My Turn

Using REALbasic 4.5.1 Classic

M Borselli - 2002.11.06

My Turn is Low End Mac's column for reader-submitted articles. It's your turn to share your thoughts on all things Mac (or iPhone, iPod, etc.) and write for the Mac web. Email your submission to Dan Knight .

REALsoftware produces REALbasic. There are two Macintosh versions, Classic and OS X. This review examines Classic version 4.5.1.

Additionally, there are two editions of REALbasic, the Standard ($149.95) and the Professional ($349.95). The system requirements are a PowerPC, Mac OS 8.1 or later, 6.5 MB of hard drive space, and 4.5 MB RAM.

The test system is a Power Mac 8100 with a 367 MHz G3 processor card, 136 MB RAM, several 4-8 GB hard drives, and Mac OS 8.1 and 8.6, using Conflict Catcher 8. A 30-day demo is available for download from REALsoftware.

The REALbasic Demo

The REALbasic 4.5.1 Classic demo contains the complete program. REALbasic allows programmers to build both Macintosh Classic and OS X programs, as well as PC programs. Programs compiled by the demo will operate for 5 minutes and only during the trial period. In order to continue using REALbasic beyond 30 days, it is necessary to purchase, at a minimum, a license ($99.95).

The Standard and Professional editions each contain the license, an application CD, and printed documentation. Included in the application CD are examples, tutorials, and electronic documentation. The demo is obtained from the demo website <http://www.realsoftware.com/download/demo.html>.

The demo file is 8.2 MB. Using a 56K modem, the demo downloads in around 30 minutes. Faster connections will, of course, allow for faster downloading. The REALbasic folder loads itself onto the desktop. Simply transfer it to your hard drive's applications folder and the installation is complete.

The demo folder contains the REALbasic 4.5.1 Classic program and six folders: IDE Extras, Internet Resources, Plugins, Read Me's, Soundtracks, and Stationary.

  • The IDE Extras folder has sample coding scripts and allows other applications to be added to the REALbasic menus.
  • Weblinks useful to most REALbasic programmers, as well as links to other REALbasic developer sites, are included in the Internet Resources folder.
  • Plugins add new functions to programs and REALbasic allows for this with the Plugins folder - simply install the plugin into the folder and it is installed as REALbasic starts up.
  • Important development files and release notes are available in the Read Me's folder.
  • Finally, the Soundtracks folder contains sound effects for use in REALbasic and the Stationary folder allows programmers to set default settings for projects.

Most demo users, however, will not be using any of these folder features at the start.

The program started with no difficulties. Conflicts have been nonexistent since installing the program on the test system, in both Mac OS 8.1 or 8.6. During testing, Adobe Acrobat Reader 4.0 was run along with REALbasic to view the many PDF tutorials. On several occasions, Word 98, Netscape 4.74, and Toast 4.1.1 have also run without any problems.

REALbasic has a toolbar-based interface, like Photoshop and PageMaker. At start up, several windows appear: the Control Palette, the Project Window and its untitled Window Editor, and the Properties Window. Providing various Button controls, ListBox controls, and EditField controls, the Control Palette contains over 30 interface objects.

Drag and drop the required interface object to the Window Editor window to place it into the program. The Project Window lists the items in the program, such as menus, the untitled Window Editor, and any other windows that may be added.

Each object, including interface objects, has a Properties Window. This window contains a list of properties and values for the currently selected object. When another object is selected, the Properties Window changes to show that objects properties.

Build a First Program

To build a first, simple program, such as "Hello World", start with the startup windows: Control Icons window, Project window and its untitled Window Editor, and the Properties window. File > Save As the Project window to HelloWorld.rb. Change the untitled Window Editor name to "Hello World Program" on the Title field in the Properties window.

Drag and drop the PushButton Tool and the EditField Tool to the program window. Edit > Duplicate (Command-D) the PushButton Tool twice, and renamed the buttons "DisplayHello," "Clear," and "Quit" in their respective Properties Name field. Rename the EditField Tool "TextDisplay" in the Properties Name field. Place the "TextDisplay" EditField at the top of the window with the "Display Hello" and "Clear" buttons on the same line under it and the "Quit" button at the bottom.

Add the code to the PushButtons and the EditField. From the program window, Option-Tab to get the Code Editor window. From there, click the disclosure triangle to the left of the Controls icon and for each button add code. In the "Display Hello" button, place

TextDisplay.Text="Hello World"

in the Action item. The "Clear" button has

TextDisplay.Text=""

and the "Exit" button has

Beep
Quit

added to the Action item. Choose Debug > Run (Command-R) to test the program.

Build the stand-alone applications by going to File > Build Settings. Choose whether to build a Macintosh program or a PC program or both. Name the program "Hello" for Macintosh and/or "Hello.exe" for PC (using the popup menu). Click OK and File > Build Application. REALbasic then builds the application(s). In all, the program should take about 15-20 minutes to build.

Additional Tutorials

REALsoftware also has several REALbasic Tutorial PDFs on their tutorial website. The main tutorial is 4.5 MB and involves building a simple Text Editor program, similar to SimpleText. In 12 separate chapters it covers such topics as Working with Documents (Ch. 4), Adding Drag and Drop to TextEditor (Ch. 6), and Printing Styled Text (Ch. 9). Each chapter is short and specific, explaining the steps necessary to build a workable program.

The Text Editor program is easy to build and will take several sessions with REALbasic. In order to get more experience in specific parts of program building, a new REALbasic programmer should refer back to the Text Editor program because it contains elements required in more advanced programs.

Other tutorial programs available include building a URL manager. There are also many websites that contain step-by-step REALbasic programming tutorials. REALbasic University is an excellent resource for the novice programmer, with 73 lessons at last count.

Conclusion

This is a very impressive program. The user-interface is excellent and the features are helpful. The possibility to build new programs for both Macintosh and PC is of great benefit. The demo was used on the test system for the full trial period, with at least one hour per day using the program. Many of the tutorials were used during that time to explore the program.

While the learning curve can be steep for some new programming languages, the author found that this was not the case. In fact, learning REALbasic was much easier on one's own than his experience learning C in the classroom.

The author believes that the novice would have little problem picking up the fundamentals of REALbasic, especially if the many Internet resources are used. While not yet achieving several hundred line programs, beginners can gain confidence as they build more applications, adding new and complex code and features to them.

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