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The Age of the Commercial Python IDE: BlackAdder and Komodo Compared

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Boudewijn Rempt compares two new Python IDEs, BlackAdder and Komodo, to the field of more mature Open Source contenders.
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In a previous article, I reviewed four integrated development environments for Python: Wing IDE, Pythonworks, IDLE, and Pythonwin. Two of those were commercial—Wing IDE and Pythonworks. The others were Open Source. Since that time, Wing IDE and Pythonworks have been released in new versions, and two new commercial IDEs have made their appearance: BlackAdder, from TheKompany, and Komodo, from ActiveState.

Before plunging into an in-depth review of BlackAdder and Komodo, I'd like to give a short update on the four products I reviewed previously:

  • Neither IDLE nor Pythonwin has shown much development.

  • Wing IDE, on the other hand, has been steadily updated in a slow but sure stream of incremental releases. This is now a very stable and very capable Python IDE. The interface is still a bit confusing, but the stability problems of the beta version have been resolved, and several new, powerful features have been added.

  • If you're looking for a real power tool to use for the development and debugging of complex Python applications, perhaps in a largish team of developers, Wing IDE is an excellent choice. For hardcore coding, there's nothing to beat it.

  • Pythonworks has also been improved, and is now available for Linux. The interface is still idiosyncratic, but there are important new features—multiple editor pads, and a class browser!—and stability has never been a problem. Performance is a problem, however, especially on Linux.

  • Pythonworks is far more capable than it was. I'd recommend a good look at Pythonworks if you're a subject specialist looking at a helpful environment to create some specific code, or an educational institution looking for a great environment in which to teach object-oriented programming. If you know and love IBM's Visual Age, you might well become extremely fond of Pythonworks, with its smooth integration with code repositories.

The newcomers, BlackAdder and Komodo, thus face some stiff competition. Komodo is the IDE for Python, Perl, PHP, XSLT, Ruby, and several others. Created by ActiveState, Komodo is based on the Mozilla core. ActiveState also produces its own packaged versions of Perl and Python and enjoys quite a bit of success with those. It appears that Perl for many people means the ActiveState package; as for Python, people still recognize the Pythonlabs version by Guido van Rossum as the primary release. Komodo is now available for both Windows and Linux.

BlackAdder, by TheKompany, is based on the work of Phil Thompson, sip, and PyQt, as well as Trolltech's Qt Designer. It brings together everything a developer needs for rapid GUI development with Python and Qt, both on Windows and Linux.

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