Runtime Revolution 2.5 review
Runtime’s Revolution is a state-of-the-art rapid application development (RAD) system that allows anyone who has an interest in writing, designing or creating software to build their own standalone Internet-aware applications.
Revolution provides an easy-to-learn card-based metaphor, as pioneered by Bill Atkinson’s HyperCard, to create applications and custom documents. These cards, which can carry a huge range of media in the form of text, pictures, graphics, movies and sound and objects such as buttons, menus and scrollbars, create a stack that is the shell of your application. All this is held together using Transcript, Revolution’s high-level programming language that provides a huge range of commands and functions to assist in creating object-based code written in what is nearly plain English. Then, using Revolution’s ‘write once, deploy anywhere’ technology, an application written on the Mac can run on Windows, Linux and a number of UNIX OSs.
The release of Revolution 2.5 sees a new tools palette that supports drag-&-drop of objects directly into the workspace. I’m afraid that I still find constructing menus with the Menu Builder cumbersome and difficult. The Animation builder has been dropped and is no longer supported, though older projects that employed the Animation builder will still work under version 2.5.
Since its release in July 2001, Revolution has matured by improving its appearance on all platforms while continually refining and adding to the syntax of the Transcript programming language, which is at the heart of Revolution. For Version 2.5 has 37 new terms in the Transcript language, though most of them are to help you make XML calls for using the XML standard in client-server applications. By using the terminal, Apple Events and AppleScript, the user can extend the Transcript language, and there’s an external SDK available for creating externals that will run from within your Transcript code in lower level languages.
Support for external databases has never been as strong in a high-level authoring tool as it is in Revolution – with ODBC access and scripted connectivity to Oracle, MySQL, PostgreSQL, Valentina and Frontbase that let you automatically display data in text fields.
Revolution can display movies, images or text from any URL. Its strengths in being able to manipulate Internet access are shown by being able to script for FTP upload and download by sending commands to a server; send email via the user’s default email program; script socket support for any internet protocol; and build a client-server application in under ten lines of code.
The arrival of support for Secure Socket Layers (SSL) allows for safe communication across the Internet and will be welcomed by those who use Revolution to build front-ends to an Internet shop to be able to safely transmit financial data. Data can now be encrypted and decrypted for all commerce and secure Revolution applications using industrial-strength encryption.
Revolution Online is a new feature that compliments the documentation contained within Revolution. It allows for the sharing of stacks and resources that can be pulled apart and inspected to help understand many different aspects of using Revolution. It presently has four channels. The Latest News channel delivers the latest news on Revolution, the User Spaces channel allows you to download stacks that other users have posted, while the My Space channel is for uploading stacks to share with the Revolution community. The Learning Center channel contains video tutorials, projects and scripts.
Runtime has positioned the product differently with each release of the different versions of Revolution. The company now serve three different products.
The newest and entry-level product is called Dreamcard, aimed at beginners and intermediate developers. With Dreamcard you can accomplish everything that you can do with Revolution Enterprise, such as building native appearance for programs on any computer; having access to a range of media formats including QuickTime; popular image and sound formats; building point-&-click database access; and scripting text-to-speech. If you want to distribute stacks made with Dreamcard, make sure that you bundle the free Dreamcard player. The Dreamcard player is available for Mac OS X, Classic, Windows, and Linux.
Revolution Studio lets you develop on one platform and build applications that will run on others. Take note: if you buy a Revolution Studio licence for, say, Mac OS X, then Mac OS X is the only platform on which your licence key will work. However, with the flagship Revolution Enterprise, which is aimed at professional developers, your licence key will allow you to do your development work on any supported platform.
The ability to compile royalty-free single-file applications from a single stack for Windows 95, 98, 2000, Me, XP, Mac OS X, Classic, Linux, and nine other flavours of UNIX sets Revolution ahead as a development environment. Add to that correct native appearance and behaviour for all platforms, including Mac OS X, Windows XP themes and Linux GTK themes, and Revolution is presently the best application development package available.