Xojo Release 2: Better but not Great

Xojo Inc released Xojo 2013 Release 2 this week. Release 2 has around 150 bug fixes and enhancements. Unfortunately, for Release 2, the IDE still has glaring holes and still isn’t good enough for every day use, in my opinion. Let’s talk about the major changes:

First, one of my chief complaints about Xojo, the vertical space taken up by the Inspector, has been taken care of. It’s vertical spacing is much improved and that’s very welcome. At lease when you look at a Listbox in the Inspector you don’t have to scroll three vertical lengths of the screen to see all the properties.

Unfortunately, the minimum width of the Inspector, Library and the Navigator have not been trimmed so your horizontal spacing is still compromised. I understand the value of incremental changes but this one seems like a half baked solution to the overall problem of fixing valuable screen real-estate issues.

There were a number of Cocoa issues fixed including Canvas Focus Rect, Window Live Resize, Applescripts, Metal Windows, Round Rectangles, Checkboxes in Listboxes, and Masks with pictures without alpha channels to name a few. I didn’t find any of these bugs so I can’t really talk about them very much.

The release notes claim that the Inspector flickers less in Windows. I have not checked so if you have any comments on them please leave them below.

For Web Edition, the WebSessionContext was fixed when server-side code tried to access the Session object. This affects a bunch of web developers so this is a welcome fix.

Overall, R2 feels more ‘solid’. I don’t know how to quantify that other than the impression that R2 is less twitchy and prone to doing extremely odd things like in R1. It’s still less than perfect as there are many things that still don’t work like I expect them to (such as locked tabs).

Bugs that I know of that were reported during the beta cycle that weren’t fixed (feel free to add more in the comments section):

• Changing the Super of Subclassed control back to its original subclass is impossible. <feedback://showreport?report_id=28167> Workaround is to rename the super manually via text editor and reopen the project.

• Deleting a control event is impossible. <feedback://showreport?report_id=28098> Workaround is to remove the offending event code manually via text editor. Marked as fixed but not for R2.

• Duplicating a Window/Page with containers results in a Window/Page with a blank object. (Can’t find the original report)

• The WebListbox Inline Editor is not invoked right away when the pencil icon is clicked and once open it doesn’t like to go away without clicking elsewhere in the layout editor. <feedback://showreport?report_id=28068>

• Copying/Pasting an object into a different folder doesn’t change their names properly. And once you’ve done that changes to the what appear to be the copy will sometimes change the original. The work around is to copy and paste them into the *same* folder and then move them to the new folder and rename as necessary. <feedback://showreport?report_id=27742>

• If you’re using WebSession.Cookies.Set with an expiration date it creates the cookie just without the expiration data. This appears to be a regression from R1. <feedback://showreport?report_id=28028>

• Constant issues with the focus being put somewhere I don’t want it. I’ll have a control highlighted in the Layout Editor, select Duplicate (from the contextual menu because the keyboard shortcuts usually don’t work) and instead of duplicating the control it will duplicate something in the Navigator. For instance I had several instances where an event was duplicated 3 times (because I hit duplicate 3 times) and I accidentally create 3 methods with the event name. (No report because I’ve not been able to duplicate said focus issues reliably.)

If I sound like I’m annoyed, I am. Xojo got incrementally better in some respects and worse in others. Some of those issues make it hard to use Xojo all day, every day.  Xojo *is* usable but not without being hyper vigilant. The fact that I’ve had to resort to the text editor to fix certain things is very troubling. This is not something I’d recommend for everyone and is impossible for those of us using the Binary format (i.e. those without a license).

During the beta cycle there was a fair amount of grumbling of bugs that hadn’t even been reviewed yet by the time Final Candidate was announced. Part of this might be because there is one less developer on the team (Thom McGrath is no longer with the company according to his LinkedIn profile) so they are trying to do the same amount of work with fewer people.  I don’t envy the developers their job.

I understand the need to get an update out the door but the cost of releasing new bugs discovered during the beta is very high. While R2 is usable I recommend vigilance and lots of backups if you are going to use it. Let us hope that R3 is released ‘quickly’ as well.

What is your opinion of R2?

29 thoughts on “Xojo Release 2: Better but not Great

  1. Sounds like they just started the same game with a new version. Never enough?

  2. I was one who couldn’t even test the beta after I downloaded it. I installed R2 today and at first glance it seems to fix the biggest bug I had: I highlight code and instead of hitting Backspace, I’d hit Delete. Instead of deleting the selected code, it would delete a control from the layout (maybe an event or method? But according to this post that can’t be done)

    If this one bug is fixed, it will keep me from literally yelling “I hate this IDE!” as I have been doing the past few weeks.

    • Hhhmm…I’m using it every day and I’m not having that particular problem.

      Look, don’t get me wrong, Xojo works. R2 is better in some ways. Some of the bugs I listed might actually have been there in R1 (I didn’t check to be honest). They are serious bugs, IMO. If it had been up to me I would have delayed the R2 release to address some of the more serious ones.

      Hey, Xojo Inc, whatever happened to the idea of surveying the beta participants on the release worthiness of a Final Candidate? I certainly would have voted to hold it for one more round.

  3. I agree entirely with Bob. The user interface seems to be a step backwards compared to competing products (and current software UIs in general). I am finding that overall, Xojo is just too difficult to work with and I am now considering moving to another product. It is a shame, because the concepts behind Xojo are excellent and I do wish the Xojo team all the best for the future.

  4. Thanks Bob for this summary.

    I am very annoyed too. I have decided to keep all my projects on RealBasic 2012 R2.1 as long as it is possible.
    The being lost in the navigator issue and the unreliable focus are eating up too much time and concentration during daily work.

    Things which are not needed constantly are always visible (the Project tree). Things constantly needed are always hidden: You can only toggle the controls palette and the inspector, but you need both at the same time when building a GUI. They can only be used in parallel as floating windows for the cost of a lot of screen space.

    It is not possible to continue coding projects on my 13″ Mac Book Pro when I am out of office, because It is not useable on small screens. This a drawback, I am not willing to take.

    The more compressed inspector is a small step in the right direction, but there are many fundamental design issues to be solved to make it usable for my daily work.

    — Harald

  5. @Christian Schmitz

    From a European perspective the USA seems to have every ‘agile’ employment practices.
    It’s like you don’t know from one day to the next if you’ll be able to put food on the table or afford the roof over your head.

    Just realized that as a self employed person over here that’s exactly my situation!

  6. Well, I heard about this hire and fire thing in USA. Sounds crazy to people here.
    But still as a consultant you have x clients who need regular updates to software, so you know that you make a minimum per year.
    And I think Thom got a job, so he can put food on the table, I presume.

  7. Did Xojo hire a replacement? If not, then I guess 64 bit is still a boat we cannot see over the horizon.

  8. @Jack
    I don’t believe Thom had anything to do with the 64 bit work. That’s all framework and compiler stuff and that’s done by different folks. AFAIK, all that work is still on track.

  9. The flickering in the inspector under Windows has indeed been reduced, but not eliminated. Overall, R2 is an improvement over R1 but is still less than adequate.

    One very annoying thing I noticed is that using the scrollwheel on my mouse doesn’t scroll the control under the mouse pointer but rather only scrolls the code editor. To scroll the library, inspector, search output, compiler messages, etc, I have to use the scrollbar.

  10. AFAIHN Thom was the (or one of the) major(s) maintainer(s) of the new IDE interface.

  11. jjb :
    @Bob Keeney
    In view of what seems to have happened to Thom if you were working on 64 bit, would you be in a hurry to finish it?

    It sounds like you are assuming he was terminated … that is a BIG assumption!

  12. Still not having keyboard shortcuts to toggle the bottom panes (find/messages/errors) is probably my bugbear of the moment.

    Seems such a silly little thing in the grand scheme of things when there are other issues but I find I’m having to toggle these panes with the mouse ALL the time, would make an immediate impact to me…

  13. @Harald Schneider
    Hi Harald,

    My preferred language is C#. The shortlist is:

    Xamarin Studio – – Windows, Linux and Mac (open source)
    Visual Studio Express – Windows only
    SharpDevelop – Windows only (open source)
    Eclipse – Windows, Linux and Mac (open source)

    Xamarin Studio makes a lot of sense but the IDE is not the best (but a big improvement over Xojo). SharpDevelop and VS have excellent IDEs but are not cross-platform.

    Does anyone else have any thoughts?

  14. @Karen

    I was under the impression that when Mars left there was lots of ‘bon voyage’, ‘sorry to lose you’ and ‘best of luck at Microsoft’ stuff from REAL.
    Whereas, afaik, nothing was said when Thom left (or Aaron for that matter) which sort of creates a different impression.
    As an added flavouring is my impression of USA labour law being red in tooth and claw

  15. @richard

    I use Qt for a couple of years. It has a steeper learning curve than xojo but it’s far more powerful. I use it for all my new projects but i still use xojo for older projects or small, Quick and fast pieces of software.

  16. Richard :
    Does anyone else have any thoughts?

    If you’re only concerned with Apple technologies, familiarize yourself with Xcode; it just keeps getting better.

  17. Checked out the first release of Xojo and joined in the release teleconference, and whilst it “looks nice” I quickly found how clumsy it was during workflow – pretty much everyone has noticed and commented…

    It appears too that the bug-mountain is just getting higher and so I too have started looking at alternatives (esp C++) not only for plugin development with a view to speeding things up (bypassing native Xojo) and hopefully to replace the continuing saga of flickering, bloated and SLOW Windows apps (Cocoa not much better, much slower than equivalent Carbon builds)…I’m still hunting and currently use Xcode, MinGW and gcc (on GNU-Linux) for various projects. These increase dev time by a factor of 4 (roughly), but you get exactly what you code without the bloat…and apps are so much more responsive.

    Unfortunately my enterprise licence investment seems to be wasted, as I can’t use Xojo for our major products.

    Unsupported plugins prevent some of our projects moving forward to newer versions, like OTR no longer runs after RS2011R4.3 (yeah, I know, should have changed years ago, but Xojo Reports are next to useless, RS Reports is pretty good but I’d almost given up on decent reporting until I purchased Bob’s Shorts (excellent) which I’m able to use with my xml report parser and get some decent output happening). Versions after RS2011R4.3 also broke all my TCP stuff and I haven’t bothered checking out why – our primary app doesn’t work properly if built with a later version so I haven’t bothered again and stayed with an old release which is reasonably stable.

    Frontbase works up to 2012R2.1 for anything but Cocoa (though I’m working on that as time permits, as our future path makes that the DB of choice, and it has to be Cocoa for Xojo…), so that major CMS project is stalled at that release level until the new plugin is done.

    I had intentions of moving our apps to the web, but based on viewing the various examples and some sites that are using it, it seems so clunky and unstable (amazing how many different web-edition pages aren’t available for one reason or another) that it’s unlikely to enter our development picture for years yet…if ever, so we’re more inclined to host DB in the cloud instead and forget about the browser “experience” (our current web-apps will be replaced with C++ equivalents in due course).

    Console apps too – bloated, unreliable, leaking and crashing (we have a backup service running on a virtual GNU-Linux server, and expect it to crash and restart relatively often and have a cron job keeping tabs on it so it can restart). Another candidate for C++ replacement.

    As for reporting any of this to Xojo – I’ve already been down that “path of most resistance” and found the experience most frustrating and fruitless (and became somewhat embittered, though hopefully over that now).

    Xojo: So much potential, and great for developing those little apps and stuff that’s not too complex UI-wise, but I feel let down by poor performance (mostly on Windows when it just rockets on Carbon), poorly conceived interface changes and all the rest. I hope for their sake and those who use Xojo (or older versions) day-in and day-out, like I do, that the issues get resolved – but life is short to be waiting around. R2…I’ll be waiting for next year’s version before I give this another shot.

    Others may have a completely different experience and are perfectly satisfied with Xojo. For me, it’s got a long way to go.

    Rant ends.

  18. i bought into the fact that the ID needed to be redone to move forward and still do… and i expected a lot of IDE bugs that would take a year or so to tame… and that would be OK in the long run.

    What I don’t buy into is that they had to change the workflow the way they did… While the RS IDE may not have looked modern and there were parts that needed better solutions, overall it’s design was reasonably productive for me… Xojo’s basic IDE design is NOT growing on me and I now wonder if it will ever be as productive for me as RS came to be.

    As for Release 2, it feels more like a 1.1 to me… it helps some but not enough.

    Speaking of bugs reported in the beta being reviewed, I just had a beta bug report on R1 reviewed the other day… though it may be something specific to my machine – else others would be screaming bloody murder! 😉

  19. @Richard Xamarin Studio also makes it relatively easy to deploy your core C# logic to iOS and Android although you have to redo the GUI for each. Frankly, you’d have to redesign bits anyway.

    I am enjoying using AppCode as an alternative IDE alongside XCode. If you want to use C++ and Objective-C++ then AppCode makes life a lot easier as it has full refactoring support where XCode just says no.

    Very sad but unsurprising to see RB still spinning wheels in the same old muck. Glad I’m closer involved anymore.

  20. R2 feels like a dot release. Yes, the changes in the inspector are welcome. But I don’t get that there were NO improvements in the insane navigation within a project. And still no working copy and paste.

  21. Beatrix Willius :

    R2 feels like a dot release. Yes, the changes in the inspector are welcome. But I don’t get that there were NO improvements in the insane navigation within a project. And still no working copy and paste.

    I believe ‘dot’ releases have gone away in Xojo so you can effectively think of this as R1.1.

    Copy and Paste works relatively well using the contextual menu (right click).

  22. @Martin
    Looks great! Did you use any custom controls or did you just style the built-in controls to look Mac-like?

    How did you implement your source list control?

    Could you share some tips for making Qt apps look better on the Mac?

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