RealBasic 2005 for Mac, Windows and Linux

Cross-platform development nirvana?

My test app was created and compiled on a Mac for both Mac OS X and Windows, and while the native application operated exactly as expected, the Windows release needed some tweaking. Loading the project into the Windows version of RealBasic and then compiling produced much better results, and made the usual 'run, tweak, run, tweak, run, tweak' process run more smoothly and more quickly. But the simple ability to target multiple platforms rather than code for one then port to another is a big benefit.

Certainly for Mac programmers, RB 2005 is well up to date with the latest Apple technologies. You can build Spotlight queries into your code. For Windows users, there's even closer integration with VisualBasic. The Linux version is compatible with major x86 Linux distributions, including SuSE, RedHat, Mandriva/Mandrake, with GTK+ 2.0 or higher, Glibc-2.3 or higher and CUPS.

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Across the range, it's got some impressive database functionality built in, with support for MySQL, PostgreSQL, Oracle, ODBC, Database4D, OpenBase, REALDatabase and Real's own SQLLite-based REALSQLDatabase engines. The networking side covers UDP and TCP socket controls, along with server functionality. Applications can contain their own HTML viewer, and 3D graphics too. Two-dimensional fun comes courtesy of the SpriteSurface control. For folk with an eye toward multi-core processors, RealBasic is capable of generating multi-threaded code. 64-bit support isn't here yet, but when it comes it's going to be much easier to recompile RealBasic code for the 64-bit world than it will software developed in other development environments.

There's clearly plenty of functionality here for almost every coder, though not all of it is available in RB's cheaper, 'Standard' form - for the database support and interesting features such as remote operation you'll need the full, 'Professional' version.

Flaws? Well, you still can't import multiple items - you're forced to add pictures, icons, AppleScripts etc. one at a time. There are bugs too: built applications didn't always appear with an icon, and in its first release RB 2005 proved a little unstable. Fortunately, Release 2 appears much more solid. Its cross-platform support could be better, but there are inevitable limits to what RB can do to shoehorn one mass of code into three UIs - sooner or later, you'll have to fork the code, to ensure code for some platforms don't look like crude ports, that some UI elements look right and the menus feel right for each platform. RB could do more to help you manage this.

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I'd have liked to have seen as much scope for controlling how document icons appear and defining compatible document types (ie. file extensions) work in Windows as you get for Mac OS X. That may reflect the fact Windows has an easier way of doing all this stuff - Linux too, for that matter - but I'd like to be sure and, even after using RB, I'm not. As we posted this review, RealSoftware announced RB 2005 Release 3, which further improves stability, speeds up the compiler and enhances the tool's support for 3D graphics.

Verdict

Programming tools are horses for courses, but RealBasic will run on a wide variety of race tracks. It's strength lies in its ability to hide complexity from the user. For the beginner that means an easy way into the arcane-seeming world of computer programming. For everyone else, from the occasional coder up to the professional, it means you can spend more time working on what your application will do and less on bringing it to life in the first place. It also makes it very easy to change direction mid-way through development. For commercial coders there's the absence of run-time royalties, and its cross-platform abilities help you address larger audiences. ®

 

RealBasic 2005 Release 2
 
Rating 90%
 
Price Mac/Windows: Standard edition, $100; Pro edition, $400
Linux: free
Prices include six months' updates for free
 
More info The RealBasic site