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Issue 2.5

REVIEW

REALbasic 5.5

Issue: 2.5 (May/June 2004)
Author: Marc Zeedar
Article Description: No description available.
Article Length (in bytes): 4,081
Starting Page Number: 9
Article Number: 2504
Related Web Link(s):

http://www.realsoftware.com/

Full text of article...

If you're reading this magazine it's assumed you use REALbasic, but which version? If you're not a full-time developer, you may not have upgraded to 5.5 yet. You're probably wondering if it's worth the upgrade fee.

Every developer has their own needs and priorities, so you'll have to evaluate for yourself if 5.5 is worth the fee. But in this reviewer's opinion, 5.5 is the best version of REALbasic in years and a must-have upgrade.

The last few versions of REALbasic have struggled a bit with schizophrenia, only half-supporting important technologies like Unicode. RB 5 was a dramatic change that broke many old projects causing many users to stick with 4.5, but RB 5.5 feels like a complete release, fully supporting Unicode as well as offering many new features.

A top reason to upgrade is the new StyledText class: if you need to manipulate styled text, especially across platforms, this feature alone is worth the fee (though be warned there are performance issues for Windows and Mac OS Classic).

Next is faster compiling. RB 5's new compiler meant that all projects are now compiled as external applications (meaning the IDE won't crash when your program does), but this was much slower. I'm glad to say that in 5.5, projects compile so much faster that you will no longer miss 4.5. If you do cross-platform development, the new remote debugging feature is almost essential.

RB 5.5 adds a number of useful new classes. There are now built-in systems for handling XML and SOAP, and new Internet classes for easily handling email, networking, and HTTP. There is support for Mac OS X-specific technologies like the Address Book and Keychain (OLE and the Registry are supported under Windows), and the Office Automation classes are now built-in instead of requiring separate plugins. Game developers will like the new Game Input support. There's also the powerful new MessageDialog which replaces the wimpy MsgBox. EditFields now have mask and format properties (for restricting input and displaying values respectively). Any one of these features could be worth the fee if you consider the cost of adding a third-party plugin or writing your own support.

Less glamorous but perhaps more important in the long run, RB 5.5 brings welcome changes to the REALbasic language. Arrays can now be passed as parameters to methods, and parameters can now have default values. The Select Case statement has been much improved. If-Then statements can be put on a single line, making code much more readable.

While I was initially attracted by 5.5's whiz-bang additions, it turned out to be the new language features that made me fall in love with it. The language is just cleaner and makes programming fun. A highly recommend upgrade.

End of article.