The last version of C++Builder was released under the Inpriseing up with Delphi's offering. brandname.
With version 4, we're back to Borland, or more specifically, Borland.com which is the name of the new division spun out of Inprise to concentrate on software development and tools. Inprise, following its acquisition of Visigenics, will concentrate on enterprise software and continue to push CORBA, the Common Object Resource Broker Architecture.
After the release of the revolutionary Delphi a few years ago, Borland recognised the need for an equivalent C++ development tool to overcome the resistance to Delphi's native Pascal. Since then, C++Builder has been lagging Delphi in terms of functionality and release date. With version 4 however, coming only a few months after Delphi 4, the gap in both areas is becoming much smaller.
Unusually for Borland, the product comes in only two versions, Professional and Enterprise, the latter replacing and enhancing the old Client/Server version. There will be a Standard version, probably selling for less than #100 as before, but this is not yet available. This appears to be a marketing exercise akin to a publisher initially only releasing a book in hardback as the Standard version is usually the first to be ready.
As with the top-end Delphi 4, Enterprise is a superset of Professional primarily in terms of distributed computing (CORBA and MIDAS) and client-server database functionality.
As well as the Enterprise product itself there were a further three CDs in the box; one was a 60-day trial version "for a friend", another was C++Builder companion tools and the last was a full copy of JBuilder 2 professional, albeit only with online documentation.
The C++Builder 4 paper manuals comprised a quickstart booklet and a fairly hefty developers guide. There were four Visibroker books and an operations manual for InterBase.
Installation is straightforward, and once running, one of the most obvious advances is the floating toolbars on the IDE (Integrated Development Environment).
The Code Insight pop-ups are a handy way of speeding the typing phase of development. In order to work, they require a degree of background dynamic compilation, but this process is mainly for internal information building and a manual build is required to obtain executables. Code completion pops up the options available once a class name has been followed by a period (.) or arrow (->).
Tooltip symbol insight displays declaration information about an identifier when the mouse passes over it, but this seemed to be restricted mostly to the module and line of the declaration.
Expression evaluation gives an instantaneous pop up value of the variable under the mouse while debugging is stopped; the results can be perversely interesting if it attempts to pop up the contents of a very long string over most of the screen.
Templates allow rapid pasting of common constructs such as for-loops and switch statements. New personalised templates can be added if your project has its own particular regularly occurring construct requirements.
The ANSI STL (Standard Template Library) is supported. This is the standardised resource set that includes lists, queues, stacks, sets and maps.
Unsurprisingly, CORBA support is very strong. VisiBroker, the CORBA object resource broker is provided along with wizards to generate CORBA clients, servers and other related objects. WebBroker, the Remote Databroker and the MIDAS 2 development kit are all beyond the scope of this review, but very relevant to higher-end development.
A variety of Internet components are provided including some less common ones such as a Time Client. However, they are sometimes lagging current technology; the HTML ActiveX control is essentially for HTML version 2 with extensions for Netscape 2 and Explorer 2.
Borland is taking a leaf from Microsoft's own marketing strategy; most Visual C++ projects and code can be imported straight in. Also, InstallShield Express is bundled, NT services can be created natively and Intersolv PVCS for version control is included with Enterprise.
C++Builder feels good to use; Borland products always have, right back to Turbo-C days. Borland seems to be able to balance powerful visual development against the resources needed to underpin that power.
If there is a weakness, it comes downstream with the compiler speed, but even this is hardly noticeable.
Overall, a good product, able to develop quality applications across a broad spectrum of sizes and functionality. Questions remain about Inprise's intentions, including whether it has long-term plans for RAD tools such as C++Builder and Delphi.
C++Builder version 4
Another cracking RAD tool from the Borland stable, underlining Inprise's commitment to the enterprise. Broad support for the emerging multi-tier markets
- brings C++ development almost level with the capabilities of Delphi 4
- ActiveX, ATL, MTS, COM, DCOM and CORBA support
- uncertainty about Inprise plans for Borland.com
- compiler performance isn't sparkling
- Prices: Professional #449; Enterprise #1699
- Contact: Inprise 0118 932 0022
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