The Road to Developing InterSystems’ IDE Strategy for the Future - InterSystems


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The Road to Developing InterSystems’ IDE Strategy for the Future

If you’re part of the InterSystems Developer Community you may have already seen Raj Singh’s post back in April announcing that InterSystems would be joining the open source community for the InterSystems ObjectScript extension to Visual Studio Code (VS Code).

With the GitHub-hosted project now underway, as a member of the project management committee I want to give you an update on our efforts and a deeper insight into how this will support InterSystems’ future IDE strategy.

InterSystems has been joined by a host of other businesses and developers, including myself at George James Software, collaborating to bring the extension to maturity. At the time of writing this, version 0.8 of the extension is available and 0.9 is due out soon. The current version has already grown in capabilities, and as open source the whole community is able to participate in furthering its progress.

Using VS Code in modern development environments

VS Code itself comes from a very dynamic open source project which is extensively resourced by Microsoft and consistently releases new versions approximately every month.

With the advent of an InterSystems-backed extension fully supported by the Worldwide Response Center (WRC) from version 1.0, InterSystems customers will soon have an attractive path forward from the current development tools, namely Atelier and Studio. For those developers who use Studio, the VS Code ObjectScript extension should be viewed as a cross-platform alternative rather than a replacement, and as yet it doesn’t have all of the same features. However, VS Code will supersede Atelier, with users of that tool being encouraged to migrate.

The new extension is intended to satisfy the needs of developers who are new to InterSystems technology – as well as those who have used it for a long time – by providing a development environment that is familiar, richly featured and powerful, as well as giving access to new modern tools. For example, the ObjectScript extension for VS Code will allow developers to combine one extension with others, which is proving to be a source of great interest for the InterSystems developer community. At this stage in the project the VS Code extension is already being used in DevOps and Continuous Development, showing itself to be a natural fit when integrated in those environments.

With the advent of Visual Studio Codespaces, and its cousin GitHub Codespaces, the VS Code extension will soon allow InterSystems developers to engage in collaborative programming, even enabling them to edit from a browser without having to install anything on their device. We will be able to work in remotely provisioned environments in new and exciting ways.

A community effort

As is the case with many open source projects, the VS Code extension’s roots lie in previous extensions. We are grateful to many different people who have invested their time and effort into earlier iterations, enabling us to be in such a strong position with it today.

Additionally, the project is a real reminder of the new capabilities and tools that can arise from within the open source community, with those from different organisations coming together to further the efforts. At George James Software, we are building extensions that will sit alongside the InterSystems-endorsed extension in order to help build out the developer ecosystem and accommodate a wider range of users. We see this as a good business opportunity.

Unsurprisingly, many long-standing users of any type of software technology are likely to be reluctant to change their development model without good reason. And while previous tools such as Atelier didn’t provide this impetus, I hope more developers will feel motivated to adopt VS Code augmented by InterSystems-focused extensions.

The VS Code ObjectScript project is gaining a lot of momentum, and anyone is welcome to contribute to improving it, whether that’s through logging issues, providing suggestions, or submitting code pull requests. This momentum is already helping us towards the goal of releasing version 1.0 of the VS Code ObjectScript extension later this year but we’d welcome anyone to join us along the way!

John Murray

John Murray is Senior Product Engineer at George James Software. He has worked with InterSystems products and their ancestors for more than thirty years.
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