3. A Transparent, Flexible Interface

InstantC Command Central

The first part of InstantC that you see is the main frame window, shown below, with the command window occupying its client area. Together, the main frame window's menu (the main menu) and the command window constitute the control center of InstantC.


From both the command window prompt and the main menu, you can invoke the various components of InstantC: you can start up the editor, trace a function and watch variables, browse through the structure of your program, and so on. From here, you issue commands to load, unload, save, and rename program files, start your application, and control its execution. You can also set options here, changing InstantC's behavior and appearance.

The InstantC interface focuses on ease of use, adaptation to your needs, and maximum data visibility. The menu system shows you what you can do in InstantC. You can issue commands either through the menu or at the command window prompt. Context-sensitive on-line help is also available.

As you debug code, various windows will appear in the main frame window's client area along with the command window, displaying code and data relevant to your situation. You control their appearance, with intelligent support from InstantC. InstantC uses a special algorithm to automatically resize the windows as their content changes, so that you always see as much program data as possible, without wasting screen space. You can also manually resize these windows to show more or less data, according to your present needs. InstantC will then remember your window layout and preserve it whenever possible.

Immediate C Expression Evaluation

One of the most interesting and useful aspects of the command window is the fact that you can use it to execute single C statements. When you type an expression, a declaration, or a function call at the command window prompt, InstantC automatically compiles and evaluates it.

The following screen capture illustrates this feature. First we declare and initialize an integer, and increment it two ways. Then we declare a pointer and increment it.


Immediate expression evaluation makes it easy for you to try different approaches to a problem. You can write a function and call it right away to see how it works. Then it's easy to write another function to try another way to accomplish the task, test the new function, and keep the function you like the best. Expression evaluation is also very useful in debugging situations, as we'll see later on.

An Adaptive, Powerful Editor

To create or edit code, you invoke the InstantC editor. The InstantC editor provides the functionality you expect from a programming editor. You can search and replace, do block manipulation, and display and work in multiple buffers and windows. You can undo (and redo) multiple operations. You can customize the keyboard to match your favorite editor. An intelligent window manager adapts to and remembers your preferred screen layouts, and even helps you perfect them. As in the command window, on-line help guides you in using the menu system.

While the editor is running, all other components of InstantC are also accessible to you. You can browse your program structure, obtain cross-references for source elements (the distinguishable program sub-units, such as variable and function declarations, definitions, macros, and typedefs), and quickly edit the files and elements you locate. You can even compile, run, and debug the very code you've edited, without shutting down the editor.

While you're debugging, the code is still displayed and editable, so it's easy to modify the code further whenever execution is suspended. You don't have to remember the improvements you want to make until the program or function has returned. When you've made the changes you want, you can compile the changes, return from the executing version of the function, and immediately call the new, modified version to test itłall without closing the editor or stopping execution.

The following screen capture shows a typical InstantC session, with debugging and analysis tasks being performed while the editor is running.


On-Line Help for Quick Mastery

To help you get the most out of the rich InstantC environment, we have provided on-line help that offers both concise and detailed descriptions of every item in the InstantC main and editor menu systems.

For quick reference, the status bars in the editor and main frame windows display brief descriptions of currently highlighted menu items. In addition, you can display extensive help information about any menu item by highlighting it and pressing F1. A help window will be displayed, with information about what the item does, how to use it, and (for a main menu item) its command prompt equivalent. You can also jump to related topics, access a full glossary of terms used in InstantC, and search for help on other subjects.

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