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SharpDevelop IDE Impresses

Mono continues to add more .NET 2.0 features

The monthly Mono releases are out, 1.0.5 for production use (details at www.gomono.com/archive/1.0.5/), and the development version 1.1.3 (details at www.gomono.com/archive/1.1.3/). The production version has an improved Monodoc, and a half dozen Security fixes. The development version is, again, mainly bug fixes and performance enhancements, with new features mostly in the build system, version 2.0 features, and System.Windows.Forms.

The new build system includes a new bundling utility that takes a .NET program and packages it into a single statically linked .exe. The bundle includes everything you need to run your program, including your program, the runtime, and any required Mono dependencies; no installation of Mono or .NET is needed. The size of the .exe depends on which libraries your program uses and the size of your program; the current minimum size is about 7.5 megabytes, but this is expected to decrease as the tool improves.

Two new C# 2.0 features were added: covariance and contravariance in delegates, and property accessor accessibility. Also, generics are now at beta status and run the complete C5 regression test suite. C5 is the set of generic classes that expand on those included in .NET version 2.0, which was first discussed here back in November (DNDJ Vol. 2, issue11). This means eight out of 13 C# 2.0 features are now supported by Mono, probably more by the time you read this.

New ASP.NET 2.0 features are the System.Configuration namespace, TreeView control, and client callbacks. XML gains XmlSchemaInference, and XmlTextReader gains Entity resolution.

The big optimization this month is the SSA-based partial redundancy elimination added to Mono; check the 1.1.3 release notes for details.

It has been a while since I worked with SharpDevelop. When I last looked, it was a nice, easy to use IDE, bug free (relatively), with most of the features you would expect from a modern IDE. When I wrote about it, I noted that one of the project's goals or philosophies was to write the highest quality code that they could; they even wrote one of my favorite books about it (Dissecting a C# Application: Inside SharpDevelop, ISBN: 1861008171). This project shows how insisting on good quality design and code pays off. In September they released version 1.0, with 1.0.1 and 1.0.2 following in the next two months. Since I last looked, it has blossomed into a polished, more than full-featured IDE. More than full featured, you ask? In addition to features such as syntax coloring, code auto complete, support for C#, Java, VB, VBScript, ASP.NET, ASP, XML, and HTML, and the ability to import/export Visual Studio files, it also includes tools that require a bevy of add-ins for most IDEs. It can convert VB.NET to C# and vice versa, it is integrated with Nunit for testing, and it has a code snippet library tool. Its class wizard creates skeleton code for any interfaces that the class inherits, and creates XML documents for the class; it also has a tool for automatically creating getters and setters for properties. If English is not your native language, the user interface has been translated into many languages, with even more on the way. It even includes an "assembly analyzer," i.e., FXCop on steroids, to verify code quality. These features and more are detailed in the "Feature Tour" at www.icsharpcode.net/OpenSource/SD/Features.aspx. Download the latest version from www.icsharpcode.net/OpenSource/SD/Download/.

NPlot is a full-featured, open source graphing/charting control for .NET. It is polished, and supported graph types include line, bar, CRT, candle, and others. It has 14 types of markers and allows annotations. I noticed that it had an example program that shows how to use the control in C#, but no example for VB.NET. I had just written in the preceding section that SharpDevelop IDE includes a C# to VB.NET converter, and decided to give it a try. I used SharpDevelop to convert the .cs file to VB.NET. After a few manual changes, the program ran, but three charts did not display correctly. I then tried InstantVB, a commercial C# to VB.NET converter from Tangible Software Solutions (www.tangiblesoftwaresolutions.com). The first version I tried required similar manual changes, but less than a hour after reporting the bugs I had a new version that required only two postconversion changes, and the converted program ran correctly. It should be included in the project by the time you read this.

You can see the NPlot control in action on Miguel's blog (http://primates.ximian.com/~miguel/all.html); the NPlot home page is http://netcontrols.org/nplot/.

More Stories By Dennis Hayes

Dennis Hayes is a programmer at Georgia Tech in Atlanta Georgia where he writes software for the Adult Cognition Lab in the Psychology Department. He has been involved with the Mono project for over six years, and has been writing the Monkey Business column for over five years.

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