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Programming Environments

LISP Pointers
Volume I, Number 1
April-May 1987

Programming Environments
page 38

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Documentation:   on-line form. The on-line documentation can be accessed from the editor, or from the command processor (see below) in an ordinary Lisp T listener. There is also a Document Examiner pane to provide more powerful services when you're reading documentation: you can browse through the overviews of sections, move through the hierarchical structure of the documentation, search for keywords and substrings and so on, set bookmarks, examine Tables of Contents, make hardcopies of particular sections of documents, click on cross-references to see referenced documentation sections, and so on. All of the documentation has been written (or rewritten) to be amenable to on-line access; for example, it avoids saying things like "see below". (Ability to add new documentation didn't make it into 7.0, but will be made available in a separate set of "writer's tools" that will be available before 8.0.)

Performance analysis:   (Currently there are only minimal tools for performance analysis. We agree that this is an important area. We're working on a new metering facility; I've been using the prototype in-house and it's going to be great.)

Further tools:   There's a command processor that provides a convenient user interface for lots of things. It supplies command completion, context-sensitive help, argument prompting and history and type checking, etc. There's an "input editor" so that you can use editor commands to edit your input whenever you're typing anything; it also lets you "yank" in previous input and edit it for re-execution, or move text between the editor and the input context. There's a tool called "Frame-Up" that lets you interactively design window frames for interactive applications. The "Peek" tool lets you see what's going on inside the system: the status of processes, windows, network connections, meters, and so on. "Zmail" is a window-based mail reader with advanced capabilties. There's also a Mailer daemon for delivery of mail, supporting mailing lists, domain addressing, and so on. The "Converse" utility lets you send messages between people in real-time, maintaining multiple conversations separately, useful in any office environment whether for programming or not. The "Flavor Examiner" is a window-based tool for examining flavors and the relationships between them. Sorry to be so brief but there's so much software that it would take a long time to begin to describe it all; see the "Symbolics Technical Summary".

Comments:   The survey has focused largely on tools. Programming is also made substantially easier by facilities provided to the programmer in the form of libraries of functions, macros, and so on. For example, it's easy to write a new network protocol that will operate over a wide range of networks, transparently, because of Genera's "generic network system" substrate software. It's easy to write an interactive user interface because of the user interface management system, which ties together commands, redisplay, mouse-sensitivity, argument processing, various parts of window handling, scrolling, and so on; this uniform structure also helps encourage consistent user interface conventions. Because of Genera 7.0's "table" feature, it`s easier to build assocative data structures because the system automatically choose the most efficient representation (linear search, hash table, etc). And the ephemeral garbage collector makes programming easier because you can do some consing without worrying nearly as much about the cost. It's hard to separate out what constitutes "environment"!

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