Delphi and the changing world of software development

By: Cary Jensen

Abstract: The transition from Win32 to .NET development will be gradual, and will last for many years. Thank goodness for Delphi, the one solution that addresses the needs of both today's and tomorrow's software developers.

Let's face it, as far as software development goes we are in a period of transition, at least those of us in the Windows camp. After years of developing and deploying Win32 applications, there is a new kid on the block, .NET. For some of you, especially those of you developing dynamic Web applications using ASP.NET, .NET is quickly becoming, or has already become, part of your daily lives. For the rest of you, unless you plan on retiring sometime in the next few years, .NET is in your future.

But what about today? Should you abandon Win32 applications in favor of .NET now?

It's a legitimate question, and one that I hear on a daily basis. It's also one that I have given a great deal of thought to. Since I write courseware on software development, I need to anticipate the needs of my clients months and sometimes even years in advance. As a result, the .NET now or later issue is one that I've been wrestling with for some time now. And I think the answer is "no," which is why I decided to include both Win32 Delphi and Delphi for .NET in my current public course offerings.

Let's face it, the .NET framework is outstanding. I love it, and if you are not using it yet, let me assure you that you will love it, too. But for the majority of today's software developers, the framework class library (FCL) is a work in progress, one that probably does not yet meet all of your development needs.

Note that I said "the majority." I did not say "all." This is because the majority of you are building client applications that run on workstations. If you are building dynamic Web sites or Web services applications, the FCL provides a solid solution today. I do not feel that the same can be said about client applications. In my opinion, if you are building client applications, Win32 is still tops, and will be for years to come.

If you do not believe me, consider this: the .NET framework itself, as well as the .NET IDEs (integrated development environments) such as Microsoft's Visual Studio 2003 .NET, Borland's C#Builder, and Delphi 8 for the Microsoft .NET Framework, all rely on the Win32 platform. Sure, once .NET  is integrated into the operating system this will change. But I am talking about today. And today, we live in a Win32 world. (It's worth noting that Win32 applications built today will be able to run unmodified on Longhorn, Microsoft's next-generation operating system due out sometime in 2007 or later.)

All of this leads me to believe that Borland has a winner with Delphi 8 for the .NET Framework, making Delphi the ideal choice for both today's and tomorrow's software developer. This conclusion is based on three points.

First, Delphi is currently the best tool for building Win32 applications. By comparison, Visual Basic developers who continue to build or maintain Win32 applications are working with an IDE that is close to 6 years old (Visual Basic 6 was released in 1998). Imagine how you would feel if the latest version of Delphi was Delphi 3, and most people would agree that Delphi 3 was better than VB 6.

Don't hold your breath waiting for Microsoft to come out with a new Win32 version of either VB or C++ (or C# for that matter). It won't happen. However, Borland has already indicated that an updated version of Delphi 32 is in the works, one that will see many of the enhancements added to Delphi 8. An updated Win32 Delphi will ensure even greater compatibility between Win32 and .NET code, as well as improve an already outstanding development environment.

Second, if you need to deploy client applications today using the .NET framework, only Delphi 8 permits you to build a first class user interface. Delphi 8 not only provides you with the FCL, which I do not yet feel is adequate for most client applications, but also gives you the VCL.NET (a .NET version of the visual component library). Only with the VCL.NET can you build client application user interfaces in .NET that meet the high expectations of your end users. (For a more detailed discussion of this point, read Danny Thorpe's articulate BDN article Why VCL for .NET?.) Eventually the FCL will evolve, and will be better suited for client user interfaces, but you get that today with Delphi 8.

Finally, Delphi allows you to preserve your investment in software development. And I am not just talking about code that you wrote yesterday or last year. I am talking about the code you will be writing. In particular, whether you are currently writing applications for Win32 or .NET using Delphi, much, if not all, of the code you write today will compile tomorrow.

If you haven't taken a look at Delphi 8 for the Microsoft .NET Framework yet, consider downloading the trial version of Delphi 8 Architect. Better yet, if you are not yet using Delphi 7 (the latest Win32 version), you should consider upgrading to Delphi 8. The Delphi 3 - 6 upgrade to Delphi 8 includes Delphi 7.

About the Author

Cary Jensen is President of Jensen Data Systems, Inc., a training and consulting company that won the 2002 and 2003 Delphi Informant Magazine Readers Choice Awards for Best Training. He is the author and presenter for Delphi Developer Days 2004 (www.DelphiDeveloperDays.com) and Advantage Developer Days 2004 (www.AdvantageDeveloperDays.com), information-packed seminars that tour North America and Europe. Cary is also an award-winning, best-selling co-author of nineteen books, including Advantage Database Server: The Official Guide (2003, McGraw-Hill/Osborne), Building Kylix Applications (2001, Osborne/McGraw-Hill), Oracle JDeveloper (1999, Oracle Press), JBuilder Essentials (1998, Osborne/McGraw-Hill), and Delphi In Depth (1996, Osborne/McGraw-Hill). For information about onsite training and consulting you can contact Cary at cjensen@jensendatasystems.com, or visit his Web site at www.JensenDataSystems.com.

    

Copyright ) 2004 Cary Jensen, Jensen Data Systems, Inc.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NO PART OF THIS DOCUMENT CAN BE COPIED IN ANY FORM WITHOUT THE EXPRESS, WRITTEN CONSENT OF THE AUTHOR.


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