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The Basics of REALbasic, Cross-platform RAD Tool in the Mold of VB

Learn the ins and outs of REALbasic, an application development environment for creating native applications and utilities. Its cross-platform capability makes it easy to compile the applications and utilities you create on one platform and run them on another.

n recent years, the move towards web-based applications has accelerated for a variety of reasons, including the need for simple and reliable installations. Despite the many reasons for developing web applications, an old-fashioned, double-clickable native application is still better at some things. The user experience, for example, is generally richer and it matches what the average user expects from commercial desktop software.

For many vertical market applications, it is not practical—nor desirable—to make a web application because end users don't want browser-based applications and are comfortable with feature-rich desktop applications. Slow or limited web access also creates less-than-ideal environments for web applications. In addition, some businesses still question the safety and security of data transferred over the web.

REALbasic from Real Software Inc. is a useful development environment that enables you to create a wide variety of native applications and utilities quickly and easily. The Personal Edition provides the basic features to create these applications, while the Professional Edition adds the ability to compile native executables for Windows, Mac OS X, and a wide variety of Linux systems just by setting a checkbox or two regardless of your development platform. You can also connect to a wide variety of database servers using the Professional Edition, and you can develop and debug on one platform while running in another as with VMware or Parallels (see Sidebar 1. REALbasic Pricing and Terms).

This article introduces REALbasic. It demonstrates the easy-to-use form layout and coding environments and shows how to use control events in applications.

Homage to Visual Basic
The REALbasic integrated development environment (IDE) is quite similar to Microsoft Visual Basic; it also combines into one environment the REALbasic language with all aspects of interface building and code editing. The IDE generally prevents you from doing silly things by providing specialized editors that don't require you to know the exact syntax of the language, which makes its learning curve less steep than those of other languages. For example, you add a method via a method editor with specific edit fields for the method name, parameter list (with auto complete), return type (with auto complete), and scope declaration.

In other languages, you would have to learn the rules for declaring methods before writing any code. For example, declaring a user-defined function in Visual Basic requires you to know the syntax for creating one. REALbasic has no such requirement because the method editor allows you only one way to declare a user-defined function—you can't type it incorrectly.

The REALbasic programming language may be easy to use and learn, but don't be fooled by the "basic" in its name. It is a modern, cross-platform, and object-oriented language that is highly extensible with operating system declares and plugins written in C++. Nearly all controls and classes within REALbasic can be subclassed (the notable exceptions to the rule are database and recordset objects).

The IDE helps manage some of the more mundane aspects of your code. The code editor features auto-indent and code folding, which allow you to easily see and collapse your code. By keeping your code properly indented, your REALbasic code stays readable and consistent across development teams.

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