C#Builder Covers App Life Cycle

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2003-09-08

C#Builder Covers App Life Cycle

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 environments—including 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 late—and 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.

  • 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.

    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.

    Next page: Snippets of Code

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    Of course, one way to minimize coding errors is to write as little code as possible, and C#Builder aided us toward that end with its Code Snippets palette, which allowed us to drag a frequently used code fragment (such as a try ... catch block) directly into our editor. We prefer this to more opaque and error-prone devices such as editor macros.

    We were pleased to find that C#Builder was fully as responsive as Visual Studio, even while maintaining a higher level of immediate feedback while we worked. During our tests on an Intel Corp. 700MHz Pentium III machine with only 256MB of RAM, we never had the feeling that hardware resources were being pushed anywhere near their limits.

    As it turns out, this is actually the recommended memory complement for the product, as opposed to JBuilders considerably greater recommended memory (which our tests suggested was good advice, although not actually essential).

    As previously noted, part of the C#Builder Enterprise bundle—comparable to the high-end version of JBuilder—is an integrated set of Starbase Corp. technologies for requirements definition, configuration management and team collaboration technologies. These are also integrated with design tools acquired by Borland with its purchase of TogetherSoft Corp. The C#Builder package seems to be aimed not just at collaborating teams but also at IT shops that may still be in the adoption phase of .Net technologies in general and C# in particular. It includes integrated tutorial materials and tools that are clearly intended to let developers get under the hood of .Net.

    Borland has indicated that future releases will broaden the environments support for other .Net languages in addition to C#, making the product potentially a viable second-source tool kit for development on future Microsoft platforms or even on third-party implementations of.Net Framework on other operating systems.

    Technology Editor Peter Coffee can be reached at peter_coffee@ziffdavis.com.

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