Delphi - or not Delphi

Borland spinoff does RAD for PHP

Borland’s wholly-owned spinoff CodeGear is releasing Delphi for PHP, claimed to be the first RAD visual PHP development environment. PHP 5.0 is required. The product is jointly developed by CodeGear and qadram software and is essentially the first production version of qadram’s qstudio, which never made it past pre-beta.

The IDE is a Delphi lookalike, built with Delphi but distinct from CodeGear’s BDS (Borland Developer Studio). The main point of interest is the component library called VCL (Visual Component Library) for PHP, formerly called WCL (Web Component Library), which is a set of PHP components modelled after Dephi’s VCL, supporting drag-and-drop form editing and customization with a property editor. Existing PHP libraries can easily be wrapped as new VCL for PHP components. You can create event handlers by double-clicking an event name in the property editor, just as you can in Delphi for Windows or Microsoft’s Visual Studio.

Delphi for PHP has some AJAX integration, based on the xajax library. There is also a data binding framework, which apparently uses PHPLens and the ADOdb data abstraction layer. The IDE is Windows-only, but creates standard PHP applications that should run fine cross-platform, though CodeGear says that only FireFox and Internet Explorer are initially supported. The setup installs Apache for testing and debugging.

Note that RegDeveloper has yet to see the product; the above is based on information at CodeGear’s site and a conversation with CodeGear’s David Intersimone and Jason Vokes. “One third of Delphi developers are already using PHP," said Intersimone. “It is a natural extension to our line-up.”

PHP is immensely popular so CodeGear’s new IDE may be a shrewd move. That said, one question is how CodeGear intends to win over the open source community which has made PHP a success. The VCL for PHP is to be open source, though at the time of writing its SourceForge project is nearly empty, suggesting little community involvement in this initial release. Many PHP developers work on Linux or the Mac, and will not be able to run the IDE. All this counts against CodeGear’s desire to give PHP a “standard component library,” as Intersimone puts it.

This is also a product with a curious name. Delphi for PHP does not use the Delphi language, which is a variant of Pascal, nor does it use the Delphi IDE, now called BDS (Borland Developer Studio). Rather, it is yet another IDE for a company that already has too many; if the product succeeds, it will surely be migrated either to BDS or Eclipse. The latter would make best sense for cross-platform, but then again Eclipse already has a PHP development tools project, sponsored by Zend, which looks like tough competition for CodeGear’s product. Drag-and-drop PHP development would have been a great innovation ten years ago, but expectations are now higher.

Still, Delphi for PHP is priced at an affordable $299.00, and it is good to see just one edition with no messing around with role-based editions or the like. More news when we get our hands on the product. ®

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