2008 In Review

Continue with bug fixes first and new features last in new releases:
I’ll call this one a positive.  I think for the most part Real Software has done a good job in 2008 with the bug fix to new features ratio.  With the exception of Release 2 that had a nasty bug where nil object exceptions couldn’t be caught in Windows apps, RB was pretty solid this year.

With that said, I think Real Software needs to focus on ‘quality as job 1’.  My previous post about R5 still stands.  I think it’s a ‘good enough’ release but it’s lacking some polish that previous releases had.  In my opinion any new features that get released need to be fully thought out.  With a smaller staff at RS, due to layoffs, I think it’s even more important for them to be vigilant about the quality of their releases and full implementation of features.

Continue To Release ‘Pro’ Features
I’ll call this one a positive.  The big pro features this year were introspection and attributes.  Most RB users will never use them but when you need them you need them.

I’ll give RS a sneak peak at what RB users want the most:  Reporting Tools.  It has consistently been a hot topic whenever it’s come up.

Kill The Visual Basic Project Converter (VBPC)
I’ll call this one a positive.  It’s gone.  Yay!  It might be gone but if you’re interested in an alternative I’d recommend looking at VBConvert! from AYB Computers.

Eliminate the Not Invented Here Syndrome
I’ll give this one a negative though I’m not sure how to really rate this one.  RS is obviously committed to REAL SQL Server, but is that a good thing?  In my opinion they will always be trying to catch a moving target.  How can they compete with MySQL, PostrgreSQL or any number of the database servers that have hundreds (thousands?) of developers working on it.  If you wanted to save some money, this would be the area I’d cut back on.

At this years Real World Geoff showed off some new features for Real SQL Server and some ORM technologies.  Both seem good at first glance.  But it strikes me that RB is moving more towards being 4D every year.  Do we as users really want REALbasic to become as database centric as 4D is?  I don’t think so.  Let’s think about making RB a great cross-platform, general purpose development tool first.

Use a Standard Bug Reporting/Feedback System
I’ll give this one a neutral.  Yes, the old feedback system is gone.  Yes, FogBugz seems to work better for the RS engineers.  It’s not that great for us, though.  We can’t search bug reports.  We have no idea if someone has already reported it.  We have no idea if an RS engineer gave the poster a workaround.  Perhaps a 3rd party bug reporting mirror can be implemented to make life easier, or RS can somehow make FogBugz reports searchable.

Help Foster a 3rd Party Controls Market
I’ll give this one a neutral as well.  Einhugur and MonkeyBread are the heavyweights in the market, but there are signs of smaller developers finally getting product out.  I personally use the Formatted Text Control from True North Software, the Interface Toolkit from Sam Rowlands and have looked at the Graffiti Suite from Envied Designs on more than one occasion.  So while there are newcomers to this space, it’s still not a thriving marketplace.

Report Generator
I’ll give this a big negative.  This topic comes up again and again.  I cornered every RS engineer I could at Real World explaining the pent up demand for a report generator.  At the time that I wrote my 2008 Wish List, On-Target Reports had some very serious shortcomings.  I can state now that it is better, but still not as robust and full-featured as I need.

I know probably half a dozen people (myself included) that have their own proprietary reporting tools.  The #1 tutorial on ARBP is how to print using the graphics object.  Printing is a topic that always gets views in the RB and ARBP forums.

RS needs to do something about Reports.  There are some huge holes in the current reporting engine that need to be addressed before any serious work can be done on a report generator.  I consider this priority #1 for 2009 after Cocoa support.

IDE Add-Ons and Power Options
Big negative.  Not much movement on this with the exception of a much improved Language Reference which isn’t really a power option or add-on.

Fix RBScript
Another negative.  Some bugs have been fixed but documentation is still miserable.

Plugin Documentation
I’ll give this one a neutral as I’m not familiar enough with plugins.  I can say that the documentation has been updated but there are still references to using CodeWarrior in some of the docs which doesn’t inspire great confidence.

Better Use of the Web From Within RB
Slightly positive.  No change from last year though there are some new URL’s in the Help menu.  The auto bug reporting feature is kind of nice.

Support An Office RB Wiki
Negative.  No movement on this at all.  Until something changes, you’ll have to use Charles Yoemans wiki.

Go After Enterprise Market
Neutral.  No movement that I can tell.  If a Novel, Ford, Exxon, Bank of America or IBM was going to use REALbasic I’m sure we would have heard about it.

4 Positives
5 Negatives
4 Neutrals

All in all I’d say it was a mixed grade for Real Software and REALbasic in 2008.  Did I rate anything too high or too low?  What’s your opinion?