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.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

How to evolve Eevee in Pokemon GO
By now, almost everyone should be hip to how to evolve Pokemon in Pokemon GO (and if not, there's a guide for that). Just gather enough candy of the appropriate type, feed them all to the Pokemon, and evolution happens. It's a miracle that would... | Read more »
CSR Racing 2: Guide to all game modes
It might not seem like there are all that many ways to go fast in a straight line, but CSR Racing 2 begs to differ. [Read more] | Read more »
Bulb Boy (Games)
Bulb Boy 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Multi-award winning 2D point & click horror adventure about a boy with a glowing head. | Read more »
5 top free emoji keyboard apps
If we're not at peak emoji yet as a society, it feels like we definitely should be. The emoji concept has gone far beyond what anyone in Japan could have envisioned when the people there unleashed it on an unsuspecting world, but the West has... | Read more »
How to unlock more characters in Disney...
One of the big charms of Disney Emoji Blitz is seeing a wide variety of beloved Disney and Pixar characters transformed into smiling emojis. Even someone like the sneaky Randall from Monsters Inc., who probably never cracked a smile on film, is... | Read more »
Cubway (Games)
Cubway 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Cubway is a journey with an abstract story of lifecycle of rebirth, called Samsara. Guide the cube through the long way full of dangers... | Read more »
Colorcube (Games)
Colorcube 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Turn pieces and blend colours in this minimal yet visually stunning puzzler.Over 200 handcrafted and challenging levels. Features... | Read more »
Doodle God Griddlers (Games)
Doodle God Griddlers 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Crusader Kings: Chronicles (Games)
Crusader Kings: Chronicles 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Crusader Kings: Chronicles is an interactive text based game that puts you in the shoes of Guy de Rose as you make... | Read more »
Roads of Rome: New Generation (Games)
Roads of Rome: New Generation 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $5.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple price trackers, updated continuously
Scan our Apple Price Trackers for the latest information on sales, bundles, and availability on systems from Apple’s authorized internet/catalog resellers. We update the trackers continuously: - 15″... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro (Apple refurbished...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pros available for $829, or $270 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free: - 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pros... Read more
21-inch iMacs on sale for up to $120 off MSRP
B&H Photo has 21″ iMacs on sale for up to $120 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 21″ 3.1GHz iMac 4K: $1379 $120 off MSRP - 21″ 2.8GHz iMac: $1199.99 $100 off MSRP - 21″ 1... Read more
Charitybuzz Set to Auction Unique Apple-1 Com...
Offering an opportunity to own the computer that sparked a revolution, on Monday, July 25, leading online charity auction platform Charitybuzz will auction what is claimed to be the world’s most... Read more
MacBook Airs on sale for up to $150 off MSRP
Amazon has 11″ and 13″ MacBook Airs on sale for up to $150 off MSRP for a limited time. Shipping is free: - 13″ 1.6GHz/128GB MacBook Air (sku MMGF2LL/A): $899.99 $100 off MSRP - 13″ 1.6GHz/256GB... Read more
Apple refurbished 13-inch Retina MacBook Pros...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 13″ Retina MacBook Pros available for up to $270 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: - 13″ 2.7GHz... Read more
Apple refurbished 11-inch MacBook Airs availa...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 11″ MacBook Airs (the latest models), available for up to $170 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is... Read more
Apple iPad Pro Sales Far Outpacing Microsoft...
A report on Appleinsider notes that despite Microsoft Surface tablet PC sales growing by 9 percent year over year, revenues remained below $1 billion, and are down sequentially from the $1.1 billion... Read more
DEVONthink 2.9 Features Ultra-fast, Robust, A...
DEVONthink 2.9 allows users to keep databases synchronized using many means of transport. It transmits them between Macs on the local network or stores them in a syncable form on removable hard... Read more
12-inch WiFi Apple iPad Pros on sale for up t...
B&H Photo has 12″ WiFi iPad Pros on sale for up to $100 off MSRP, each including free shipping. B&H charges sales tax in NY only: - 12″ Space Gray 32GB WiFi iPad Pro: $749 $50 off MSRP - 12″... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions, Willow...
Job Description:SalesSpecialist - Retail Customer Service and SalesTransform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
*Apple* Evangelist - JAMF Software (United S...
The Apple Evangelist is responsible for building and cultivating strategic relationships with Apple 's small and mid-market business development field teams. This Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - APPLE (United...
Job Summary As an Apple Solutions Consultant, you'll be the link between our future customers and our products. You'll showcase your entrepreneurial spirit as you Read more
*Apple* Professional Learning Specialist - A...
Job Summary The Apple Professional Learning Specialist is a full-time position for one year with Apple in the Phoenix, AZ area. This position requires a high Read more
*Apple* Picker - Apple Hill Orchard (United...
Apple Hill Orchard, Co. Rte. 21,Whitehall, NY 9/7/16-10/228/16. Pick fresh market or processing apples Productivity of 60 boxes and 80 boxes processing fruit per Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.