters (ASCII Hex
value 09) will tend to cause havoc when they get into source code on
Tandem,
Unisys, etc.  Another of TextPad's virtues is the ability to easily, and
automatically, convert Tabs to the appropriate number of spaces on the
fly
every time one hits the Tab character.  I believe both CodeWright and
UltraEdit are easily configurable to do the same thing.

After much gnashing of teeth with two Eclipse plugins, AnyEdit and
TabAlert,
there does not appear to be any means of automatically converting Tabs
to
Spaces in code.  AnyEdit will automatically convert leading tabs to
spaces,
and can trim trailing spaces, but "embedded spaces" remain.  TabAlert
will
convert spaces to tabs, but it requires a deliberate act every time ya
save.

Syntax hightlighting for Free Format picks up inline comments (*>)
starting
in any column.  Tandem was something of a "new comer" to the mainframe
COBOL
game.  As such, Tandem COBOL doesn't have traditional COBOL columns 1 to
6
and doesn't have a column 73 limit.  Since our comments begin in column
1,
syntax highlighting doesn't detect comments.  I suppose this may be a
fairly
minor issue as I'm given to understand we have the Fujitsu source code
and
there are plans to tweak it so it detects comments in column 1.

I've looked at the source code for both AnyEdit and TabAlert, and I
suppose
that if I were a modestly accomplished Java programmer that I could
write my
own plugin to do that which I want/need the COBOL plugin to do.
However, if
I were a modestly accomplished Java programmer, I don't know that I
would
still be writing COBOL.  Bit of a Catch 22.

I'm going to continue watching and listening, but unless management
forbids
us to use anything else, I will continue using TextPad and won't be
using
Eclipse.

Ken Grubb
Bellevue, WA, USA

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