Fahrenheit VCL

19 June 2007

Reading between the lines is not fun. After all, what's there is merely implied and not made explicit: it's just blank space with BackColor = clWhite. Seeing anything involves looking askance, or perhaps with prior expertise.

And that's what I feel like when I read the news coming from CodeGear. This is what they're saying in black and white, but there's a faint echo in there which can almost be resolved into text. It's sounds fun but really isn't.

So, it's with some reluctance that I note

  • There's no mention of the WinForms designer. Indeed, as I understand it, it's kaput. You should be using the forms designer that targets VCL.NET.
  • There's no mention of C#Builder. Now this maybe because the roadmap I'm looking at is, quote, for Delphi and C++Builder, unquote, but it is more realistically kaput too.
  • Despite having untold time to understand and support generics as implemented in .NET 2.0 (which was released in 2005, remember, and we're now in 2007), the Delphi for .NET in Highlander (later this year) will only consume generic types, you won't be able to create your own. You'll have to wait until Tiburón in 2008 sometime in order to do that in Delphi for .NET as well as your common-or-garden Delphi.[Update: in a further change to their roadmap, CodeGear stated that Highlander will be able to generate as well as consume generics.]

Set against all that are some great additions that are slated to appear over the next year or so, including, ASP.NET 2.0 support in Highlander, Unicode in the 32-bit version of Delphi and, much later, native 64-bit support. I even see that Tiburón is "expected to be given new support for UI elements such as Ribbon controls, theming, skinning, and other UI improvements." Nice. [Update: ever since I originally posted this, people haven't noticed I was being sarcastic here. Oh well.]

So, I look at all this with my Developer Express hat firmly in place, including all my biases from my deep history in the Delphi/VCL third-party marketplace.

First of all, a huge sigh of relief: no more WinForms in Borland Developer Studio (or whatever name it will now have). We can and will now firmly and rightly say: no, our .NET controls just won't work in BDS. Sure, you can still manually type code to create them and set their properties and assign event handlers, but our controls never will never work in BDS at design-time. If you want to use our .NET WinForms controls and have a rich, interactive design experience, you should be using Visual Studio 2005 or later.

Second, VCL.NET. I see the usual canard is still repeated in the CodeGear roadmap: "VCL developers will be able to easily migrate code to managed code using VCL.NET." On some projects maybe, but certainly not with our VCL controls. In fact, it's with some reluctance that I note that we just don't have the resources to even try. (The last product that supported VCL.NET was ExpressQuantumGrid 5.) So I'd have to say enhancing our VCL.NET support is no longer something we'll actively do, and we'll no longer market our support for it.

Third, Highlander's ASP.NET 2.0 support. The roadmap is very wishy-washy about what this will comprise (and my reading between the lines fails miserably), so I really can't say how this would impact us with regard to our ASP.NET products. Again there is the large issue of the design-time interface: we write our designers for Visual Studio not BDS, and I have no idea what would be involved in converting/rewriting them.

Fourth, at least a year away from Tiburón and major changes in the language. Part of me heaves a sigh of relief; part of me shakes my head in disbelief -- I really don't know what to think about this. VS2008 will appear with .NET 3.5 and C# 3.0 and a designer for WPF well before Tiburón. So, let's see: LINQ and lambda expressions and quasi-functional programming and WPF controls and other fun things for us to design and develop, before Delphi even gets the ability to create a single generic type. [Update: again, CodeGear changed the roadmap, and Highlander will support creation of generics in Delphi for .NET.] I think it's fair to say that VS2008 will have a huge impact on us as a company. So, in equal parts, disbelief (CodeGear are continually rebuked for being slow to catch up) and relief (I can perhaps reallocate some of our VCL team to writing WPF controls in the interim).

Fifth, Unicode. Love it, approve wholeheartedly, should have been there years ago, but, man, do I worry what it's going to do to our codebase and, by extension, to our customers. I see this as being a much bigger change than from 16-bit to 32-bit, but maybe I'm just a scaredy-cat. More on this when we know more.

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