Thursday, April 22, 2010

"Page-Locking" or "multiply Editor-Windows (part 2)"

Following up the article about "Using multiply Editor-Windows", let's look at some more advanced scenarios.

You may want to use two editors, so that one shows you the interface of your class, while in the second you can work on the implementation of it.

The only thing is, once you have carefully positioned the first editor, you must always make sure, that you don't move it by accident. If it gets focus and you trigger a jump-to-implementation (or a jump to history/bookmark in this file), it will move away from your chosen location and you have to re-position it again.

This is where page-locking comes in. You can tell Lazarus, that it shouldn't move this editor away from your chosen location. The context menu has an entry "Lock Page" which will toggle the lock for the page. If the page is locked the entry in the context menu has a checked mark, and the editor tab will show an "#" in front of the file-name. (The command can also be assigned to the keyboard.)

Once your page is locked, Lazarus will no longer move it to other locations. You can still go to the editor and use the cursor keys or page up/down to reposition it. But if you try to jump between interface and implementation, go to declaration, bookmarks, etc, the IDE will automatically change to the other editor showing this file and move the other editor to the location you want to see.

So now in the example with the class declaration in one window, you can choose any method declaration of the class in the fixed window, and then trigger a jump to it's implementation. And it will always end you up in the 2nd window, in which you want to edit the code.

But what if you are in the 2nd window and jump back to the interface of your class? You don't need to have both windows showing the same code. By default Lazarus will recognize that your first (locked) window, already displays the interface. And the IDE will take you back to this first window.
Lazarus offers you some settings, to change this behaviour, if you like a different behaviour. (See Options / Editor / Multi Window)

And what happens if you accidentally lock an editor that has no 2nd view of the file? or you lock all editors of a given file? If that happens, Lazarus will open a new editor in a new tab (in an existing or even in a new window) for you. And if you don't like that, you can change the options so lazarus will ignore the locks, if this case arises.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Using multiply Editor-Windows

During development a programmer encounters many different tasks. Some of them require you to work locally on the implementation of a single method. Code completion and hints can provide you with anything you need to know about other methods or objects that you access.

Other work requires you to frequently work on many different places in your code. Refactoring is a good example:
  • Comparing different methods side by side to find duplication.
  • Extracting functionality and moving it to a new location. Viewing both locations at the same time.
  • Changing the interface of your class, viewing interface and implementation next to each other

Multiply Windows

Lazarus can now open as many Source-Editor-Windows as you want, and you can freely move files between them.

Each Window offers you the same functionality as the current Source-Editor-Window. Each window can hold one or more files, accessible through editor-tabs.

You can move a file by using the context menu and selecting "Move to new Window".
Once you have more than one Window open, you can also choose "Move to other Window".

Or you can drag and drop the editor tabs between the windows. If you prefer using the keyboard, you can assign your own key-shortcuts.

If you often have a window with just one tab open, you may find it helpful to hide the tab header and get more space for the editor. An option to do so can be found on the misc editor options.

Editing the same file in multiply Windows.

Sometimes it is not enough to view two different units side by side. Sometimes you need to see different parts of the same unit.

Lazarus can do that too. You can open as many editors for the same file as you want.
Choose "Copy to new Window" from the context menu. Or once you have several windows open drag and drop while pressing the CTRL key.

How it works:

Lazarus will keep one single instance of the file open. This instance is shared by all the editors that you opened for this file.
If you type in one editor, the changes are always made in all open editors at the same time.

Actions like saving or reverting your code always act on the file. It does not matter in which of the opened editors you trigger them, they will affect all the editors that display the file.

Other actions are done per editor. For example you can select a different block of text in each editor, and the selection(s) will be kept while you can edit the text in an other editor.


Lazarus only allows you one copy of a file per window. You can not have two tabs with the same file in the same Window. But you can open as many windows as you like, each having one copy of the file.

Undo information is combined for all editors of a file.
For example: Modify a file in one editor, then do further modifications in another editor. Now go back to the first editor. If you press undo in the first editor, it will first undo the changes of the other editor, before undoing the changes you applied in this editor.

This is necessary to avoid conflicts. If you had inserted text in the first editor and then deleted this text in the 2nd editor, it would be impossible for the first editor to undo the insert, because the inserted text is no longer there.

A word about adding more windows to Lazarus.

Many people feel that the Lazarus IDE already has to many Windows, and efforts should be made to reduce the amount. So why adding even more Windows?

Very simple. Using multiply Windows did offer the highest amount of flexibility for now. Having to implement all this with splitters inside a single window would have added serious amounts of extra work or more likely cut-backs on the flexibility of this feature.

Once Lazarus will have docking, the Source-Editor-Windows will benefit from this as well.
On top of that there is of course room to think about specific optimizations, such as splitting a single tab, for two views of the same file. When and if this will be done, remains to be seen.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Delphi Converter

The converter has improved during past few months. The main focus has been in Delphi project conversion. Delphi package conversion should get most of the same improvements automatically but it is not tested much.

I think Delphi converter is a very important piece of Lazarus because new people coming from Delphi often want to try it. They get their first impression of Lazarus from it.
When I started to learn Lazarus last year, it was one of the first things to test. Then it failed to convert most projects. Its quality was not equal to the rest of Lazarus.

On February 2010 I got write access to SVN trunk converter directory. I made the converter code more object oriented. Using object member variables instead of function parameters made it easier to extend the code later. I refactored the code heavily, actually more than really necessary, partly to organize it better and partly to learn what it does.

The initial dialog shows there are three possible targets for the conversion:
* "Lazarus/LCL" -- One way conversion.
* "Lazarus/LCL for Windows only" -- Does not remove or convert windows specific unit names.
* "Both Lazarus/LCL and Delphi" -- Tries to maintain the code compatible with both Delphi and Lazarus using conditional compilation.

Source file conversion

Initially the main goal was to reduce messageboxes and other notifications. Converting a big Delphi project was not realistic because there were so many messages. Now useless questions are removed and notifications go to IDE messagewindow.

Earlier it was possible to comment out not-found unit names in USES section. Now that is extended. The user can either comment them out or search for a unit path during conversion. If the units are found, their path is added to project settings. If user chooses to comment them out, the same units are then commented automatically in following source files.

Used unit names can also be replaced by other unit names. Regular expression syntax for replacement is supported.

Form file conversion

The other big part of conversion is the DFM form file conversion. Some properties of Delphi components do not exist in the equivalent LCL components. They can be deleted, either automatically or interactively.
A bigger problem are Delphi components which don't exist in LCL at all. It is important to replace them with a "fall-back" LCL component, especially if they are containers and have more components inside them.
Now the components can be replaced and regular expression syntax is supported, just like for unit name replacement.


The converter is not ready yet. These are some issues and problems I must solve.

Replacement names for both units and components are hard-coded. Soon they will be stored in a XML configuration file and the user can edit them.

A complex codetools function CheckLFM is used for scanning the form file. It stops working when there are errors in source. There are often errors in a unit under conversion so this is a problem.
I must study and fix the codetools functions or even replace them with something.

Replacing a component with a "fall-back" LCL component leads to more unknown properties. It must be solved somehow.