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Borland C#Builder Is a Capable Alternative to VS.NET

Competing with Visual Studio is not a simple task, but Borland's C#Builder succeeds by extending the IDE concept to fully embrace not only coding and debugging tasks, but also enterprise-level planning, design and optimization tasks, multiple relational databases, and tools that help .NET developers interact with J2EE components and applications.

orland's C#Builder is an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) that provides extensive support for building .NET applications. Despite its name, C#Builder doesn't support only C#, it also supports VB.NET in its first release, with an admittedly much larger emphasis on C#. Borland says it plans to support other .NET-compatible languages in future versions.

The product is important for several reasons:
  • C#Builder is the first non-Microsoft commercial IDE (a free open source C# IDE, SharpDevelop, was the earliest) to provide deep application development support for .NET languages.
  • It's the first IDE to make a serious effort to bridge development across both Java and .NET.
  • It's the first .NET IDE to support a broad range of enterprise databases. The product ships in several versions; I tested the Enterprise version.

  • Getting Started
    Installation was straightforward and caused no problems. You don't have to have Visual Studio installed, but if you do, there aren't any undesirable side effects. You do have to have the .NET Framework, but if you don't the installation takes care of that for you.

    When you first launch C#Builder, you'll see a Welcome Page (see Figure 1) that's roughly the equivalent of Visual Studio's Start Page. From the Welcome Page, you can create new projects or select recent projects, access training, examples, resources such as support and newsgroups, or, in an example of unashamed (and unnecessary) marketing, find links to other Borland products. This marketing ploy extends to the six icons visible at the top of the Welcome Page, which provide yet another series of links to most of the products visible in Figure 1 under the Microsoft .NET Solutions from Borland heading. While links to related products are convenient and welcome in products if they're located somewhere out-of-the-way—under Help, perhaps—they simply use up screen real-estate on a day-to-day basis. For example, Borland could have used the space to eliminate a required click by putting the contents of the dialog to create new Items (see Figure 2) right on the Welcome Page. Instead, you have to click New Item and then select from the dialog.

    Figure 1: The Welcome Page. The Welcome Page appears when you first start C#Builder, and includes links to recent projects and other Borland products and services.
    Figure 2: The New Items Dialog . You use this dialog to create new projects, files, or reports.

    Although terminology differs between the two products, for example, Visual Studio terms a collection of products a solution, while C#Builder calls them a project group, developers familiar with Visual Studio .NET will have few problems using C#Builder. A project group may contain projects in different languages, which is convenient for debugging across applications or components built in different languages.

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