I had NVIDIA’s FX Composer installed on my PC for a long time now, as part of my development tools, but rarely used it after installing it.
Usually, when I want to experiment with a new shader, I boot up XNA GS, add a random model to the scene, add a new Effect file, apply the Effect on the model, and then start experimenting with the shader code.
Today, I decided to implement a idea I had for next month’s sample, but instead of going my usual route, I decided to click the FX Composer icon. After about 5 minutes of figuring out the menus and various operations you can do, I was in shader-prototyping heaven.
For a simple comparison: you probably know how when writing native DirectX/OpenGL applications, you have to write some window management code and game loop code before you can get to writing your game, while XNA GS simply lets you write the game. This is exactly what FX Composer does for me.
You can go directly to writing your shader, without bothering with scene management and objects. The changes you make to the shaders are reflected in the rendering window with a single click, and it even provides toolbar buttons to add some basic models in the scene and test your shaders on them. (and that’s a giant understatement of the features available in FX Composer)
The only thing I would like improved at this moment is some IntelliSense-like features beyond simple syntax highlighting. But given the fact that even in Visual Studio you have notepad-like features for shaders (unless you use InteliShade), I’ll take what is given to me.
So I wholeheartedly recommend FX Composer to anyone interested in shader prototyping/development. It’s a great tool.