PowerBuilder 5.0

Multidimensional Tool Kit

Client/server application development tool PowerBuilder 5.0, built around a 4GL (fourth-generation language) with a native code compiler, boasts an object-oriented visual development environment, significant database functionality and connectivity, ActiveX and database browsing controls, and report generators.

Previous PowerBuilder incarnations sometimes exhibited runtime speed problems because of the interpreted nature of PowerScript. PowerBuilder 5.0 fixes that with a native code compilation option and a C++ class builder. Dividing the product into desktop, professional and enterprise bundles helps ease the price barrier.

PowerBuilder Desktop includes the Windows 95, Windows 3.x, and Windows NT/Intel development environments; the native code compiler; SQL Anywhere; ActiveX control support; galleries of ActiveX controls, applications and art; a syntax-coloring, self-indenting script editor; desktop ODBC drivers; and an install disk builder. PowerBuilder Professional adds client/server ODBC drivers, the Advanced Developers Toolkit and version control interfaces. PowerBuilder Enterprise has Distributed PowerBuilder for building multi-tier applications; PowerBuilder Library for Lotus Notes; and localized runtimes for European languages.

You can test and debug PowerBuilder applications quickly. Compilation to PowerBuilder byte-code happens incrementally whenever an object is saved. PowerBuilder makes it exceptionally easy to reuse code through inheritance. But PowerBuilder isn't cheap, and it needs significant amounts of RAM and disk space, both for its development and its runtime environment.

PowerBuilder 5.0
Price: Desktop, $295; Professional, $1,295; Enterprise, $2,995
Pros: Object-oriented development; ActiveX controls
Cons: Cost; resources required
Platforms: Windows 3.x, 95, NT
Disk Space: 32MB-80MB
RAM: 12MB (minimum), 16MB (recommended)
800-395-3525, 508-287-1500
WinMag Box Score 4.5

Delphi 2.0

Development Takes A Giant Step

Delphi 2.0 is a great leap forward in 32-bit application development. It includes support for Windows 95 and NT (including OLE and Win95 common dialog boxes), new compiler optimizations and more.

Borland has expanded Delphi's encapsulation support, which now lets you create Data Modules to hold data access and business rules. Inheritance now extends to forms, so you can inherit code, objects and properties from one form to another.

The compiler offers access to the entire Windows 95 API, including multithreading, Unicode strings and MAPI. Delphi replaces VBX support with OCX, which you can customize via inheritance.

Borland claims Delphi 2.0 applications can run 300 to 400 percent faster than Delphi 1.0 apps. Performance has definitely improved. Delphi's compiler now displays all errors, not just the first. Error messages suggest possible causes for the problem and offer code clean-up hints.

All the features that made Delphi 1.0 a terrific tool are still here, and it's easy to learn if you already know Visual Basic or a simpler language.

Delphi 2.0
Price: Desktop, $499.95 (competitive upgrade, $199.95); Developer, $799.95 (competitive upgrade, $299.95); Client/Server Suite, $1,999.95
Pros: Compiler and linker
Cons: Sample code
Platforms: Windows 3.x, 95, NT
Borland Intl.
800-331-0877, 408-431-1000
WinMag Box Score 5

Microsoft Visual C++ 4.0

Attention to Detail Pays Off

Microsoft's Visual C++ 4.0 has gotten most of the little things right. This version is right on target with the features developers need-generating small and fast production code, fully supporting OLE controls, providing a flexible and robust application framework, automating common-code generation, supporting most of the latest C++ features and providing a database engine.

Code reuse probably constitutes the biggest innovation in this version. VC 4.0's Component Gallery is a credible first stab at a code repository, which supports reuse of OLE Controls, C++ classes and resources. Custom AppWizards allow you to distribute your own base-level applications in parameter form.

But Visual C++ 4.0 doesn't cure all programmers' ills. It definitely falls down on the job in several places. For example, VC forces you to install and use two development environments instead of one, making it difficult to maintain 16-bit Windows programs while building their 32-bit brethren.

Still, Visual C++ 4.0 is a good current pick for a C/C++ compiler.

Microsoft Visual C++ 4.0
Price: $499 (subscription includes three upgrades per year)
Pros: Code reuse; updates; online documentation
Cons: Separate 32-bit and 16-bit environments; no printed documentation; hardware requirements
Platforms: Windows 95, NT
Disk Space: 110MB
Microsoft Corp.
WinMag Box Score 4.5