Windows 7 and the REALbasic HTMLviewer

I don’t venture into Windows-land very often but I ran across a couple of articles today that gave me cause for concern. is talking about how European users might get to choose which browser is used by their machine.

The second is is about how Internet Explorer is functionally removable from Windows 7.  The article states that the procedure only removes the Internet Explorer executable and not all of the supporting libraries so it shouldn’t be much of a concern to RB developers.  Or is it?

During the ARBP chat last week, REAL Software president and CEO, Geoff Perlman stated that he was unaware of any Windows 7 incompatibilities.  No one asked specifically about what happens if the user uninstalls Internet Explorer in Windows 7 or a European users chooses FireFox, Safari, Chrome or Opera as their web browser rather than Internet Explorer.

Will the HTMLviewer still work?  I think it will because it’s dependent upon the supporting libraries but it’s a question that I’d like reassurance on from RS.  But perhaps the real question is whether the HTMLviewer.IsAvailable is an adequate check and it jumps into the libraries or if it’s simply a check on what version of Windows you’re running?  After all, if you’re using Windows XP or Vista you HAVE TO HAVE Internet Explorer.  But it seems like Windows 7 might be changing that rule.

I’ve been particular critical of the HTMLviewer control over the past several years.  Yes, RS has worked some of the bugs out but it’s still not as stable as I’d like to see it.  My biggest beef is that it’s not using the same supporting libraries on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.  On Mac OS X it uses WebKit.  On Windows it uses Internet Explorer and on Linux it uses GTK.  This leads to platform incompatibilities, instabilities and downright bugs between the platforms.

If you didn’t read the release notes for RB 2009 R3 you’ll find that RS isn’t shipping REALbasic with the Language Reference for Linux because HTMLviewer has too many issues so Linux users have to rely upon a PDF version.  Ouch.

REALbasic’s strength is cross-platform so why not use a cross-platform web browser as the basis for HTMLviewer?  Use Gecko (Firefox) or Webkit (Safari and Google’s Chrome)!  We might need it for Windows 7 which is being released in October?


HTMLViewer Replacement

While HTMLViewer isn’t totally evil, I would say that developers looking for web browser-like capabilities should look elsewhere.  But therin lies the real kicker since there are NO alternatives to the HTMLViewer in REALbasic that I’m aware of.

So I’m asking the question.  Why is that?  Is it that no one’s really looked at the problem?  Are we assuming that RS will fix HTMLViewer?  If so, I wouldn’t hold my breath.  They’ll ‘fix’ the HTMLViewer right after they fix RTF support in StyledText.

From my own investigations into the matter, I think there are two possible alternatives to HTMLViewer.  One uses Webkit and one uses Gecko.  Both are cross platform but other than that I have no idea on the issues involved or the complexity of such a project.

I’m ‘motivated’ to help finance a web browser control for a host of reasons.  I’d like to help foster a web browser for REALbasic because I think it will help the RB community in addition to solving a very specific need of mine in a very big project I’m working on.

How big would a webkit or gecko plugin weigh in at?  Is that too big for RB apps that are rather large to begin with?  Could it be done in pure RB code using declares or is this strictly a plugin affair?

If it cost $500 would you be willing to buy it?  If you could get source code with it, would that change your opinion on the cost?

The floor is open for discussion.