REALbasic 5.5

REALbasic 5.5 is the latest version of Real Software’s cross-platform development environment that brings over 100 new features, improved performance, new language features, IDE (Integrated Development Environment) improvements as well as support for the creation of command-line applications and ‘faceless’ server applications. It is possible to build applications for Mac OS 9, OS X, Windows, and Linux. Now that REALbasic sports a Linux compiler, developers working on the Mac or under Windows can build applications that run on Red Hat Enterprise, SuSE Linux distributions and other Linux distributions that have the GTK+ 2.0 and CUPS libraries. Version 5.5 lets users build applications using Mach-O, the native format for Mac OS X. This means that as Apple does optimizations to make software run faster, it will be doing that for Mach-O. You can now call routines in system frameworks that were previously only accessible via a plug-in. It also means that using Mach-O, you can now create console and service applications with REALbasic. A console application is one that has no user interface and takes its instructions on the command line. On Mac OS X this means that your application runs within the Terminal. On Windows it runs from the command prompt, and on Linux it runs from the command-line or a terminal window. A service application is a special type of console application that is meant to run even with no users logged in, allowing services such as REALbasic FTP and HTTP servers to be built. Size matters
Geoff Perlman, Real Software’s CEO, has said that eventually REALbasic will ‘slice and dice’, leaving out parts of the framework that the application does not use – making for even more reductions in the final application size. But never mind the size – the time it takes to compile large applications has also been improved. Real Software says that version 5.5 is up to ten times faster than its predecessor. There is now access to SOAP services with REALbasic 5.5. A SOAP service lets users call a remote method or function in a REALbasic application giving it access to live data such as stock prices, football scores and weather information. These methods can work hand in hand with the new XML parser and generator that allows for the writing and reading of XML data in just a few lines of code. IPC (Inter Process Communication) sockets are another new feature. They behave in much the same way as a TCPsocket does with the exception that they are for local communication only. It does mean that you can start getting your REALbasic applications communicating with each other. Real Software has also introduced ‘easier to use’ networking classes. The basis behind these is to provide the user with easy access to a protocol that allows the sending and receiving of arbitrary messages. If you’ve ever wanted to write a networked application or applications that ‘self-discover’ each other on a local network, you’ll notice that networking under version 5.5 has never been easier. Database revamp
The single-user database engine that has always shipped with REALbasic has been replaced with a new, rewritten version. In the new REAL database, tables, columns and indexes may be added and dropped without losing or having to recopy the existing data. The new database now supports a subset of SQL/92 and SQL/99 and transactions for both schema and data changes. As in the SQL standard, a transaction is started automatically when changes are made to the database, and ended by a ‘commit’ or ‘rollback’ statement. An SQLSelect statement returns a dynamic cursor that lets you move forwards, backwards or jump to the start or end of the returned records. The new database engine is now also included in the REALbasic standard edition. Integration with Microsoft Office applications has depended on the use of a plug-in. According to Real Software, this caused a lot of operational overhead. Version 5.5 introduces five built-in classes related to Office. Now, the syntax used to incorporate Office applications is almost identical to Visual Basic for Applications without using a plug-in. The message box is no longer the preferred method for dialogs. A new messageDialog class has been introduced, which employs a message, explanation, title, icon and a number of buttons. The dialog has been designed to be as platform compliant as possible. Under the Mac OS, for instance, if the dialog shows in the background the notification manager will inform the user that it has appeared. On Windows, the order of the buttons is more consistent with what users on that platform would expect. REALbasic’s language gets some changes and improvements: You can pass and return single and multidimensional arrays to and from a method, and new methods have been added for array-creation and -manipulation. Try and Catch blocks take some of the stress out of exception handling. One of the most welcome features is the new line-continuation character (_) to wrap long lines of code.


Macworld’s buying advice REALbasic is aimed not just at professional developers who make their living out of code but also at beginners who want to get started making their own software. Real Software seems to have got the pricing right compared to the other development environments on offer, and has started to address the needs of beginners with the improved on-line help and tips system. However, it still needs to spend more time providing examples and tutorials that take the beginner by the hand on how to use the myriad of classes that are now available.

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