FutureBASIC^3 Release 5 full review

A year after the first public release, FutureBASIC^3 (FB) from Staz Software has arrived at version 5. FB is a suite of programs for developing Macintosh applications, combining the power and versatility of modern programming languages with the simplicity of BASIC. FB allows the user to choose the most appropriate programming technique. Beginners can write programs using a simplified runtime, Console, without having to worry about things like the graphical user interface (GUI) or printing. Power users can choose between the Standard runtime, the Mac Toolbox runtime – which allows the development of tiny applications without any of the more complex built-in functions – or the Object runtime. Code read
In the latest release, two new runtimes are available. The Appearance runtime implements all the new GUI features. The Game Engine runtime is a powerful OpenGL framework to develop 3D applications – principally, games. Additionally, expert users can change part of the code that carries out the BASIC statements, in order to adapt them to a particular need, or to handle new features of the operating system. Those who have already used BASIC will be happy to know that – compared to visual environments – it’s very simple to convert BASIC programs to FutureBASIC. While it’s not yet possible to build shared libraries, expert users will find plenty of opportunities to enhance applications. There is the possibility ofincluding 680x0 or PowerPC assembly statements directly in the source code, or to call upon shared libraries. FB enables the beginner to write his or her first application in a short time; the syntax is much simpler than C or Java, while remaining fast and powerful. The BASIC statements in the Standard Runtime allow the novice to build, with just a few lines of code, functions that are usually much more difficult to implement in C (such as the handling of the GUI and the file I/O) without noticeable loss of speed in the final application. It’s possible to develop every kind of application for the Mac. Access to the Toolbox is, at last, complete: thousands of procedures and functions are directly available in the language. The learning curve for the Mac Toolbox isn’t too steep, since the programmer can mix FutureBASIC keywords with Toolbox calls. The only disappointment is the lack of support for Mac OS X, which, for now, is only assured from X’s Classic. Staz is currently working on a Carbon runtime. The Editor is a powerful tool that displays the different elements of the source code with the possibility for full personalization of the presentation. The Project Manager – from which can be accessed the different files present in a project, and any particular function inside those files – also adds to the ease of use. The Editor is a pleasure to use. Keywords and the names of Toolbox calls are automatically highlighted when typing. The source code is immediately aligned with colour lines associated to structures – such as IF and ENDIF – and it’s even possible to insert pictures and bookmarks in the source code. In addition, the Editor supports external tools through its plug-in architecture. The Compiler is the gem at the heart of the program – it’s fast, efficient and robust. With regard to speed and compactness, the generated apps are comparable with the most esteemed (and more expensive) compilers for C and C++. The tools available to support the programmer are extremely useful: the Debugger provides several handy features for tracking program flow and the values of variables at runtime; whereas the Profiler and the Frequency Analyzer are optimizing tools that measure the performance of programs. Beginners, after having learned to write the first simple BASIC programs, can develop their first complete Macintosh application using the Program Generator – a GUI builder. Program Generator produces a full-featured functional shell using the Standard runtime, from which you can start serious projects in no time. The rich electronic documentation shows the features of the different parts of the development environment and the syntax of the BASIC statements. It also introduces beginners to programming secrets, and provides technical info – such as Libraries and Toolbox calls.
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