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Komodo Spawns New Open Source IDE Project

Development tools vendor ActiveState is opening up parts of its Komodo IDE in a new effort called Open Komodo.

Komodo is a Mozilla Framework-based application that uses Mozilla's XUL (XML-based User Interface Language), which is Mozilla's language for creating its user interface.

The Open Komodo effort will take code from ActiveState's freely available, but not open source, Komodo Edit product and use it as a base for the new open source IDE. The aim is to create a community and a project that will help Web developers to more easily create modern Web-based applications.

"This is our first entry into managing an open source project," Shane Caraveo, Komodo Dev Lead, told Internetnews.com. "We want to start with a tight focus on what we want to accomplish and that focus is supporting the Open Web with a development environment."

Caraveo explained that back in February, ActiveState released a free version of its flagship Komodo IDE called Komodo Edit, and that release was a prelude to going open source. Open Komodo is only a subset of Edit, though.

"We're focusing first strictly on Web development," Caraveo said. "So some of the language support for backend dynamic languages will not be available as open source. They will still be available for free in Edit and possibly as extensions to Open Komodo."

The idea behind creating a fully open source IDE for Web development has been percolating for over a year at ActiveState, according to Caraveo. He said there are also a lot of people in the Mozilla community that have been discussing the creation of an IDE.

"I feel there is no need for them to start from nothing, which is a large investment," Caraveo said. "Since we were a couple months from having everything done, I felt it was a good time to announce, so we can start to talk with people in the community about Komodo from a standpoint that they are willing to work with."

A build of the Open Komodo code base that actually works is expected by late October or early November. That build according to Caraveo will look and work much like Komodo Edit does now.

"We want to be sure that people have something they can play with and actually use immediately, even if it is not the product we want in the end," Caraveo said.

The longer-term project is something called Komodo Snapdragon. The intention of Snapdragon is to provide a top-quality IDE for Web development that focuses on open technologies, such as AJAX, HTML/XML, JavaScript and more.

"We want to provide tight integration into other Firefox-based development tools as well," Caraveo explained. "This would target Web 2.0 applications, and next-generation Rich Internet Applications."

With many IDEs already out in a crowded marketplace for development tools, Open Komodo's use of Mozilla's XUL (pronounced "zule") may well be its key differentiators.

"A XUL-based application uses all the same technologies that you would use to develop an advanced Web site today," Caraveo said.

"This includes XML, CSS and JavaScript. This type of platform allows people who can develop Web site to develop applications. So, I would say that this is an IDE that Web developers can easily modify, hack, build, extend, without having to learn new languages and technologies."

Being open and accessible are critical to the success of Open Komodo; in fact Caraveo noted that the No. 1 success factor is community involvement.

"If Snapdragon is only an ActiveState project, then it has not succeeded in the way we want it to."