TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Jan 99 Viewpoint

Volume Number: 15 (1999)
Issue Number: 1
Column Tag: Viewpoint

Jan 99 Viewpoint

by Richard Gaskin

As Mac OS development tools continue to evolve, there is one important category which is often overlooked in the Mac community: rapid application development (RAD).

The availability of robust RAD tools for Windows, most notably Visual Basic, is arguably one of the primary contributors to the plethora of new applications written for the Wintel platform, and absolutely critical to the entrenchment of Wintel in corporate and academic environments where custom applications need to be cranked out regularly.

RAD tools represent a critical component of Mac evangelism as well, allowing opportunities for organizations to create custom solutions which fill market niches and keep folks using Macs. Apple has been proudly citing the number of new applications for Mac OS since the announcement of the iMac, but it seems a fair bet that this number would at least double if the company took a more active role in popularizing RAD tools for Mac OS.

In recent years, developers on other platforms have seen an increased awareness of the value of scripting. As John Ousterhout of Scriptics Corporation put it in his seminal white paper "Scripting: Higher Level Programming for the 21st Century" <http://www.scriptics.com/people/john.ousterhout/scripting.html>:

"Scripting languages and system programming languages are complementary, and most major computing platforms since the 1960's have provided both kinds of languages. The languages are typically used together in component frameworks, where components are created with system programming languages and glued together with scripting languages. However, several recent trends, such as faster machines, better scripting languages, the increasing importance of graphical user interfaces and component architectures, and the growth of the Internet, have greatly increased the applicability of scripting languages. These trends will continue over the next decade, with more and more new applications written entirely in scripting languages and system programming languages used primarily for creating components."

Many of the most popular scripting tools on other platforms were inspired by Apple's own HyperCard, including Asymetrix ToolBook and Visual Basic. The attraction is easy to appreciate: by marrying a hierarchical GUI environment to an interpreted language which automates most memory management, development cycles can be slashed by orders of magnitude. Offering the same friendliness that is the essence of Macintosh, HyperCard introduced programming for the rest of us.

Ironically, while Apple has spent millions on since-abandoned efforts like Dylan and ScriptX, their most successful development tool, HyperCard, has never been enhanced beyond its monochrome architecture and may soon be axed <http://www.hyperactivesw.com/SaveHC.html>.

But in spite of Apple's lack of serious commitment to HyperCard in recent years, other vendors have successfully expanded on the easy-to-learn language and are allowing people to develop solid Mac applications in record time for their organizations, and often for commercial distribution as well.

Many folks have the impression that any xTalk language (the collective term for HyperTalk and related dialects) is unsuitable for serious development, but these perceptions have more to do with HyperCard's implementation than any inherent problem with the language or object model. At least two other vendors have successfully enhanced xTalk in ways that are extremely potent for RAD work.

For cross-platform deployment, MetaCard <http://www.metacard.com> offers a very similar object model as HyperCard, but also offers multiple windows in different styles, integrated color, rich media support, and has one of the fastest interpreters in the business. Being the only xTalk which allows authoring and deployment on all major platforms (Mac OS, Windows, and UNIX), I have found it to be an excellent substitute for Java for many projects, allowing me to enjoy universal deployment at a fraction of the development time. And because scripting is essentially a shorthand glue between compiled routines in an interpreter, many operations run noticeably faster in MetaCard than equivalent Java implementations. For GUI apps, MetaCard makes Java look like "write once, crawl anywhere".

To make truly Mac-like software quickly, there is no better product than SuperCard <http://www.incwell.com>. While SuperCard is currently only available for Mac OS, it offers many of the advantages of MetaCard but is unencumbered by cross-platform considerations. Like a software glove wrapped around the Mac OS, SuperCard allows developers to take advantage of extremely modern Mac OS features such as the Appearance Manager, speech recognition, QTVR, and what is probably the world's first scriptable control over OS-level drag-and-drop. Try implementing all of these in C++ in an afternoon. :) The rumor mill has it that the SuperCard team is working on a suite of tools aimed at professional developers which will include an API for accessing many of the program's internal data structures and routines. This would allow developers to use SuperCard as a form of precompiled application framework, in which the standard GUI stuff is handled in scripting while computationally-intensive routines can be easily integrated from custom C code.

While there are limitations to developing with any 4GL, the advantages are compelling for many applications, especially those designed for vertical markets, schools, and smaller organizations where the greater costs of developing purely in C++ or Java would be prohibitive. In those formal languages, development time in measured in weeks and months, but in xTalk products these are often measured in days, or even hours.

And even for projects based in C++, xTalk products provide all the necessary ingredients for rapid prototyping, which can make a critical difference in early design and usability discussions. Apparently Microsoft agrees: If my sources are correct, even Visual Basic was first prototyped in SuperCard, on a Mac of course. :)


Richard Gaskin is the ambassador of Fourth World <http://www.fourthworld.com>, a Los Angeles-based consultancy specializing in scripting languages for Mac, Windows, and UNIX. You can reach him at ambassador@fourthworld.com.

 
AAPL
$108.00
Apple Inc.
+1.02
MSFT
$46.95
Microsoft Corpora
+0.90
GOOG
$559.08
Google Inc.
+8.77

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Vitamin-R 2.20b1 - Personal productivity...
Vitamin-R creates the optimal conditions for your brain to work at its best by structuring your work into short bursts of distraction-free, highly focused activity alternating with opportunities for... Read more
Dropbox 2.10.44 - Cloud synchronization...
Dropbox is an application that creates a special Finder folder that automatically syncs online and between your computers. It allows you to both backup files and keep them up-to-date between systems... Read more
Sandvox 2.9.2 - Easily build eye-catchin...
Sandvox is for Mac users who want to create a professional looking website quickly and easily. With Sandvox, you don't need to be a Web genius to build a stylish, feature-rich, standards-compliant... Read more
Cocktail 8.0.1 - General maintenance and...
Cocktail is a general purpose utility for OS X that lets you clean, repair and optimize your Mac. It is a powerful digital toolset that helps hundreds of thousands of Mac users around the world get... Read more
LibreOffice 4.3.3.2 - Free Open Source o...
LibreOffice is an office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, presentations, drawing tool) compatible with other major office suites. The Document Foundation is coordinating development and... Read more
VMware Fusion 7.0.1 - Run Windows apps a...
VMware Fusion allows you to create a Virtual Machine on your Mac and run Windows (including Windows 8.1) and Windows software on your Mac. Run your favorite Windows applications alongside Mac... Read more
OneNote 15.3.2 - Free digital notebook f...
OneNote is your very own digital notebook. With OneNote, you can capture that flash of genius, that moment of inspiration, or that list of errands that's too important to forget. Whether you're at... Read more
Audio Hijack Pro 2.11.4 - Record and enh...
Audio Hijack Pro drastically changes the way you use audio on your computer, giving you the freedom to listen to audio when you want and how you want. Record and enhance any audio with Audio Hijack... Read more
Iridient Developer 3.0.0 beta 3 - Powerf...
Iridient Developer (was RAW Developer) is a powerful image conversion application designed specifically for OS X. Iridient Developer gives advanced photographers total control over every aspect of... Read more
TextWrangler 4.5.11 - Free general purpo...
TextWrangler is the powerful general purpose text editor, and Unix and server administrator's tool. Oh, and also, like the best things in life, it's free. TextWrangler is the "little brother" to... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Monster Flash Review
Monster Flash Review By Jordan Minor on October 31st, 2014 Our Rating: :: ALONE IN THE DARKUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Solid shooting and a surprising amount of spooky tension make Monster Flash a great portable... | Read more »
Retry Review
Retry Review By Rob Thomas on October 31st, 2014 Our Rating: :: SOARING HIGHUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Flappy who? Let Retry wash all those bad bird-related memories away on a cool retro-flavored flight… right... | Read more »
Dementia: Book of the Dead Review
Dementia: Book of the Dead Review By Lee Hamlet on October 31st, 2014 Our Rating: :: A TOUGH READUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad A witch hunter is sent after a demonic book in the spooky but short-lived Dementia: Book... | Read more »
Card Dungeon, the Semi-Board Game Roguel...
Card Dungeon, the Semi-Board Game Roguelike, Has Been Renovated Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 31st, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
Logitech Protection + Power iPhone5/5S C...
Made by: Logitech Price: $99.99 Hardware/iOS Integration Rating: 3 out of 5 stars Usability Rating: 0.5 out of 5 stars Reuse Value Rating: 0.75 out of 5 stars Build Quality Rating: 0.75 out of 5 stars Overall Rating: 1.25 out of 5 stars | Read more »
This Is Not a Test Goes Free, Permanentl...
This Is Not a Test Goes Free, Permanently Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 31st, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Swap Heroes Review
Swap Heroes Review By Campbell Bird on October 31st, 2014 Our Rating: :: STRATEGIC SWAPPINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Rotate a cast of heroes to fend of waves of monsters in this difficult, puzzle rpg.   | Read more »
Night Sky Pro™ (Reference)
Night Sky Pro™ 3.0.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Reference Price: $2.99, Version: 3.0.1 (iTunes) Description: Night Sky Pro™Wonder No More™ Night Sky Pro™ is the ultimate stargazing experience. From the creators of the original... | Read more »
Audio Defence : Zombie Arena (Games)
Audio Defence : Zombie Arena 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: A zombie shooter audio game. Made from gut-wrenching 3D binaural sound, for a new kind of weird immersion. You... | Read more »
RPG Asdivine Hearts (Games)
RPG Asdivine Hearts 1.1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.1.0 (iTunes) Description: SPECIAL PRICE50% OFF (USD 7.99 -> USD 3.99)!!! Travel alongside four companions and a cat in the adventure of a... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple now offering refurbished 2014 13-inch R...
The Apple Store is now offering Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 13″ Retina MacBook Pros for up to $270 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and... Read more
Apple Regains Momentum As Windows Stutters An...
The latest smartphone sales data from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, for the three months to March 2014, shows Apple performing strongly in the first quarter of the year, with sales bouncing back in... Read more
Worldwide Smartphone Shipments Increase 25.2%...
New smartphone releases and an increased emphasis on emerging markets drove global smartphone shipments above 300 million units for the second consecutive quarter, according to preliminary data from... Read more
Apple now offering refurbished 2014 15-inch M...
The Apple Store is now offering Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 15″ Retina MacBook Pros for up to $400 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and... Read more
Apple drops prices on refurbished 2013 Retina...
The Apple Store has dropped prices on 2013 Apple Certified Refurbished 13″ and 15″ Retina MacBook Pros, with Retina models now available starting at $999. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and... Read more
New 2.8GHz Mac mini on sale for $949, save $5...
Abt Electronics has the new 2.8GHz Mac mini in stock and on sale for $949.05 including free shipping. Their price is $50 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model from any reseller... Read more
Sale! 3.7GHz Quad Core Mac Pro available for...
 B&H Photo has the 3.7GHz Quad Core Mac Pro on sale for $2649 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $350 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price for this model from any... Read more
Mujjo Steps Up The Game With Refined Touchscr...
Netherlands based Mujjo have just launched their Refined Touchscreen Gloves, stepping up their game. The gloves feature a updated elegant design that takes these knitted gloves to the next level. A... Read more
Sale! Preorder the new 27-inch 5K iMac for $2...
 Abt Electronics has the new 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac on sale and available for preorder for $2374.05 including free shipping. Their price is $125 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this... Read more
Simplex Solutions Inc. Brings Secure Web Surf...
New York based Simplex Solutions Inc. has announced the release and immediate availability of Private Browser 1.0, its revolutionary new secure web browser developed for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch... Read more

Jobs Board

Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
**Job Summary** Every day, business customers come to the Apple Store to discover what powerful, easy-to-use Apple products can do for them. As a Business Leader, Read more
Sr. Manager, *Apple* Deployment Programs fo...
**Job Summary** Apple is seeking candidates for a new position on the Education Content and Technology team. iPad and Mac is in the hands of millions of teachers and Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple I...
…important role that the ASC serves is that of providing an excellent Apple Customer Experience. Responsibilities include: * Promoting Apple products and solutions Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple I...
…important role that the ASC serves is that of providing an excellent Apple Customer Experience. Responsibilities include: * Promoting Apple products and solutions Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple I...
…important role that the ASC serves is that of providing an excellent Apple Customer Experience. Responsibilities include: * Promoting Apple products and solutions Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.