By Jason Brooks  |  Posted 2005-08-08 Print this article Print

RealBasic 2005, the latest in a line of rapid application development products from Real Software Inc., offers organizations the option of quickly developing applications that will run on Windows, Mac OS and Linux—a smart way to preserve platform flexibility going forward.

RealBasic 2005, which includes a large assortment of controls and interface elements, certainly deserves consideration from companies that are interested in achieving broad platform compatibility with minimum effort.

eWEEK Labs tested the Windows and Mac OS versions of the RealBasic 2005 IDE (integrated development environment), both of which began shipping in June.

RealBasic 2005 is available in $99.95 Standard and $399.95 Professional editions. (We tested the Professional Edition.) RealBasic 2005 Professional comes with a bunch of features not found in the Standard Edition, including cross-platform compiling; SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) support; and connectors for database servers including Oracle Corp.s Oracle, Microsoft Corp.s SQL Server, FileMaker Inc.s FileMaker Server and MySQL ABs MySQL.

When the Linux version of RealBasic emerges from beta testing (RealBasic will run on any mainstream Linux distribution), Real Software intends to offer the Standard Edition for Linux for free download, company officials said.

We appreciated the products Web-browser-style interface: The IDE organized the separate components of the applications we built and modified into browser tabs. This enabled us to easily switch, for instance, between dialog windows and menu tool bars by moving among the tabs.

RealBasics Web browser interface, which is new in Version 2005, extends even to back and forward buttons and bookmarks, which made it easier for us to track our place in the application development process.

We also tested a Linux version of the RealBasic IDE, currently available for free download in beta form. The Linux version was nearly identical to the Mac OS and Windows releases. (The IDE is itself written in RealBasic—another first for the 2005 edition.)

We did experience some hang-ups while testing the beta. For example, the RealBasic beta for Linux froze at the point in the installation where the application attempted to automatically fetch an evaluation key.

Later, after wed worked around that issue by manually entering an installation key, we discovered the RealBasic for Linux beta would consistently hang upon running applications in debug mode.

Native interfaces

In tests, we took a sample project that ships with the RealBasic IDE, a simple text editor application, and compiled and ran the project on machines running Windows XP, Mac OS X Tiger and Ubuntu Linux. For each platform, the RealBasic IDEs simple text editor rendered the application using the operating systems native widgets and metaphors. On Mac OS X Tiger, for example, the application used the standard, top-of-the-screen menu bar; on Linux, the application used the GTK2 (GIMP Tool Kit 2) interface elements that make up the GNOME desktop.

New in RealBasic 2005 is a built-in single-user database based on the open-source SQLite database, a good choice because its fast and becoming popular. For example, SQLite is the database project thats the core of Apple Computer Inc.s Core Data application development element in the Tiger release of Mac OS X. Also familiar and welcome to Tiger developers will be RealBasics support for Apples new Spotlight desktop search facility, for searching RealBasic projects on a Mac OS workstation and for plugging into Spotlight from applications developed with RealBasic.

Were happy to see RealBasic 2005 enables developers to plug into Spotlight in this way, but developers must weigh the benefits of this sort of operating-system-specific feature against the decrease in cross-platform compatibility that it entails. Wed like to see a future version of RealBasic include the option of connecting to similar functionality on Windows, perhaps through the Google Desktop, or on Linux, perhaps through that platforms still-infant Beagle search facility.

Real Software offers for free download a utility for converting Visual Basic projects to RealBasic—the syntax and structure of RealBasic and Visual Basic programs are very similar, and although conversion using the Visual Basic-to-RealBasic utility isnt automatic, Real Software officials claim that project conversion requires little tweaking.

The Professional Edition of RealBasic 2005 includes a remote debugging facility that enables developers working on Mac OS X, for instance, to remotely test their application on Windows or Linux.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.

As Editor in Chief of eWEEK Labs, Jason Brooks manages the Labs team and is responsible for eWEEK's print edition. Brooks joined eWEEK in 1999, and has covered wireless networking, office productivity suites, mobile devices, Windows, virtualization, and desktops and notebooks. JasonÔÇÖs coverage is currently focused on Linux and Unix operating systems, open-source software and licensing, cloud computing and Software as a Service. Follow Jason on Twitter at jasonbrooks, or reach him by email at jbrooks@eweek.com.

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