Xojo 2017 R2.1 and Updated Roadmap

I’ve had a hellacious travel schedule the past six months so I apologize that I’ve not been up to snuff on Xojo news. Last week Xojo 2017 Release 2.1 was made public and earlier this week Xojo CEO, Geoff Perlman, penned a blog post about the short-term roadmap for Xojo. Let’s dig in!

First, the 2.1 release has a mere 16 bug fixes in it. This dot release fixes some critical Linux, and Windows bugs. A few IDE bugs were addressed and the PostgreSQLDatabase plugin was updated. Many of these bugs won’t affect everyone but it’s definitely worth upgrading from R2 if you have not already done so.

Now on to Geoff’s short-term roadmap. You can read the entire blog at https://blog.xojo.com/2017/09/19/the-short-term-xojo-roadmap/. To summarize it in a nutshell: 64-bit is taking them longer than expected.

To this I say, ‘Duh’. Anyone who expected 64-bit to be done by this time hasn’t been around very long. Xojo has consistently blown their estimates for most (all?) of their big projects. The transition to Cocoa from Carbon took a lot longer than originally announced. iOS took longer than expected. The introduction of the Xojo IDE from the Real Studio IDE was also delayed (as a side note I’m still amused at the accusation that I personally caused a 6-month delay in the Xojo IDE due to a blog post).

The point isn’t, ‘Oh my gosh, Xojo has yet another delay’ it’s that Xojo is very bad at estimating this stuff. Some of this is on them but some of it is beyond their control. Supporting mac OS, Windows, Linux, iOS, Raspberry Pi, desktop, console, and web apps is a mammoth undertaking. I am constantly amazed at the magic Xojo performs without my knowledge. To me it ‘just works’.

Apple, bless their hearts, changes things on a whim every year at a minimum (sometimes even more often than that) and causes Xojo to play catch up. And they usually do this with little notice. The current change being that the iOS Simulator will no longer support 32-bit apps so guess who has to scramble to make it work now?

Linux distributions seem to change daily. Xojo has to scramble to catch up with those changes too. They recently updated Xojo to use GTK3 and that was a big deal. They sort of had to do this upgrade because GTK2 was pretty long in the tooth. I can only imagine the internal efforts they did for testing.

Windows doesn’t change much for better and worse. The technology from ten years ago still works but that’s not necessarily the best ‘modern’ approach for Windows. Many users complain about flicker when windows are resized. This is a valid complaint but because Windows does not double-buffer their windows like Mac and Linux the older Win32 controls flicker like mad under many circumstances.

Regardless, 64-bit is the roadblock for other things. If you were hoping for Android, interops, or plugins compiled in Xojo to be released in 2017 you’re out of luck. This is what happens with a small development team. There simply isn’t enough man-hours to work around delays in some projects. This happens in ALL software development products but with a small team this impacts everything.

The only bit of good news from Geoff’s blog post is that the Windows framework is getting a big update. This update will ‘dramatically’ reduce flicker according to Geoff. No word on what exactly they’re changing though a thread on the forums from Aug 9 might give a little clue. Changing transparency seems like a little thing but perhaps they plan on implementing a double-buffering scheme. Until we find out more it’s not worth speculating. It seems like this new scheme might make it by the end of this year. So either this has been in the works for a long time or it’s not huge from a coding standpoint.

Promising services based on a product feature that doesn’t yet exist is dangerous. If you were promising Cocoa, iOS, or 64-bit versions before they were actually released you did your customers a disservice. I remember one XDC where a database ORM (Object Relational Model), similar to ActiveRecord, was shown with a lot of interest by those attending. I’m still waiting on it. The lesson is to not depend on vaporware!

So what are your thoughts on R2.1 and the Short-term Roadmap?

Xojo 2017 Release 1.1

Xojo 2017 Release 1.1 hit the web today.  This dot release contains some very important Windows framework bug fixes related to printing and is recommended for all users.  There are a few other changes as well.

For those that are trying to print reports in Xojo this release fixes some critical bugs.  First, the Printer.Landscape property is now honored whereas before it used the default printer orientation.  Second, the PrinterSetup.Setup string is now built and restored properly and works when set.  These fixes now allow reporting tools like BKS Shorts to print properly in landscape mode when restoring the PrinterSetup.SetupString.

A couple of exceptions were fixed in the IDE.  Toggling the line number display in Windows no longer disables the cursor.  You can now toggle the line numbers in IDE scripts.  Duplicating an instance of a container control no longer create an invalid control set.

It is important to recognize the value of this dot release.  For many developers this isn’t an important release but for those of us that rely on printing this was a big deal.  2016 R4 broke printing almost entirely and it was mostly corrected in 2017 R1.  Each release of Xojo brings new features and many bug fixes it’s often very difficult to revert to an older version.  So kudos to Xojo Inc. for doing a dot release.

Xojo 2016 R4 (The Xojo IDE I Always Needed)

Xojo 2016 Release 4 hit the web today.  In many respects this is the IDE that I wish had been released three and a half years ago as a few of the more insidious features bugs have been fixed.  And, as usual, there is a plethora of new features, changes and bug fixes that make R4 a must-have release.  Let’s get to it!

First, the tabs in the IDE now work like most of us want them too.  Open an object, say a window, into a new tab.  By default this tab is locked and it will stay in that window.  The small back and forward arrows at the top of the navigator are not even visible.  To ‘use’ the tab for another object click on the lock symbol in the tab to unlock it.  It might take a click on the name of the Window at the top of the navigator but the arrows come back and you can navigate back to the project stack.  Or, as I tend to do just close the tab and open another object.

In a somewhat related fix, the Back and Forward arrows in the toolbar now work properly per tab.  As you navigate through an object, choosing the back button remembers where you’ve been in that object.  In previous releases the Back and Forward arrows seemed to be a exercise in random number theory as it seemed to go to locations in the IDE I had never visited.  There might have been a pattern to it but usually I just never bothered to use the buttons.

If nothing else, these two changes are a compelling reason to use R4.  The locked tab feature and the back/forward buttons never worked the way I wanted to use them.  It is sad that it took this long to get it right.

The Navigator filter received some updates too.  Now you can use type’s like ‘type:property’ will only find properties.  ‘Type:shared%’ will only find anything that’s shared.  It’s pretty powerful and I recommend playing with it a bit to get used to it.

There is now a contextual menu item for Pictures to convert them to an Image Set and put the selected picture in the first image slot.  This eliminates multiple steps with the mouse and is a very useful addition.

For Windows users there has been some changes.  UseGDIPlus has been deprecated and is replaced with Direct2D drawing.  Make sure to test any of your Windows apps that use a lot of drawing in a graphics object as things might have changed a little with the switch to Direct2D.

New Picture only creates 32 bit depth pictures and this now matches what the other target platforms do by default.  This also means that NewPicture method is deprecated.  HiDPI builds for Windows are no longer beta.

Xojo cloud received a major update.  Uploads to Xojo Cloud are now much faster.  Libraries are now cached by the server so only code and image resources are uploaded.  For example, in R3 one of our largest web projects took over three minutes to upload.  The first time I used R4 it took a little over two minutes (it was caching new libraries) but every time I uploaded the project thereafter it took a mere 44 seconds to upload.  That’s a significant time savings!

The WebListbox now has a CellPicture method that allows you to assign a WebPicture to it.  The WebSession shutdown mechanism has been refactored to help keep sessions from getting stuck and not quitting.  Exceptions in Websession.close no longer keep subsequent sessions from closing.

Due to changes, especially on the Windows side, you might want to check on updated versions of your plugins.  MonkeyBread software recommends version 16.5, or newer with R4.  16.5 is currently in preview and they expect to release it next week.  Einhugur has a couple of updated plugins for Release 4 as well.

As with any major Xojo release, you should test your projects thoroughly before releasing anything into the wild.  The beta program catches a lot of bugs but it’s not a perfect program.  One such bug that got through is an Application crash when using the Super button in the Inspector.  Until a fix is released type the class super by hand rather than using the dialog.

R4 is a small, but significant release.  It moves Windows forward using Direct2D drawing, and Xojo Cloud is significantly faster for deployment, but perhaps the changes to the IDE are the most important.  The Navigator is not nearly as horrible as it was in previous releases and, in my opinion, makes it as useful, now, as the Real Studio IDE.  If you are still using Real Studio I recommend checking out R4 as I think it takes most of the pain out of using Xojo.

What’s new, changed, or fixed, that makes you happy?

Xojo 2016 Release 3

Xojo 2016 R3 was released today.  This release is a much smaller release than either R1 and R2 and despite not having any major new features has some nifty new small features and changes that will probably make your life easier.

You can now create a new event definition by right-clicking on an existing event and choosing “Create New Definition From Event”.  If you have ever subclassed a control you know what a pain this can be.  You need the Open event for your subclass, but you need to create a mirror Open event so the user could do something.  Before this release you had to create the definition manually and then hope the parameters (if there were any) matched.

Making ImageSets from existing pictures is easier.  Right-click on the picture and choose “Convert to Image” where it will create an ImageSet and put this image at the base image.  The only caveat to this feature is that you must have the Supports Hi-DPI setting in Shared Build Settings checked.  This seems like a needless restriction in my opinion.

You can now right-click an item in the Library and be able to create a new subclass from that menu item.  You no longer have to add a class and then change its super to the class you want.

Extract Super is a new right-click option on a class that lets you extract code items.  If you have a subclass , like the Listbox, you can now extract the super and tell the IDE which methods, properties, constants, delegates, enumerations, etc it should have.  To do this before would have been an extremely tedious and time consuming task.

Right-clicking on the Contents headers in the Navigator lets you insert things into your project.  In a similar fashion, right-clicking on a header of an object lets you add another of the same type.  If you right-click on Methods the only thing active in the contextual menu is the Add method.

The contextual menu in the Code Editor has two new additions.  You can now “Wrap in #if false #endif” and “Wrap In For Next”.  Both of these will options will wrap currently selected code in that code.  Another interesting adoption, “Convert to Constant” will take the currently selected code and bring up a Constant dialog allowing you to change the Name, Scope, Type, and Value of the constant before saving it and replacing the code with the new constant.

The icon for the Xojo Project file now has a solid color that helps distinguish it from the other Xojo text files.

The Library now has two “All” entries.  One is “All Controls” which shows every control including custom subclasses in the project.  The second is the “All Built-In Controls” which is just the native controls for the project type.  There is a new attribute you can add to a control, “HideFromLibrary” that you can add to a control subclass that keeps it from listing in the library.

If you like to have non-standard code editor colors you can now import and export color themes in preferences.  Also in preferences you can set how many “Recent Items” there are in the menu of the same name in the File menu.

As with every Xojo release, R3 has a not insignificant number of pure bug fixes.  I encourage you to look at the entire list and decide for yourself if anything important to you has been fixed.

An important bug concerning MySQL was fixed.  In the R2.x series using a MySQL connection in a thread would just ‘hang’ and never come back.

In my own testing R3 has been solid.  I did run into an issue with a web project that I opened in R3, saved it, and then tried to reopened it in R2.  I got the infamous “You might lose data” message that’s always scary.  In R2 I did an analyze project and saved it with on further issue.  So remember kids, backwards compatibility is a blessing – not a guarantee.

I enjoyed this beta cycle.  It was much smaller and easier to test.  Without major new features it seemed a less rushed cycle.  Hopefully R4 will be as good.  Will we finally see 64 bit debugging?  Man, I hope so as a current Raspberry Pi project really could use it.

Anything in R3 that you’re particularly happy to see?

Edit:  As Tiago points out in the comments section I forgot to mention the compiler optimization settings!  This dropdown in Shared Build Settings area will choose an optimization level (Default, Moderate, and Aggressive) for Raspberry Pi and any other project built for 64-bit.  Early reports suggest that it does a good job on math intensive projects as well as projects that are using a lot of loops.

It missed my initial list because we’re not building for 64-bit yet – waiting on that debugger.  I apologize for the omission.

Xojo 2016 Release 2.1

Release 2.1 of Xojo 2016 was released yesterday.  This version fixes a few bugs discovered in Release 2 and fixes couple of serious regressions regarding threads.  Sadly, it also introduces a couple of new bugs that might affect your project.

A number of bugs were squashed in iOSTable and for web apps.  If you use either I recommend checking the release notes.

I am unsure of exactly what changed in Release 2 but Threads had issues.  Release 2.1 fixes quite a few (most?) of them.  Resuming a suspended thread now works properly on sleeping or suspended threads.  Blocked threads waiting for locks will stay waiting.  Some applications were hanging when the last non-main thread exited and the main thread had recently been unblocked.

If you are MySQL user the thread issue may have affected you as well.  Certain queries that create detached threads would cause assertions.

The DMG’s distributed by Xojo are now code signed so they will open in Sierra.

A product as big as Xojo will inevitably have bugs not found during the beta process.  I usually joke it takes about thirty seconds after release for the first bug to be found and Release 2.1 is no exception.  These Windows bugs, however, are no joking matter.

If you use RTFData in a Windows application you may experience problems.  As you reload the rtf data back into the control the text sizes get smaller.  Feedback 44852.  This may be related to Feedback 44878 where using SelTextSize and TextSize results in the wrong size being reported.  So if you have 10 point text it will report back as 9.5.

I think it’s always a good idea to peruse the Newest and Recent Activity lists to see what other developers are seeing.  There are a few other minors regressions being reported as well as a couple of Windows only regressions.

Should you upgrade to R2.1?  If you are already using R2 you most definitely should as R2.1 fixes some serious issues..  If you are on an earlier version it’s a bit more murky.  The answer is a definite maybe but only after some doing real testing – especially if you are using threads or MySQL.

What say you Xojo friends?  What do you think of R2 and R2.1?

Xojo 2016 Release 2

Last week Xojo 2016 Release 2 was unleashed to the masses.  There are a lot of changes and tweaks in this version and if you are creating web or iOS applications there is a lot of like about this release.  There are also a myriad of changes and enhancements that should satisfy most developers.

iOS Stuff

The biggest changes in R2 is for iOS and these are things that developers have been requesting since its initial release.  Support for iOS 7 has been dropped because its market share is less than 20% and the minimum required version is now iOS 8.  This also means that Xcode 7 or Xcode 8 needs to be installed.

The Xojo engineers added iOSScrollableArea which allows you to view and display content that is larger than the view.  This is a very welcome addition and is worth the upgrade for this feature alone.

R2 also adds the iOSLocation class that allows your application to request location coordinates as well as get updates from the device.  Once your application gets permission to access the device location you receive changes via the LocationChanged event that gives you latitude, longitude, altitude, course and speed parameters.  An Accuracy property lets you change the desired accuracy.  In addition to iOSLocation Xojo has added the iOSMotion class that allows developers to access the accelerometer and gyroscope.

iOSTable was arguably the most useful and least powerful control in iOS for Xojo and this release definitely gives it some love.  You can now embed controls in the cells of iOSTable by using the iOSCustomTableCell class.  This allows you to create some very rich and powerful UI that lives in the cell of an iOSTable.  I guess the best equivalent in desktop and web terms is that the iOSCustomTableCell is a specialized ContainerControl you can put into an iOSTable cell.  I’m looking forward to using this.

They’ve also added support for Row Actions in the iOSTable.  The new ActionsForRow event passes in the section and row and you have to supply the iOSTableRowAction array.  The iOSTableRowAction has a title, an Auto tag and a Style.  The style can be either Normal or Destructive with Destructive changing the background of the Action to red (does this ever vary? – not sure).

The new iOSSharingPanel allows you to share pictures, text and URL’s with any registered system service or app.  That’s a fancy way of saying you can share this data between applications.  It’s the iOS version of the clipboard available to desktop applications.

The iOSPicturePicker class allows you to select images on the device or take pictures with the camera.

To avoid confusion for users, the old SQLiteDatabase class for iOS has been renamed iOSSQLiteDatabase.  The corresponding recordset class is now named iOSSQLiteRecordSet.

Non-IOS stuff

The Web framework is now HiDPI capable.  It works similarly as desktop apps in that it queries the browser for the scaling factor.  Then, the application serves up the proper image if it can.  You can change how this works by changing the Supports HiDPI in the Shared Build Settings.

In Windows there are a number of significant HiDPI changes that make it work better in Windows 8.1 and 10.  Perhaps the biggest Windows change is that Xojo.Net.HTTPSocket is no longer much slower than HTTPSecureSocket.  I have not had a chance to look at this one in detail yet so if you’ve had success or failure with it, please leave a comment below.

Always check the release notes that are in every release.  I’m just hitting the highlights out of hundreds of line items and you never know what might be there that affects your application.

As with any new release it’s better to test your project against it before releasing it into the wild.  In my own testing I had some instability with converting an old web project (started around the very first public beta of Web Edition) to use HiDPI graphics.  This involved adding an ImageSet and adding the 1x and 2x graphics, deleting the old graphic, and then fixing it in all locations in the project.  I was able to crash the IDE but all of the crashes were different and, of course, none of it was reproducible.

The Future

The 800 pound gorilla in the room is a 64 bit IDE and 64 bit debugging.  Things like XojoScript are holding back the IDE from being 64 bit.  I would also imagine that not having an integrated debugger available in 64 bit is holding back that as well.  I know we are avoiding releasing some 64 bit projects because of these limitations. We’ve also been playing around with the Raspberry Pi and it’s definitely not very useful without the debugger.

We need the 64 bit debugger.  Let’s hope that R3 provides us with some relief in that area!

How has your experience been with R2 so far?

Xojo 2016 Release 1

Xojo 2016 Release 1 was released today.  This much anticipated version is all about Retina and HiDPI display support.  In addition to that, there are, as always, the usual mix of new features and bug fixes.  Let’s get to it!

The IDE is Retina Aware

The IDE itself is now Retina capable and all of the icons and images used in the IDE have been replaced with high resolution images.  On my 27 inch 5k iMac it’s quite a noticeable difference to my aging eyes: everything is very sharp.  As with many apps once you start using the high resolution version it’s hard to go back to a lower resolution.

Before you jump into this version you might want to do some testing.  On relatively new iMac the Web Layout Editor is very slow.  So slow as to be almost unusable.  This only happens on existing projects since new projects seem to work just fine.  Perhaps it’s a combination of project size and/or web page complexity or number of Web Containers.  I really don’t know but I’ve submitted a Feedback report showing the symptom and an application sample from Activity Monitor.

Your Apps Can Be Retina Aware

In the last Xojo version we were introduced to ImageSets and that feature is now more useful in 2016 Release 1.  The ImageSet allows you to add a normal sized image (1x), a 2x image, and also a 3x image.  Mac OS X only uses the 1x and 2x images but some Windows 10 resolutions will use the 3x image.

HiDPI support for Windows is officially beta and I believe that’s mostly because the various versions of Windows that Xojo supports all do HiDPI slightly different.   Currently Xojo does not support Window 10’s per-display scale factor and will use the scale factor of the screen it was launched on.  TextArea’s only display in large size, the HTMLViewer and MediaPlayer is not scaled, BevelButtons don’t display, and Image Set Icons do not appear correctly in toolbars.  Obviously this is less than ideal for Windows applications and you probably don’t want to release a Windows app with this set.

With Retina/HiDPI support is a new Application shared property called SupportHiDPI.  When set to true, Xojo will build your application with Retina and HiDPI awareness.  When set to false it will build apps that worked the same was as previous builds.  Sadly, this property cannot be changed at runtime because it would make enabling it for Mac OS X a no brainer but leaving Windows as is.

As you can imagine, Retina/HiDPI changes a number of important things.  The Picture class has a new constructor that can take one or more bitmaps in addition to its size.  All bitmaps must have the same aspect ratio or an invalid argument exception is generated.  One question that I’ve not explored for myself is how exact this ratio must match.  What is the precision on this check?

The graphics object now has a ScaleX and ScaleY property.  For pictures the scaleX/Y are always set to 1, but a graphics object passed in from the paint event might have a ScaleX/Y set to 2 on a Retina display.  Graphics.Pixel is now deprecated (NOT REMOVED).

Windows have a couple of changes too.  There is a new event ScaleFactorChanged on Mac OS X that is an indicator that all graphics for that Window should be invalidated.  A read only ScaleFactor tells you what the scale factor is for this window.  The Canvas object has a similar ScaleFactorChanged event on Mac OS X as well.

Local Language Reference

Retina is not the only new thing in R1.  The Local Language Reference has been revamped again and if you are a Dash user you’ll notice that it shares much of the same look and feel.  Searching for an item in the Language Reference, in my opinion, is considerably easier in this new version and I find I like it better than the online version.  Besides being able to search for any event, property, class, enum, etc the local language reference allows you to go back through your search history rather quickly.

Web Framework Changes

The web framework received a number of important changes.  Perhaps the biggest and most important to web users are that WebStyles have changes their implementation.  The change notes say “User defined WebStyles now have more specificity than framework applied styles.” which I have been lead to believe means that WebStyles now work properly in all cases as there were fringe cases where styles were either ignored or improperly applied.  During the beta cycle Xojo asked us to test web apps to make sure nothing broke.  In my testing I didn’t see any issues.

The connection type of a web app can now be set with a command line option.  The WebListBox received some love too.

Miscellaneous Fixes

  • Build times have been improved.
  • Xojo.net.httpsocket now works in Mac OS X console and web applications.
  • A memory leak in NSWindow was fixed in the Cocoa framework.
  • The FileTypes editor has received a number of bug fixes and changes.
  • 40 changes to the documentation and examples.

Conclusions

With all of this work on Retina/HiDPI applications for Release 1 I am disappointed at the lack of project examples for HiDPI and Retina.  Sure, the SupportHiDPI is an easy thing to do, but for many of our applications that create images on the fly we are only left with some fairly vague instructions.  A Xojo Blog posted today http://blog.xojo.com/a-journey-of-a-thousand-pixels might be your best bet in understanding some of these changes in more detail but even I scratched my head with some of the implementation details.  Actual example code that show the practical implications of Retina/HiDPI and creating images would have been very welcome.

I’m relatively happy with 2016 Release 1 though not without some reservations.  Since the number of Windows controls in HiDPI that don’t scale properly is fairly large it’s not ideal that you can’t turn off HiDPI for Windows but keep Retina on for Mac OS X.  Sure, you can always do two builds but it’s not an automated option.  Performance issues with the Web Page Editor is also troubling and perhaps this means there’s a dot release in our near future.

There are quite a few things on the horizon that Xojo needs to tackle.  Full debugging in 64 bit and a 64 bit IDE is perhaps the biggest one and the HiDPI stuff is surely a distraction from that important requirement.  This beta cycle was really long and it makes you wonder how much their schedule has shifted just to get HiDPI (mostly) working with some obvious work still to do.

What are your thoughts on Release 1?

Xojo 2015 R4

Xojo 2015 Release 4 hit the internet today.  The fourth release of Xojo this year is full of bug fixes and only has a few new items.  I’d recommend using this release as the bug fixes are substantial.

Let’s get what’s NOT in this release out of the way.  This release was initially supposed to be about getting Retina and HiDPI capabilities in the IDE and in our applications.  It was determined that there just wasn’t enough time before the end of the year to get it done.  It’s disappointing to not get these new capabilities but I’d rather they be done right than Xojo giving us a half-assed feature that no one is really happy with.

This release also does not complete the 64-bit work started in 2015 Release 3.  We still cannot use the Remote Debugger to live debug 64-bit applications and there are still major gaps in the capabilities between 32-bit and 64-bit applications.  A full list is here:  http://developer.xojo.com/64-bit-guidelines

Changes and Fixes

What this release does is fix over one hundred compiler, framework, database, and IDE bugs.  There a number of 64-bit bugs that have been squashed that were causing linking errors or outright crashes when compiling 64-bit applications.

For the framework there are a couple of high profile fixes that are welcome.  XML Exceptions no longer ‘skip’ exception handlers.  I know this has been troublesome for many developers.  An issue with the new Xojo.IO.Folderitem class has been fixed on Cocoa that would cause crashing when a FolderItem object was put in a tag, for example.

The Web framework received

some bug fixes as well.  Some of the more notable:  WebSessions no longer quit when moving from network to network.  WebPicture’s no longer return nil when defined from a FolderItem and the WebPicture no longer uses twice the memory when the image is in the project file.  The web framework now recognizes the Epiphany web browser on Raspberry Pi.

The WebDragItem now has the Origin X and Y values that indicate the X and Y coordinates of the Sender web control where the drag began.  I haven’t tried this out yet, but this should make some things (like a web based designer) a little easier to create.

The MSSQLServer Prepared Statement no longer returns a nil and should allow developers to use this safer method of using Xojo with Microsoft SQL Server database servers.  The ODBC Database plugin also got an update so it no longer crashes when retrieving large SQL columns.

The IDE has dozens of bug fixes.  Most of them pretty minor but they add up.  Among the more notable fixes:  AutoComplete has had extensive work so that control arrays and structures should work.   Private methods and properties now show in AutoComplete as expected (now, only when in scope).

The Syntax Help Area (at the bottom of the Code Editor) is now scrollable  when the content does not fit the preexisting area.    This area will also show the description, if there is one, in addition to the signature.

The Interface dialog now resizes itself to 75% of the window height.  If you make it larger it will reopen at that size (or the limits of the window).

Filtering in the Navigator now shows results ordered on how closely they match the string based on the Levenshtein distance of the match.  So if you don’t quite get the name right you might still get results instead of requiring an exact match.

New Stuff

Despite this being a mostly bug fix release there are a couple of new goodies that might make your day.  The first is that MySQLCommunityServer now has a SecureAuth property which allows users to authenticate using old password hashes.

The Graphics class for desktop apps has a new property, called CharacterSpacing, that allows you to change the percentage spacing between characters.  You can use both positive and negative values.

Web Text controls now have a TextAlign property.  This should simplify web projects as you no longer do have to duplicate a WebStyle and change the alignment simply to change the text alignment for a single control.  You can still do that but this is a new way to eliminate that extra work.

In some preparation for Retina, Image Sets are now available.  Use the Insert Menu and select Image.  In the Image Set editor that are now 3 thumbnails for the set for normal size, double size, and triple size.  But since this release doesn’t include Retina support this feature is of limited usefulness – for now.

What might be the biggest news of the release is the addition of the CGFloat data type.  This temporary datatype aliases to a Single in 32-bit builds and a Double in 64-bit builds.  This should make fixing some the common libraries (think MacOSLib) easier since we can make one variable that will work for both build types.  Xojo has said that once 64-bit iOS and OS X builds are ONLY 64-bit the CGFloat data type will be deprecated.

Future Releases

I’m a big fan of these mostly bug fix releases.  In a product that changes so much and so quickly (at times), these bug fixes releases allow us to take a deep breath and not worry too much about using this release.  We worry about the big releases because of the shear amount of changes involved and the amount of testing required with our applications.

So what do we have to look forward to in 2016?  Presumably, 2016 will see a full compliment of Retina and HiDPI support since Xojo publicly pulled it from this release.  I would also expect the 64-bit journey to continue with hopefully the IDE becoming 64-bit which means that XojoScript, Windows version and icon information work, and the grandaddy of them all, Remote Debugging work in 64-bit.

I hope we get a Remote Debugger for Raspberry Pi simply because that will make life easier on that platform too.  I’m not sure what else we really need for Raspberry Pi.  What have I forgotten?

I would expect the IDE to get some level of redesign.  Many people, including myself, are unhappy with the workflow in Xojo and think it’s slower to use than Real Studio.  I know of several large customers that have stuck with Real Studio rather than migrate their projects to Xojo simply because of the IDE workflow issues.  Personally I’m happy that Xojo plans to address some of those issues.

I expect the iOS framework to grow with new controls and capabilities.  I also expect the new Xojo framework to keep growing (TCP Socket perhaps being the biggest need) and getting more attention to eliminate some of the cross platform bugs in it (looking at you HTTPSocket).

Will 2016 be the year that the desktop or web frameworks gets rewritten for the Xojo framework?  Perhaps, but Xojo isn’t saying much.  With XDC now in October we won’t get much of a hint of future plans until then, or until we see it in a beta cycle.

I know that Android support is at the top of the wish list in Feedback.  I do NOT see it in 2016 simply because it’s yet another platform.  Unless they’ve already started the work on it (which is always possible and we haven’t noticed it) I expect it to take at least 18 months (more likely two years) for an Android beta release.  And even then, how long until it’s really usable?

So what is your take on this release?  Good, bad, or meh?  What are you most looking forward to in 2016 from Xojo?

Xojo 2015 Release 2

Xojo Release 2 went public this week.  This release is a typical mishmash of new features and bug fixes.  So let’s dig into it!

iOS

The DatePicker was added to iOS.  This is a most welcome addition and let’s you switch between Time, Date, Date and Time, and Countdown Timer.  There’s still no generic data picker which is a shame.

The Launch Images and App Icons folders for iOS has now been replaced with an editor that allows you to drag and drop images into it.  If the image isn’t the appropriate size for the selected image a message appears saying what the dimensions of the image is and that it will be scaled to fit.

[Edit]   One thing I forgot (because I didn’t see them in the release notes) was that build times are much better in R2.  From comments I’ve seen it may be an order of magnitude faster.

Web Apps

If you are using the HandleSpecialURL or HandleURL the RequestHeaders now has a Secure property telling you if the request came in over a secure channel.  If you are using SSL Certificates they can be specified on the command line.  Another new web feature is the ability to set the HTTPOnly property attribute in the Session.Cookie.Set method.  This should work as a preventative measure against cross site scripting attacks against Xojo web apps.

New Framework

The new framework is making its way to more and more of the overall package.  The Xojo.Data, Xojo.Crypto, and Xojo.IO.Folderitem are now available for all targets and platforms.  The Xojo.Data namespace includes the ability to read/write JSON (no work on XML yet).  The Xojo.Crypto framework gives you access to MD5, RSAEncrypt/Decrypt, RSASign, RSASignVerify, SHA1, SHA256 and SHA512 hash methods.  Xojo.IO.Folderitem gives  you file handling.

Xojo.Net.HTTPSocket now works for all platforms (except Xojo Cloud).  It should be noted that HTTPSocket is now ONLY asynchronous.  No longer can you wait for the response but now you have to use the events from the socket.  This is really a better way of using the HTTPSocket but if you’ve been using it in the old framework synchronously you’ll need to adjust your code accordingly.

[Edit] The new HTTPSocket supports HTTP 1.1, automatically supports proxies on all platforms, and performs proper certificate validation.  It also no longer performs polling on the socket so it should be have significantly lower CPU usage.

The Xojo.Core.Timer now works properly on Mac OS X 10.7 and 10.8.  Apparently it didn’t work properly in older versions of Mac OS X.

Miscellaneous

For many, the recent addition of the Windows ICU DLL was a major setback as they were quite large.  You’ll be happy to know that they’re now statically linking them and removed the unused portion of the libraries so the built package is now considerably smaller.

The IDE receive a large number of bug fixes including a couple of memory leaks.  They also fixed how deleting items works and how the focus works when switching between tabs with the Code Editor displaying.

According to the release notes there are 147 total items that were changed in Release 2.  This number seems a little low in comparison to some previous releases.  Given the short period between the R1 release and XDC I think this makes sense and the engineers have a lot of work to do in getting ready for XDC.

I did not get as much of a chance to run the beta as I usually do but there hasn’t been a lot of chatter on the forums about issues either.  What little I did with the beta was solid and this looks to be a decent release.

Have any comments about this release?

LiveCode vs Xojo

I have been a Xojo developer for many years and I make a decent living at it.  That doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t look around at other development environments every now and then.  I do this because it makes good business sense to keep my options open.  This week I looked at LiveCode after a reader asked me to.

LiveCode (formerly called “Revolution”) is a unique development environment that has been around since 2001.  It was inspired by HyperCard and due to its lineage it uses a Card and Stack metaphor to represent windows, objects, and applications.  To put it more in Xojo terms you can think of a window as being a Card and the entire application as a Stack (of cards).  Dialogs and other objects can then be sub-stacks.  LiveCode can make Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux desktop applications, cgi-like web apps, and mobile apps for iOS and Android.

Its scripting is a natural English-like programming language that presumably makes it easy for casual programmers to get started.  Another interesting feature is that there is very little difference between ‘development mode’ and ‘debugging mode’ and switching between the two is literally just a button.  This means that you can run LiveCode commands practically at any time without the need to compile the application first.

The IDE has a variety of windows.  The Application Browser shows you all of the objects in the stack and lets you open each card into an editor.  The editors let you put controls on the Card (layout) and each card and UI object has a number of Messages that are similar to Xojo events.  LiveCode does not have an all-in-one window like most other IDE’s.  At first, I found the individual windows to be refreshing but after I while I found that I was fighting with background application windows.  I’m sure this is something that becomes more natural with usage but I had issues with it.  I’ve always wondered if Xojo’s all-in-one window IDE approach was really the ‘best’ approach to a development environment and now I see that I prefer it as it eliminates the distractions of other windows.  Also, Eclipse, Visual Studio, Xcode and Xojo all have all-in-one IDE’s so I this it safe to assume that most developers are comfortable with this style.  You may find LiveCode strange if coming from an all-in-one IDE.

The LiveCode scripting language definitely takes some time to get used to.  The natural English syntax seems inviting but after 30+ years of coding in various languages I found it frustrating.  It’s wordy and not exceptionally compact in its meaning.  If you don’t already have any programming experience this might be good for you.  If you’re coming from a different language you might be as frustrated as I was.

Xojo events are relatively easy to find and implement.  You simply right-click on an object either in the Navigator or in the Layout Editor and add Events to the object and it’s added into the code waiting for you to add your own code to it.  The object messages in LiveCode are not so easy to figure out, in my opinion.  To figure out the events I had to go into the documentation (which was decent, in my opinion), and had to look them up and then type them into the Script Editor.  I’m sure with a little time and practice I would pick up the messages that I use most often, but it is a hindrance to picking up the language.

LiveCode Dictionary

LiveCode API Dictionary

 

The Xojo Code Editor has a pretty good auto complete.  Auto complete means that when you start typing, say “SQLite”, and if there are either language keyword matches or variable matches the eclipses (…) is shown and if you hit the tab key a list of available properties and methods are shown to you in their proper context.  This makes discoverability much easier.  LiveCode has no auto complete in their Script Editor which means you have to look up the commands before you start typing and you won’t know if they’re correct until you run the project.

LiveCode has objects but they don’t have the same Object Oriented nature as Xojo.  In Xojo you create an instance of the object and then get/set a property or call a method using the dot notation.  Thus opening a database in Xojo means creating a new instance of the Database, setting a FolderItem property on that object.  Then calling the CreateDatabaseFile method on that same object and it returns a true or false to indicate success or failure.  All of that revolving around the same object (database).  The same thing in LiveCode requires less coding steps but there is no dot notation and it’s definitely more procedure driven.  Each method is its own call – not part of an object – and means that you’ll spend more time looking at documentation to discover them.  I feel that Xojo’s discoverability is superior to LiveCode.

LiveCode is not a strictly typecast language meaning you can use a variable anywhere at any time.  This means that writing scripts can be very quick but it also means that introducing errors is easy and with larger projects it might be hard to find errors.  Xojo, on the other hand, is strictly typecast and the compiler will tell you if a variable is not defined or if you try to put the wrong type of data into a variable.  There are plenty of other languages out there that don’t require variable type declarations but I never have spent much time with them.  If you’re used to them it’s probably no big deal but I tend to like the compiler to warn me early and often of any potential issues.  Another little thing about the language is that to assign a value to a variable using the Put command rather than an equal (=) sign.  In LiveCode you would say:

put “ABC” into myStringVariable

In Xojo this same thing would be

dim myStringVariable as String = “ABC”

LiveCode Create DB

Creating an SQLite Database File using LiveCode

Xojo Create Db

Creating an SQLite Database File using Xojo

 

One of the major drawbacks that I discovered early on was that LiveCode does not make native looking applications.  The good news is that PushButtons look the same on each platform (no mean feat) but it also means that those Pushbuttons don’t look native on any platform.  There are commercial plugins available to make LiveCode applications look native on each platform.  I don’t believe that the plugins are using native controls either so this means that an OS update might ‘break’ the look of an application until those plugins are updated.

LiveCode Mac app

LiveCode App running in Mac OS X

LiveCode Ubuntu App

LiveCode App running in Ubuntu

LiveCode Win8

LiveCode App running Windows 8

 

Xojo is not perfect in this regard as not all of its controls are native on each platform either.  It does, however, use them whenever possible.  Another drawback to Xojo is that control features are often times the lowest common denominator between Mac, Windows, and Linux for desktop platforms.  This is more for feature parity than any malfeasance on their part.  Xojo web apps and iOS apps use native controls.

LiveCode, like Xojo, lets you create external libraries using C++.  LiveCode calls these Externals while Xojo calls them plugins.  It appears that there is an active community of developers and an active 3rd party development community for LiveCode.

Unlike Xojo, LiveCode comes in two different varieties:  Community Edition and Commercial.  The Community Edition is open sourced and free but limits you to open source and GPL applications.  If you are interested in LiveCode this is where I’d recommend that you start.

There are four different types of commercial LiveCode licenses.  The Indy Commercial license costs $299/year per seat and lets you do closed source and royalty free commercial apps with a $500k revenue limit (how this is enforced I have no idea).  The Business license costs $999/year/seat and eliminates the revenue limit.  The Pro license $1,999/year/seat and gives you more personalized service and a Premium license is $10,000/year for 3 seats and gives you priority support, use of their test suite, extensions, priority features (whatever that means) and a LiveCode conference ticket.

LiveCode also has a membership program that costs $99/year ($25/year for students) and gives you exclusive membership benefits and helps supports the continued development of the platform.  You also get access to over 100 training videos and access to the LiveCode Conference simulcast.

What I Liked About LiveCode

I found the LiveCode Start Center to be clean and uncluttered and useful.  It has four main areas, Projects that shows your recent projects, Getting Started that has handy links to the some beginners videos and guides, Resources that takes you to tutorials, sample stacks, the community forum and their API dictionary, and finally they have a Sample Projects list that has a sample projects in it.

The LiveCode website also does an excellent job of pointing out 3rd party commercial and non-commercial extensions and what they can do for the developer.  They also allow user reviews of the extensions so it makes it easier to make a purchase decision.  I have no idea what it takes to get listed on their website or if LiveCode takes a cut of the revenue but it’s something I wish Xojo would do a better job of helping their 3rd party developers market.

I also found it refreshing that their API documentation allowed user comments.  I really wish Xojo would do something similar because I feel that we, the user community, could add some really useful comments to the documentation.  While I like the Xojo documentation I feel it might be better served by opening it up a bit (with moderation).

LiveCode does deploy for Android which might be a huge bonus for some.  Assuming I could get a UI that looks native it might be the one thing that would make me look at LiveCode with any seriousness if a client asks for Android deployment.

Finally, the fact that part of LiveCode is open sourced is interesting.  They successfully ran a KickStarter campaign to open source the product in 2013 and successfully did a campaign on their own website to fund HTML5 web deployment in 2014.  I don’t know about anyone else but I would help fund certain items for Xojo development even if wasn’t open sourced (perhaps a better grid control?).

What I Disliked About LiveCode

If you’re coming from C++, Java, or any object oriented language I think you’ll find the lack of ‘objects’ to be disheartening.  Add to it that there is no auto complete for the Script Editor and I think it’s a deal killer for me.  Those two features make discovering events, properties, and methods so much easier without having to constantly check the documentation and I think it’s a huge adverting for Xojo.

The lack of strong datatypes, while not a deal killer, scares me a little.  I want to be warned early, often, and loudly when things go wrong and strong datatypes are something that I really find attractive in a programming language.  If there’s a data conversion going on it’s because I want it to happen (don’t get me going on Xojo variants – they’re evil – get over it).  The natural English scripting language also puts me off simply because it’s unnecessarily wordy.  Again, if you’ve never programmed before this might be an advantage.

The lack of native looking controls is also huge drawback for me.  Xojo apps will try their best to look native (though Linux apps require more of a nudge than Mac/Win apps) and while not perfect, out of the box, Xojo apps are generally native.

Conclusions

Is LiveCode worth a look?  Sure.  Like any development environment, if it speaks to you and you can get your projects done in it then it’s the right one for you.  For me, Xojo is a better language, with a better IDE, and has more features that I want.  Xojo is only lacking Android support and I’d probably look more at Xamarin than LiveCode for a variety of reasons.

If LiveCode works for you that’s great.  This review isn’t meant to be overly critical of the tool but as an existing Xojo developer I don’t see enough reasons to switch from Xojo development to LiveCode.  Feel free to leave comments below on anything you feel I missed or got wrong.