Imminent release announcement

No, it’s not NGEDIT. It’s ViEmu, and it’s almost ready. Vi editor emulation for Microsoft Visual Studio .NET 2003.

Let me explain myself.

A few weeks ago, an idea struck me – I had a quite large chunk of vi emulation working. And having vi emulation would sure be a great addition for Microsoft Visual Studio (at least for those, like me, who have their fingers hardwired to vi’s input model). I had no experience writing extensions or add-in’s for VS, but it couldn’t be that hard. I gave myself a full afternoon to research it (“whaddayamean, switching to another project before the first is ready?”) and verify it was as good an idea as it seemed.

After two hours, reading a blog comment saying “if I had vi emulation in Visual Studio I’d be in heaven” and reading a note from Microsoft that yes, they had it as a feature for future versions, but no, VS .NET 2005 would not have it, I registered the domain name (actually two, and, I wasn’t sure). I downloaded the VSIP SDK (add-in’s only have limited extension capabilities, you need the VSIP SDK if you really want to shake Visual Studio). And I started hacking at all that COM code.

In a couple of days, I had been able to have a custom package loaded within Visual Studio, and subclassed the editor window. I did have to learn a whole lot of COM programming (I had done some basic COM, but not the kind of COM you have to do in order to talk with a beast like VS – no, I don’t love it more now). I briefly considered C# but went with C++ instead. I did the first experiment with the following thought: “if I can make pressing 0 send the cursor to the beginning of the line, I can do the rest” (0 is the default way to send the cursor to the beginning of the line). I did it, felt great, and went to sleep (it was late).

I then started porting the vi emulation core. You know, the emulation core was written in NGS, the NGEDIT scripting language. I had to port it to C++ (no, I wasn’t going to bring over NGS scripting to Visual Studio). It took a solid four days to port all of it. No, adding the semicolons wasn’t the worst part. The emulation core was nicely separated from the editing core actions implementation, so I only had to implement a few primitives to get it working. The day I finished porting the ViEmu core, a lot of vi started working simultaneously – wonders of porting. I started using ViEmu fulltime to develop itself.

A few weeks later, a lot of vi implementation afterwards (there were many missing things yet in the NGEDIT ViEmu module), ViEmu is now almost ready. Missing things:

  • The preferences section (you wouldn’t believe the COM programming required for a simple dialog with 5 or 6 checkboxes and an edit box – multiple inheritance from twelve base classes is used in MS’s sample code, only one of which is not a template.
  • The installer – you must use MSI installer for it – I have to decode the MSI SDK, which I still haven’t been able to even reliably find for download – I’m waiting to see if I received my recent MSDN Universal subscription and I can better find it there.
  • Solve some small interactions with Intellisense and the undo system. It’s working but there is some tricky case yet.
  • General review of cursor positions after vi commands are performed. Some of them are not the same as with vim, and that should be right for 1.0.
  • And beta testing. I’ve been using it myself for all development and it’s very stable, but I’m only using C++ and a simple one-byte-per-character codepage (even if VS uses UCS-2 Unicode internally). I’ll do some basic testing on Visual Basic or C#, but not the kind of testing someone who is actually developing does.

Ok, so, my expected timeframe is quite short. I definitely want to release it before the end of July. I also have to set up the web page and e-commerce system, but I don’t expect many problems with that. I expect to finish the development tasks listed above this week, and I want to run beta-testing as soon as the installer is ready (I need to deliver the beta itself as an installable package).

So, if you would like to beta test ViEmu, please drop me a line. I’m planning a quite small beta testing group. I’m mostly looking for people who use languages other than C++, codepages other than the usual US/Western Europe one, and Windows versions different from Windows 2K and Windows XP.

Someone who writes VB applications in Korean on a Windows Millenium machine would be a dream come true 🙂

I hope it will work with any left-to-right writing system (I don’t have any idea how it will perform with Arab or Hebrew bidirectional writing, and I’m not delaying 1.0 until that is ok).

Leaving out the vi/vim command line, which is not emulated, almost all of vi/vim input is emulated (including visual selection modes, etc). I’ll make available a full list of emulated features.

It is not compatible with Whole Tomato Software’s Visual Assist. I’m looking into it, but I’m not sure it will be fixed by 1.0, maybe a bit later.

Porting to VS 2005 is on the radar, of course, but 1.0 will be for VS .NET 2003. VS 2005 is only beta yet, actually.

And, rest assured, I’ll come back to NGEDIT after ViEmu is released.

6 Responses to “Imminent release announcement”

  1. Lee Says:

    I’m curious, are you working full time on your ngedit? If you are then a small post on how you fund yourself, goals, and aspirations would be cool.


  2. J Says:

    Hi Lee. Thanks for the interest. I’m actually working part time on NGEDIT/ViEmu. I have a “day job” which pays the bills, although it leaves me quite a lot of time to work in NGEDIT. My “day job” position has a certain visibility, which is why I don’t give too many details. I look forward to go full-time with NGEDIT, ViEmu, and several other projects I have planned for the future – I expect to bring other developers in as the venture generates revenue. And, I’m purely “bootstrapping” – I don’t want investors, or even partners. I’ll only grow organically, lots of work, but no partner or investor conflicts – I’m really really tired of such problems.

    To wit, in order to fund it, I’m living on peanuts 🙂

  3. Lee Says:

    Hi J,

    Keep up the good work, I enjoy reading your blog. Good luck with your venture!!


  4. Aitor Says:

    Hi there!,

    Are you planning a Linux/Mac release? If not you are going to left many of us without enjoying NGEDIT.

    BTW, great blog. I’m eager to the release day and to know who are you… 😉

  5. J Says:

    Aitor, I don’t have your email address, please drop me a line. Best!

  6. Aitor Says:

    Here you have it.

Leave a Reply