Could Your Productivity Use a Boost?

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Old habits can be hard to break, but sometimes it's worth the effort.


Are you as productive in your programming as you could be? If you're still using the same toolset you used five or 10 (or more) years ago (i.e., PDM, SEU, SDA, and a green-screen debugger), then almost certainly not. Maybe it's time you gave some modern tools a try.


Don't get me wrong: I'm not a person who jumps on every bandwagon that comes along. Far from it. In fact my partner, Jon, would be the first to tell you that I like to sit back and wait for him to stop muttering darkly under his breath before I try any new software. I use green-screens for many things in my daily work. Just because it's graphical or colorful or workstation-based doesn't necessarily make it a more productive way to work. Sometimes, however, new tools can open up a whole new way of doing your job that makes your life easier and makes you more productive. That's why I don't use SEU anymore. I now use RSE in WDSC (Remote System Explorer, currently packaged within the WebSphere Development Studio Client for System i toolset).


It took me a while to feel comfortable with using workstation tools for editing and debugging code. At first I felt clumsy; surely I couldn't be more productive when everything felt so foreign! After all, I was very good at SEU, having used it for decades.


Eventually, though, I began to reduce the number of times I thought, "I don't know how to do x with this new editor," and began to notice how many things I could do faster and easier with the new tools. Sometimes I discovered (often with the help of more experienced users) that I didn't need to do x because I could do y instead, and it was much faster and easier. Before long, I noticed that on the few occasions I had to go back to using SEU (while away from my own workstation) I greatly missed the features that I had unwittingly become accustomed to with the new tools. In fact, it is now frustrating to go back to using SEU. I feel as if I am walking through mud; everything takes so long.


These days, I'm not just an RSE user; I'm one of RSE's most devoted fans and supporters. That's why at the RPG & DB2 Summit events, I always teach RSE sessions alongside those on RPG and DB2. That's also why I'll be spending the afternoon before the Summit main event begins teaching the "WDSC/RSE Jump Start Workshop" and why I developed a "cheat sheet" of our favorite keyboard shortcuts to share with our RSE students.


It seems that my experience learning RSE is not unique; lots of people are looking for help getting started. Last fall, on a whim, we mentioned to our mailing list that our "Favorite Keyboard Shortcuts for WDSC" was available for free download at Hundreds of people clicked through to download the document, and many asked us to send them hard copies.


And here's another gauge. Of the 10 technical sessions I taught at the last Summit event in Minneapolis, only two of them were about RSE. However, over 70 percent of the emails I received after the event were from attendees who subsequently installed and began using RSE. Most emails were asking specific questions, but a few were simply grateful that I had convinced them to give it a try.


Maybe you should, too. Give RSE a try and see if your productivity doesn't improve. It will take some patience and perseverance at first. But I suspect many of you will eventually find, as I did, that breaking some old habits can be a very productive thing to do.


At our next RPG & DB2 Summit (Orlando, March 11-13), we will offer even more RSE sessions alongside those on RPG and DB2, along with the "WDSC/RSE Jump Start Workshop." The half-day pre-conference workshop is intended to give attendees a head start on successfully installing RSE and getting started quickly. I intend to give the attendees the benefit of my experience to help them avoid a few things that I bumped my head into when getting started and to point out a few goodies that I wish I had known in the beginning.


In the main Summit conference, the RSE sessions include two of my favorites. One named "Bye, Bye, SEU: Time to Kick the Habit?" is aimed at demonstrating some of the specific reasons to leave SEU behind. "RSE Jump Start: First Steps" contains a subset of the workshop material aimed at installation and initial startup hints and tips. I'll be covering the graphical debugger integrated with RSE as part of my session entitled "Debugging Tools for RPGers."


IBM's George Farr will be with us for the Summit keynote session, and he will also lead a session on the newly announced RDi (Rational Developer for System i) toolset. The great news in that announcement is that RSE is the heart of RDi, IBM's new replacement for the WDSC toolset. In the new toolset, RSE gets improved performance and some great new features, such as a screen designer and a graphical application diagram tool.


In addition to my sessions, Aaron Bartell will deliver "WDSC Tidbits of Goodies," sharing his favorite RSE features in the energetic and offbeat style that is uniquely his. At the Summit event in Minneapolis last October, we organized an informal evening gathering that Aaron volunteered to lead to talk about some of his favorite RSE tips in a casual atmosphere. Instead of the handful of attendees that we had expected, the hotel hospitality suite had standing room only and nearly overflowed into the hallway. A substantial proportion of the Summit attendees in Minneapolis were interested enough to spend an extra hour of their time in the evening, most standing or sitting on the floor, to glean some tips about using RSE. That's when we decided that we must find more room in the agenda for WDSC and RSE sessions at the Summit.


Of course, RPG & DB2 Summit is about much more than WDSC and RSE. With over 50 technical sessions in the three-day main event, there's a wide variety of sessions on RPG programming techniques, ILE, system APIs, interfacing RPG with Java and PHP, and exploiting and optimizing SQL. The agenda strives to address the many aspects of a modern RPG developer's needs.


In addition to System i Developer regulars Paul Tuohy, Skip Marchesani, and Jon Paris, I will be joined by experts from IBM such as George Farr, Barbara Morris, Kent Milligan, and Michael Cain along other industry leaders such as Scott Klement, Bob Luebbe, and Bruce Vining.


We at System i Developer, hosts of the RPG & DB2 Summit, would like to help you break a few old habits. Even if you can't make it to the Summit in Orlando, we'd like to offer you a copy of our "Favorite Keyboard Shortcuts for WDSC" tip sheet to put up next to your workstation to help you out when finding your way through the RSE editor. Visit our Web site, where you can download a PDF, or better yet, request via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. your very own color-card hard copy of the tip sheet.

Susan Gantner

Susan Gantner's career has spanned over 30 years in the field of application development. She began as a programmer, developing applications for corporations in Atlanta, Georgia, and working with a variety of hardware and software platforms. She joined IBM in 1985 and quickly developed a close association with the Rochester laboratory during the development of the AS/400 system. She worked in Rochester, Minnesota, for five years in the AS/400 Technical Support Center. She later moved to the IBM Toronto Software Laboratory to provide technical support for programming languages and AD tools on the AS/400 and iSeries.

Susan left IBM in 1999 to devote more time to teaching and consulting. She co-authored one of the most popular System i Redbooks ever, Who Knew You Could Do That with RPG IV? She and partner Jon Paris make up Partner400, a consulting company focused on education and mentoring services related to application modernization. Susan is also part of System i Developer, a consortium of top educators on System i technology who produce the RPG & DB2 Summit events. Its members include Jon Paris, Paul Tuohy, Skip Marchesani, and Susan Gantner.



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