Learning python… again

An interesting side effect of deciding to quit
programming for food
is that I’ve started to program for fun
again. Since a set of laws is, at it’s core, just a gigantic set of
large documents, much interesting stuff can be done by textual
processing of this body of work. And so I’m writing some python code
to fetch all current swedish laws, the preparation documents for them,
and verdicts referencing them, in order to semantically mark them all
up and cross-reference the hell out of them. It’s been surprisingly
fun so far.

So, why python? Since I’m more proficient in C# or Perl, it would
make more sense to use any of these languages. Well, C# in particular
is a very sensible language, with a very useful class library. But,
you know, it’s just not that fun. There’s something about the
whitespace-sensitivity of python that just feels good. And since I no
longer have to worry about marketable programming skills, that’s what
I’m going to use.

But one aspect of the sensibility of C# and the .Net programming
platform is that the tools are really really (really) good. Visual
Studio’s integration of the class libraries (incl intellisense),
documentation and debugging is first-class. Sure, the editor might not
be as powerful as Emacs, but that’s really only a small part of the

And so I’ve been searching for a good IDE for python
development. So far I’ve tried, and rejected, the following:

Free with a download of ActivePython.
No integrated class browsing or intellisense-like features, and no
easy access to documentation.
Visual Python
This is a plugin to Visual Studio, which to me makes a lot of
sense, and it does a lot of things right. What brings it down for me
is the lack of help and autocompletion for built-in types like strings
and the lack of an Immediate pane during debugging. It’s also way to
expensive for me to buy personally.
This is a standalone commercial IDE with an affordable personal
use price. Here, the main dealbreaker is the lack of class library
integration and a slow editor. The class browser also leaves much to
be desired (it’s more of a symbol browser, relly).

So, if none of these passed my test, what am I using? Well, I gave up
on the whole IDE thing and decided to just use Emacs. With some help
from Pontus, I got
python-mode.el to behave enough that I’m comfortable enough to get
some stuff done. The py-help-at-point command does most of what
integrated documentation would do, and for the time being I’ll have to
browse the class library over here with
Mozilla instead. And use printf-debugging. It worked ten years ago, it
should work now as well.

I do intend to test WingIDE and BlackAdder,
but since they’re both commercial and not that affordable for a
student, they have to be really really good for me to choose them over
my current Emacs solution.