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Book Review: The Remote System Explorer


This book speaks directly to the thousands of IBM i programmers who develop in RPG, COBOL, CL, and DDS every day.

Written by Susan Gantner

Whether you're an RSE neophyte, an experienced RSE user, or still a dyed-in-the-wool SEU user wondering if there's a better way, you should read this book. It does an excellent job of covering the basics while still offering many tips and details beyond the basics that even I didn't know--despite having used RSE for years.

The authors--Don Yantzi and Nazmin Haji--are both part of the IBM development team that produces RSE, so it's hard to find anyone who knows the toolset better. But this doesn't read like any IBM reference manual. Its conversational tone is free of "IBMese." While the authors aren't RPG developers, it's obvious from the content of this book that they've spent a lot of time talking with RPG programmers to try to understand what issues are relevant to their productivity.

One thing I especially like about this book is its focus. It doesn't attempt to cover the gamut of tools available in WDSC or RDi SOA. Instead, it sharply focuses specifically on the Remote System Explorer and the perspectives and tools closely related to it (such as Projects and the Debugger), tools that are targeted to the thousands of IBM i programmers who develop in RPG, COBOL, CL, and DDS every day. By limiting their focus to the RSE tools only, the authors can cover them in great detail and the entire book is more relevant to a far larger audience.

You won't learn how to create a Web service, how to get your DDS screens to appear in a browser screen, or how to write Web applications in EGL by reading this book. You will, however, learn how to be far more productive when editing your host-based application programs. Don and Nazmin will guide you through editor features, such as customizing tab-key stops, filtering lines of code based on selected text or change date, and filtering commented-out lines of code. You'll learn how the Outline View can save you tons of time by providing individual field and subroutine/subprocedure definitions and cross-reference information while you're editing. The book provides tips to help you navigate through your source quickly by using the Outline View, various types of location marks you can set yourself, and many other techniques. And you will learn to say goodbye to compile listings because any errors that occur during a compile (or a local verify) will appear in the error list. Double-clicking on any of the errors in the list positions you in the editor to the line where the error occurred.

For those who already use RSE and know about all those already, I suspect that you will find, as I did, that there are many, many other tips you can pick up from Don and Nazmin. Despite being an RSE user for years, I picked up insights into taking advantage of features such as filter pools and profiles, along with useful keyboard shortcuts galore. Almost every chapter comes with a troubleshooting section at the end. After all, we're working with a tool that doesn't run on IBM i, so troubleshooting is an inevitable requirement!

While the book focuses on RSE, it doesn't matter which version of RSE you're using--either the "free" version of RSE in WDSC (Version 7.0) or the newer version of RSE in RDi or RDi SOA (Version 7.1).  There are not many differences in function, and the authors address differences in the two current versions of the toolset in the few places where they exist.

Many conference attendees and students in our private classes have asked my partner, Jon Paris, and me, "When are you going to write a book on RSE?" Our answer has always been, "As soon as we can find the time." Now our answer has become, "There's no need. The RSE book has already been written by Don and Nazmin."

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