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
$104.83
Apple Inc.
+1.84
MSFT
$45.02
Microsoft Corpora
+0.64
GOOG
$543.98
Google Inc.
+11.27

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Delicious Library 3.3.2 - Import, browse...
Delicious Library allows you to import, browse, and share all your books, movies, music, and video games with Delicious Library. Run your very own library from your home or office using our... Read more
Art Text 2.4.8 - Create high quality hea...
Art Text is an OS X application for creating high quality textual graphics, headings, logos, icons, Web site elements, and buttons. Thanks to multi-layer support, creating complex graphics is no... Read more
Live Interior 3D Pro 2.9.6 - Powerful an...
Live Interior 3D Pro is a powerful yet very intuitive interior designing application. View Video Tutorials It has every feature of Live Interior 3D Standard, plus some exclusive ones: Create multi... Read more
The Hit List 1.1.7 - Advanced reminder a...
The Hit List manages the daily chaos of your modern life. It's easy to learn - it's as easy as making lists. And it's powerful enough to let you plan, then forget, then act when the time is right.... Read more
jAlbum Pro 12.2.4 - Organize your digita...
jAlbum Pro has all the features you love in jAlbum, but comes with a commercial license. With jAlbum, you can create gorgeous custom photo galleries for the Web without writing a line of code!... Read more
jAlbum 12.2.4 - Create custom photo gall...
With jAlbum, you can create gorgeous custom photo galleries for the Web without writing a line of code! Beginner-friendly, with pro results Simply drag and drop photos into groups, choose a design... Read more
ExpanDrive 4.1.7 - Access remote files o...
ExpanDrive builds cloud storage in every application, acts just like a USB drive plugged into your Mac. With ExpanDrive, you can securely access any remote file server directly from the Finder or... Read more
OmniOutliner Pro 4.1.3 - Pro version of...
OmniOutliner Pro is a flexible program for creating, collecting, and organizing information. Give your creativity a kick start by using an application that's actually designed to help you think. It'... Read more
Evernote 5.6.2 - Create searchable notes...
Evernote allows you to easily capture information in any environment using whatever device or platform you find most convenient, and makes this information accessible and searchable at anytime, from... Read more
OmniOutliner 4.1.3 - Organize your ideas...
OmniOutliner is a flexible program for creating, collecting, and organizing information. Give your creativity a kick start by using an application that's actually designed to help you think. It's... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Puzzle to the Center of the Earth Review
Puzzle to the Center of the Earth Review By Campbell Bird on October 23rd, 2014 Our Rating: :: SPELUNKING PUZZLESUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Do some puzzles to make some platforms in this smart and fun free-to-play... | Read more »
Sleep Attack TD Review
Sleep Attack TD Review By Jennifer Allen on October 23rd, 2014 Our Rating: :: A TRUE TWISTUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Sleep Attack TD is a tower defense game with a difference – you can rotate the layout – and it’s... | Read more »
Mecanic (Education)
Mecanic 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Education Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Plates, screws, wheels ... Everything you need to achieve whatever you want... MECHANICWith 'MECANIC' kids will have fun... | Read more »
Earn Your Master Camper Badge in Camp Po...
Earn Your Master Camper Badge in Camp Pokemon Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 23rd, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Garruk Gets His Revenge in a New Magic 2...
Garruk Gets His Revenge in a New Magic 2015 Expansion, Coming This November Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 23rd, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
Sentinels of the Multiverse Review
Sentinels of the Multiverse Review By Rob Thomas on October 23rd, 2014 Our Rating: :: SENTINELS ASSEMBLEiPad Only App - Designed for the iPad Greater Than Games’ tabletop classic, Sentinels of the Multiverse swoops in to save the... | Read more »
Build Your Own Fantasy Football Dynasty...
Build Your Own Fantasy Football Dynasty with Draft Day Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 23rd, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Cars: Fast as Lightning – Tips, Tricks,...
Hey there, Stickers: Want to know all about how impressed we were with Radiator Springs? Check out our Cars: Fast as Lightning review! Cars: Fast as Lightning is a cute and fun app that combines racing and town-building with the charisma and... | Read more »
Jam Messenger Review
Jam Messenger Review By Jennifer Allen on October 23rd, 2014 Our Rating: :: SIMPLE MESSAGINGiPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad Want a very quick way to send push-based messages? Jam Messenger is basic... | Read more »
Felllice (Games)
Felllice 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: EXCLUSIVE PRICE DROP! 50% OFF FOR A LIMITED TIME! EAT EAT EAT AND GROW ! | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Save up to $125 on Retina MacBook Pros
B&H Photo has the new 2014 13″ and 15″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to $125 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only. They’ll also include free copies of Parallels... Read more
Apple refurbished Time Capsules available sta...
The Apple Store has certified refurbished Time Capsules available for up to $60 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each Time Capsule, and shipping is free: - 2TB Time Capsule: $255... Read more
Textilus New Word, Notes and PDF Processor fo...
Textilus is new word-crunching, notes, and PDF processor designed exclusively for the iPad. I haven’t had time to thoroughly check it out yet, but it looks great and early reviews are positive.... Read more
WD My Passport Pro Bus-Powered Thunderbolt RA...
WD’s My Passport Pro RAID solution is powered by an integrated Thunderbolt cable for true portability and speeds as high as 233 MB/s. HighlightsOverviewSpecifications Transfer, Back Up And Edit In... Read more
Save with Best Buy’s College Student Deals
Take an additional $50 off all MacBooks and iMacs at Best Buy Online with their College Students Deals Savings, valid through November 1st. Anyone with a valid .EDU email address can take advantage... Read more
iPad Air 2 & iPad mini 3 Best Tablets Yet...
The new iPads turned out to be pretty much everything I’d been hoping for and more than I’d expected.”More” particularly in terms of a drinking-from-a-firehose choice of models and configurations,... Read more
Drafts 4 Reinvents iOS Productivity App
N Richland Hills, Texas based Agile Tortoise has announced the release of Drafts 4 for iPhone and iPad. Drafts is a quick capture note taking app with flexible output actions. Drafts 4 scales from... Read more
AT&T accepting preorders for new iPads fo...
AT&T Wireless is accepting preorders for the new iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, cellular models, for $100 off MSRP with a 2-year service agreement: - 16GB iPad Air 2 WiFi + Cellular: $529.99 - 64GB... Read more
Apple offering refurbished Mac Pros for up to...
The Apple Store is offering Apple Certified Refurbished 2013 Mac Pros for up to $600 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each Mac Pro, and shipping is free. The... Read more
Select MacBook Airs $100 off MSRP, free shipp...
B&H Photo has 2014 a couple of MacBook Airs on sale for $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only. They also include free copies of Parallels Desktop and LoJack for... Read more

Jobs Board

Senior Event Manager, *Apple* Retail Market...
…This senior level position is responsible for leading and imagining the Apple Retail Team's global event strategy. Delivering an overarching brand story; in-store, Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
Project Manager / Business Analyst, WW *Appl...
…a senior project manager / business analyst to work within our Worldwide Apple Fulfillment Operations and the Business Process Re-engineering team. This role will work Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
…customers purchase our products, you're the one who helps them get more out of their new Apple technology. Your day in the Apple Store is filled with a range of Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.