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Visual Basic, Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft Corp.'slong-running development toolkit, has scored another success with version 6.0, despite the availability of other technology and more sophisticated tools. "Visual Basic still remains very popular," says Dave Kelly, a senior analyst at Hurwitz Group Inc., of Framingham, Mass. The programming tool appeals to a wide range of developers, from hobbyists to corporate developers building departmental and even enterprise applications.
In the Product of the Year balloting, VB 6.0 received 39% of the votes (306 of the 792 votes cast), better than doubling its closest rival, Cambridge, Mass.-based Allaire Corp.'s ColdFusion, which garnered 19% (148 votes). Vision JADE from Vision Software Tools Inc., headquartered in Oakland, Calif., placed third, receiving 16% (123) of the votes. While runners-up sported more specialized Internet/Web capabilities or more sophisticated design and code-generation features, VB 6.0 clearly was deemed worthy of the award, especially in the new development arena--Web and server-side development.
It's a matter of forms
Initially intended as a graphical rapid application development (RAD) tool for building simple, client-centric client/server applications, VB 6.0 has been dramatically enhanced for Web-oriented and server-side applications through support for dynamic HTML and middle-tier testing and deployment. It provides a component-based development environment along with new support for a wide range of reusable database components. Microsoft has also boosted performance through a C++ native-code compiler and accelerated forms processing.
Brian Taylor, a developer with Enterprise Communication Messaging Solutions Inc. (ECMS) in Columbia, S.C., says he's particularly impressed with the Internet capabilities of the latest Visual Basic release. "The new Web classes make Internet development and testing much easier," he notes.
The majority of corporate applications developers in general, and VB developers in particular, build database applications--applications that retrieve, create, update, and delete information in a database. VB 6.0 has been particularly enhanced for this type of development. It includes visual database design tools, and it provides flexible database access through ODBC, OLE DB, and ActiveX data objects (ADO). The visual-design tools enable the diagramming of database schema, the creation and debugging of stored procedures, and the creation of reusable data access components that access legacy and proprietary data. It also provides capabilities to synchronize remote, mobile users with the database.
Visual Basic is part of the Microsoft Visual Studio family of products. All products in the suite support the same standards and offer a similar look and feel. This ensures that organizations can move to other Visual Studio tools without much difficulty when they need more specialized capabilities, such as C++ (Visual C++) or Java (Visual J++). "I like using it as part of Visual Studio. It integrates really well with Visual C, making an all-in-one development environment," says ECMS developer Bruce Deutschmann.
Allaire's ColdFusion is, essentially, a Web-development fourth-generation language (4GL). It consists of a tag-based programming language that represents a superset of HTML. ColdFusion provides a complete development environment that includes programming, database, and debugging tools. It also provides server-side deployment and management tools. Multithreaded, ColdFusion provides improved thread pooling, automatic server recovery, and other enterprise-class scalability features.
Vision JADE is a CASE tool for Java-based Web development. It allows developers to design applications as models and automatically generate Java code. It also includes a rules engine that allows organizations to easily develop and maintain applications around a central set of business rules. Using Vision JADE, officials at Hilton Hotels Corp., in Beverly Hills, Calif., claim better than ten-fold gains in application time to market (six weeks for full development vs. three months to prototype 10% of the system using conventional tools).
Alan Radding is a freelance writer in Newton, Mass., who specializes in business and technology. He can be reached at email@example.com.