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-- by Martin Heller
ViewSoft Internet 1.1 produces very cool results-client-server applications in which a small Java client talks to a Visual C++ server over sockets, with the aid of a Web browser and server. But the process of getting there leaves much to be desired.
In the beta version we tested, development procedures were more complex than necessary. For example, when you design a GUI graphically, you'll see variables (for input controls) or functions (for buttons) automatically added to the current frame's class and semantically connected to the control. You can then edit the properties of both, but you can't add custom source code to make the functions work, which is annoying.
Before you can write function bodies, you must generate code from the GUI builder. Unfortunately, you can't even do that from within the program's environment. You're expected to switch to Visual C++ to do your editing (see WinLab Reviews, this issue). You normally edit only the C++ server code; you don't touch the Java front end. If you realize when compiling the C++ application that you've done something wrong, you need to go back and modify the class definition in ViewSoft Internet, regenerate your code and try again to compile. Though you won't lose your custom code when you regenerate, you won't see all your class changes properly propagate through your source code. ViewSoft Internet desperately needs its own way to edit and store custom code snippets. Coherent documentation would also make the program more manageable.
For producing thin-client Internet applications, ViewSoft Internet 1.1 has the potential to become a killer development environment. But before you pay nearly $2,000, wait until the product's design defects have been addressed.