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Borland C#Builder Is a Capable Alternative to VS.NET : Page 2

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.




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Borland has the advantage of the Visual Studio model, and it has succeeded in producing an IDE that's immediately usable even by die-hard Visual Studio developers and at the same time integrating some Borland-specific and third-party tools that provide nearly immediate benefits. First, C#Builder itself has an important role as the development tool in Borland's support for the full "application development lifecycle," from planning to delivery. In the Enterprise version, Borland includes the CaliberRM product for the planning state, which can help in gathering requirements from end users and other interested parties. For the design stage, the UML-based Together product helps with "design-driven development." The development tool is C#Builder itself, integrated with the Optimizeit profiler for identifying application bottlenecks, and StarTeam for version management. Borland provides open interfaces for these tools, so it may be possible to integrate familiar third-party tools (such as Rational or Visual SourceSafe) with C#Builder if you prefer. Not every tool mentioned ships with all versions of C#Builder, so make sure the version you select includes the tools you need.

No matter which edition you purchase, C#Builder includes the InterBase Developer Edition, a trial version of Optimizeit, the Enterprise version of ComponentOne Studio suite of components, and Borland-tailored version of Crystal Reports and InstallShield Express. Finally, the tool integrates with HTMLTidy, a powerful HTML cleanup, transformation, and formatting tool originally created by Dave Raggett. Main IDE Windows
The C#Builder IDE uses dockable window panels, many of which integrate together into tabbed sets so you can easily switch back and forth between the various views. Here's a brief description of the most important panels:

Object Inspector. C#Builder's Object Inspector panel lets you set component properties and connect events with event handlers. You select an object, such as a form or control, either by clicking on it in design view or by selecting it from a dropdown list at the top of the Object Inspector panel. By default, the panel docks to the full height of the window, along the left side of the IDE window, which is convenient, because, for most objects, you don't have to scroll to see the full list of available properties. You can elect to arrange properties by category or by name by selecting from the Arrangement item on the Object Inspector's context menu. When you select the category view, you can expand and collapse categories, letting you hide the less-used categories and increase the space available for the categories you do use most often. When you collapse a category it "sticks" across objects—that category remains collapsed regardless of which object you select.

The Object Inspector panel has two tabs: Properties and Events. Clicking the Events tab gives you a list of all the events available for the selected item, along with a ComboBox that lets you either choose an existing event handler for that event or create a new event handler stub by entering its name. Unfortunately, double-clicking on the event name doesn't automatically create a handler stub with a default name in the code; you have to enter a name manually. Project Manager. The Project manager panel is the equivalent of Visual Studio's Solution Explorer—it contains a hierarchical view of a set of projects. You can add, remove, and rename projects and items from this panel. At the root of the hierarchy is a named Project Group, containing individual projects, which in turn contain the files and folders for that particular project. Each item has a specific icon, which helps to quickly differentiate the items. Double-clicking an item performs a default action; for example, double-clicking a Windows Form item displays it in Design View.

Figure 3: The Tool Palette. This panel contains pre-defined items you can use in your applications, arranged in collapsible sections. The figure shows all sections collapsed except the Data Components section.
Design/Code. There are two views for Windows Forms projects: Design View and Code View. As you'd expect, the Design View lets you drag and drop components from the Tool Palette onto a design surface, and then arrange them so you can create a user interface visually, rather than creating it manually in code. In the background, C#Builder writes the code to create the visual interface, and keeps it synchronized with the Design View.

The panel contains two tabs, Design and Code, so you can rapidly switch between Design View and Code View. Some actions, such as double-clicking a component, automatically switch the panel to Code View. Code View has all the conveniences you'd expect in a modern code editor: syntax highlighting, code folding (collapsing sections of code to keep them out of the way), Code Insights (the equivalent of Microsoft's Intellisense), interactive syntax checking. The editor supports Code Snippets and Code Templates, a convenient feature that lets you insert pre-defined blocks of commonly used code quickly, without typing.

Tool Palette. The Tool palette (see Figure 3) contains all the controls, components, common dialogs, and custom items that you can use in your applications.

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