Borland's development tool is thorough but not easy to learn.
If Borland Software Corp.s JBuilder 9 was a single flower of java- focused development technology, the companys August debut release of its new C#Builder is an entire rainforest of enterprise application life-cycle tools. The result is a complete system with a tool in every niche. However, C#Builder is not a product that lends itself to the quick and intuitive mastery that has previously been the hallmark of Borland environmentsincluding both JBuilder and the companys flagship, Pascal-based Delphi.
C#Builder Enterprise 1
More than just a C# development environment, the Enterprise edition of Borlands new .Net tool set demonstrates effective integration of the tools that the company has been busily acquiring of lateand also suggests determination to offer top-tier, possibly multilanguage life-cycle support in competition with Microsofts Visual Studio .Net product. Developers who just want an excellent C# tool will find the Personal edition surprisingly capable for its low cost. The Enterprise package that we reviewed is ticketed at $1,799 for the development tools alone and $2,298 for the Performance Bundle package.
KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS
PRO: Offers diverse configurations at wide range of price points to meet both enterprise and educator needs; Enterprise edition provides well-integrated configuration management, team collaboration, design and code optimization tools.
CON: Not entirely up to the standard of immediate, specific feedback on development errors set by the companys Java-focused JBuilder.
EVALUATION SHORT LIST
Microsofts Visual Studio .Net
Borland has been on something of an acquisition binge for the last year or two, and developers will confront the results of these acquisitions during the installation process of C#Builder Enterprise edition, which eWEEK Labs reviewed in its initial customer release. In addition to installing the products comprehensive environment for C#-based projects using Microsoft Corp.s .Net Framework, we also found ourselves going through an entire series of additional license acknowledgments.
We felt as if we were driving down a boulevard of billboards for the requirements management, application design, testing and optimization tools that are now part of Borlands portfolio and are included in this high-end configuration of the C#Builder product.
The Enterprise package that we reviewed is priced at $1,799 for the development tools alone. The Performance Bundle package, which also includes Borlands Optimizeit Profiler, is priced at $2,298.
For those who dont suffer from excess disposable income, a Personal edition with a surprisingly complete set of developer productivity aids is available for free download or at $69 for a physical package.
On the first appearance of the C# editing environment, developers may be excused a moment of initial confusion if they think they have accidentally loaded Microsofts Visual Studio .Net. We had hoped to find more of a family resemblance to Borlands JBuilder, but its obvious that Borland must offer complete compatibility with Microsofts .Net tool set: Much of the .Net code that a team might use as its starting point is likely to originate in the Microsoft suite, and C#Builder must perforce speak the same metalanguages that are used by Microsofts visual tools.
We were pleased to find a high degree of integration between C#Builders high-level Unified Modeling Language modeling facilities and its C# source code editing tools; crucially, Borland has attended to the need to generate models from existing code, as well as the reverse, so that project managers have some prayer of keeping the entropy under control.
At the risk of dating ourselves, we wonder if anyone still practicing software development recalls the short-lived struggle of Borlands Object Windows Library (OWL) against the MFC (Microsoft Foundation Classes) framework. The bottom line, if we may so simplify the comparison, was that OWL abstracted from the application to the Windows API, while MFC was more of a platform marketing tool designed to accelerate the adoption of new Windows APIs.
With this history, its ironic to read Borland documents trumpeting the companys role as "first independent vendor to license the .Net Framework Software Development Kit," especially when the next breath brings the assertion that this "allows enterprises to take advantage of the .Net Framework ... without vendor lock-in."
Wed love to have our skepticism on this point turn out to be misplaced.
In the meantime, as far as the nuts-and-bolts aspects of development productivity are concerned, we found that C#Builder (like JBuilder) identified many coding errors while we were still on the same source line, rather than waiting (like Visual Studio .Nets code editor) for us to move on before saying, "Gotcha!"
On the minus side, we missed the graphical error display tree of JBuilder, which told us immediately and specifically what was wrong. C#Builder seemed like a bit of a throwback when it waited for us to attempt to build a project before giving us a more complete diagnostic.
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Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at salesforce.com, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developers' technical requirements on the company's evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter company's first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.