Xojo 2018 Release 1.1

Xojo announced the availability of Xojo 2018 Release 1.1.  This ‘dot’ release fixes a couple of glaring bugs that were introduced in 2018 Release 1.  Some of the more important fixes:

  • A NilObjectException caused by an undo in the IDE has been fixed.
  • A regression in the debugger kept some 32-bit breakpoints from working reliably.  The debugger now stops at breakpoints correctly in 64-bit and ARM targets now too.
  • In Windows, if you have a global variable it can now be viewed in the variables pane.
  • The Printer graphics.clip method now works as expected.  If you printed a Shorts document in Windows you would have run across this bug.
  • A host of Windows framework bugs were fixed.  TabPanels now draw properly with proper backgrounds.  TabPanels that contain sliders and scrollbars that caused the tabs to scroll off the TabPanel is now fixed.  The Canvas control now properly refreshes after Scroll is called.
  • iOS projects now compile when it has a launch screen with an image that has no actual pictures in the image.

If you are experiencing any of the issues listed in the release notes you should update to R1.1 immediately.  It’s a shame that it took Xojo nearly a month to get this release out the door.  I realize that XDC causes a huge disruption to their development schedule but the wait for this dot release was too long.

For those of you doing a lot of Windows development, are you still experiencing drawing/speed issues?  Or, have you determined the secrets behind making things better/faster?

ARGen 3.0

BKeeney Software Inc. is proud to announce that ARGen, our ActiveRecord Generator utility for Xojo developers, has a new major update.  Version 3.0 includes a host of new features including the ability to generate ActiveRecord classes for Xojo iOS projects, the ability to use GUID primary keys, the option to include a database update module, include an audit trail module, and include a UI localization module.  There are also new ways to arrange your user interface layouts that can save you even more time when initially creating a project.  In addition to these major new features, ARGen fixes a number of bugs and provides more enhancements.

ARGen has versions for macOS and Windows.  It costs $99.95 but can be used in limited mode at no cost.  Existing version 2.x users will be provided an upgrade opportunity with a 50% discount or they contact us at support at bkeeney dot com to get an upgrade coupon.

Pricing, examples, and more details can be found at the project homepage at https://www.bkeeney.com/allproducts/argen/

3.0 Release Notes:

New:

* iOS ActiveRecord!

* Reorder fields in the order they should be displayed. This would work both on List and Edit forms.

* Name labels for generated UI elements

* Switch between horizontal and vertical alignment for UI fields and labels

* Projects can now have individual Namespaces

* GUID support (except for ODBC connections)

* Can now include a Database Update module

* Can now include an Audit Trail module

* Can now include a Localization module

* Warnings for aggregates that conflict with Xojo (note below)

* New database connection window

* New app icon

 

Removed:

* Oracle databases are no longer supported

 

Fixed:

* Add / Edit dialog now shows in web version (#3556)

* Icon now displays properly in alerts (#3474)

* PostgreSQL Views now working

* Control init on add and edit windows

* Preferences now correctly handles prefix and suffix settings

* Selecting suffix no longer causes a compile error

* Confirmation dialogs are now set up properly (#3643)

* MenuBarVisible is no longer false on any template windows (#3475)

* Rescan Schema works again

 

Changed:

* Database specific PreparedStatements

* Instances of MsgBox replaced with MessageBox (#3474)

* Enhanced Save() on add and edit windows

* Listbox.Open() now has a ColumnWidths placeholder for convinience

* Desktop projects now created with HiDPI on

* Desktop projects now default to 64 bit for Mac

* Opening a SQLite project automatically attempts to connect (#3596)

* Auto-Generate UI step is now easier to understand

Aggregates Note:

When using aggregate like Count(), Max(), Min() some DBs will return the aggregate as the field name.

Added code to warn on open project that there is invalid for xojo field names, and fail generate. 

Chrono-Optimism

At the XDC Keynote a few weeks ago Geoff Perlman said they’d no longer give target dates for new features.  Instead they’re going to say what’s a ‘priority’ and what’s ‘important’.  Software projects are often big and complex and it’s very hard to estimate the amount of work involved with a new feature.  “Happiness is all about having expectations met,” said Geoff and I think it’s fair to say that Xojo has typically been overly optimistic on when a feature is going to ship (much less when it’s going to be usable).  So instead they’re going to stop predicting when a feature will be released.

If you hear them say it’s ‘Important’, it’s something they’re seriously looking into.  It will be in the product in the not too distant future.  A ‘priority’ means it’s either in active development or will be shortly.  The Rapid Release Model is still in play which means we will still get releases three or four times a year.

In one sense I’m disappointed that they’re not going to give us any timeframe for new features.  I really want to know when Web 2.0 is going to ready for testing as we have a number of projects in development or about ready to start development that it would be really nice to know if it’s a 90 day, 120 day, or longer window.  Android is a nice to have feature, but since I’m not doing much mobile development it’s not that important to us, but I can see how for some it is a huge need.

In another sense I understand why they’re not going to give us target dates any more.  They’ve missed every projected release date that I can think of and I’m going back a lot of years.  It was about a year ago this week, in Berlin, that Geoff said that Android would be out by the end of 2017 when the reality is that we’ll be lucky if we see it by the end of 2018 (that’s just a guess on my part and having having been around a long time).  I would love to be wrong on that guess but it’s a new target that involves a ton of compiler, framework, and IDE work not to mention the need for Interops (a dependency) to work well.

Estimating a project is not a science.  You’re asking software developers to take a wild guess at how long a big feature is going to take.  When you make that initial guess you don’t know that replacing this small piece of code will affect this much larger piece of code over here.  Or cause this other piece to not work right thus forcing you to redo that other piece too.

In some respects creating a new project is considerably easier than replacing code.  In new projects you’re touching everything anyway but subconsciously you’re holding most, if not all, of the work in your mind and you shape it as you go.  Big, existing projects, or OPC (Other Peoples Code) projects, are considerably harder since not only do you have to read the code but also figure out the intent of the code and second guess what the original developer was attempting – not always an easy task.  I’ve never seen the code for the IDE but I’d imagine dozens of people have worked on it over the years with varying degrees of competency and coding styles.  So whatever work you do you have to read, interpret, change, and test to make sure it doesn’t break something somewhere else.  Tack on multiple environments and targets and it’s a herculean task.

I’ve spent the last four years working with my son’s FRC robotics team (team 1982) as the programming mentor.  They have six weeks to design and build a robot to a very demanding set of specifications before they crate it for competition.  These 120 pound robots are relatively complex and I’ve seen it time and time again where the kids have ‘Chrono-Optimism’ in what they believe they can get done in after-school meetings (some with mentors present and some without) and on Saturdays.  Granted, they spend a LOT of time working on the robot, but they’re just kids and most of them have never done anything like this before.  They don’t know what they don’t know and most years they’re scrambling just to get a working robot.

This year, the group of seniors really thought about what they wanted to do.  They knew it would be challenging, but they decided to change their build process and use a more modular hardware design which meant new gear boxes, wheels, framing, etc.  They also decided to build two robots which, for a team that’s never done that before, was …ambitious.  Then they decided that they wanted to go two regional tournaments.  Again, ambitious for a team that’s never done that.  From previous years they also learned something else:  they were attempting to design too much on the robot.  If there were three major tasks that a robot had to accomplish they couldn’t do all three with the resources and experience they had.  They couldn’t change the amount of time to build the robot so they changed the one thing they could – the scope of work – and made the robot simple and sturdy.

The Universe works in mysterious ways and has ways of throwing a monkey wrench into the best of plans.  The last day of build season this year happened to be a day off so the plan was to have a twelve hour work day to finish the robot and test.  Instead, Kansas City had a snow storm which cancelled all school activities.  The robot was not mechanically complete and not functional programming-wise.  The kids were devastated.  But there is a silver lining to their story.

The robot was crated away and couldn’t be worked on for weeks, but the second robot allowed them to work on the programming and driver training.  The modular design allowed them to plan the work they needed to do at the tournament before it started.  The simplicity of the robot meant that the work could actually get done in a short amount of time before taking to the field.

To conclude this story (because I’m bragging now), the team won their first tournament which qualified them for World Championships.  They were the eight seed alliance captain in their second tournament.  At the world championships, they finished 42nd of 67 teams, but were picked as part of the 6th seed alliance.  They won in the quarter finals and ended up getting to the semi-finals where they were defeated by the alliance that went on to be third in the overall tournament (out of 400 teams).  All because they examined their past behavior and decided to change it.  They knew they were bad at estimating and changed their expectations.

I will give credit to Xojo for realizing that, like most of us, they are Chrono-Optimistic in their estimates, and decided to change how they communicate to their customers.  As Geoff said, part of their job is setting expectations and they’ve been really bad at it.  It’s clear that they said ‘estimate’ and we heard it as a ‘promise’ which is partially on us.  So now we have what’s a ‘Priority’ and what’s ‘Important’.  I don’t know if this will help them, or us, in the long run but it will be different and I’m willing to play along for now.

What do you think about this change?  Negative, positive, or neutral about it?

The Award Winning BKeeney Shorts

Last week at the Xojo Developers Conference in Denver, BKeeney Shorts was awarded the Best Developer Tool as part of the Xojo Design Awards ceremony.  Being recognized as a great reporting tool for Xojo makes all the hard work worth it.  Often times it’s a labor of love for developer products and it’s nice to be recognized for designing something that many Xojo developers require in their products.

BKeeney Shorts is a set of classes and controls that allow developers to create complex dynamic reports.  Xojo desktop application developers can embed the Reporter Designer in their applications using a simple drop-in container.  Reports can be displayed in Xojo desktop and web apps using a drop-in viewer container.  Reports can be exported to HTML, CSV, or PDF (using the DynaPDF plugin from Monkeybread Software).  If you’d like to know more about Shorts please visit https://www.bkeeney.com/allproducts/bkeeney-shorts/

To celebrate this achievement we’re giving everyone a 20% discount for Shorts!  Use http://sites.fastspring.com/bkeeney/product/shorts20&coupon=XDC2018 to redeem this coupon.  Hurry, this offer expires on May 31st.

Xojo 2018 R1

Xojo 2018 R1 was released today.  It’s been over four months since Xojo 2017 R3 was released in December of 2017.  By any stretch of the imagination that’s a long time between updates.  Let’s start with the big ticket items that you’ll be relatively happy about.  2018 R1 has a ton of bug fixes, enhancements, and new features.  

Windows users will find things to be happy about as Xojo has gone way out their way to reduce flickering issues in the Xojo IDE and in our own built apps.  The magic behind the scenes is not that Xojo is using double buffered windows (or anything like it) but they are now freezing drawing in the window while it’s doing things in the background.  Thus the flicker is gone but at the price of speed.

If you’ve spent a lot of time working around the limitations of control flickering in Xojo, your upgrade to 2018 R1 won’t be a walk in the park.  A number of forum users have done considerable work figuring out the best way to get things to work well together.  The basic premise is that everywhere there is a Transparent, DoubleBuffer, or EraseBackground property you should turn them off.  I’m sure in the upcoming days a more thorough explanation of the best practices will turn up on the Xojo forums.

One thing that might really turn developers off is Feedback Case #51337 where Labels look ‘fuzzy’ and not acceptable to many end users.  This appears to be caused by the difference between the Direct2D drawing engine and the old GDI engine.  Before jumping into 2018 R1 you might want to do some testing to see if this is acceptable to you.

Printing in Windows appears to be better now as you can now print with higher resolution than 96 DPI.

The other big Windows feature to make it into 2018 R1 is the ability Debug and Remote Debug 64-bit Windows applications.  This is a big deal and required that Xojo upgrade the compiler to LLVM version 6.

In late beta testing I had issues with the Remote Debugger (from MacOS to Windows) not dropping down into the debugger and AutoComplete sometimes not working but those appear to be fixed just before the final release.  If you run into issues with either please report them as soon as possible!

The EraseBackground property is now gone for Canvas and Container Controls.  Container Controls have a new DoubleBuffer property that composites the control on Windows and allows for moving/scrolling controls with less flicker.

The Currency datatype is working properly again in 64-bit builds.  In previous builds the Currency comparisons didn’t always work and precision was lost when dividing Currency values.

A host of Windows framework bugs were fixed in the Listbox. The Val function in 64-bit Windows builds now returns appropriate values.  BevelButton captions and menu arrows now work properly when the DPI scale factor is greater then 100%.  Graphics TextUnit.Pixel is no longer treated as Point sizes when the DPI scale factor greater than 100%.  Please see the Release Notes for a complete list of Windows framework changes.

The Web framework received some love too.  The WebFileUploader control works with files greater than 2 GB in size and works with files with ampersands and apostrophes in their name.  It also supports drag and drop and now has a new UploadProgress event.  It also supports file multi-select to allow users to select more than one at a time.  It also has a CancelUpload method and a new UploadTimeout property.

The WebMoviePlayer now uses a native HTML5 video player on supported browsers (I believe this means all of them) and now has a separate Stop method.  Internet Explorer 9 support was removed.  WebMapViewer only calls into the Google Map API once per browser session.

The SQLite library was updated to version 3.22.  One of the big changes is that errors when creating SQLitePreparedStatments now get a more meaningful error messages versus the unhelpful ”unable to prepare” message.  SQLiteDatabase now supports AES-256 encryption.  The SQLiteDatabase now yields to other threads when it’s busy performing a long operation and using the ThreadYieldInterval property.

For many users the upgrade to 2018R1 will be a no brainer.  However, those that have a complex UI should do some testing in Windows to ensure that drawing speed is still acceptable.  Some beta testers found that the tradeoff of being flicker free was not worth the slower rendering speeds.

The Debugging of Windows 64-bit applications is a much needed and welcome feature.  Without much time to see it working (properly) I can’t give much of an opinion of it.  The compiling speed of 64-bit apps is very slow and it appears that incremental compiling is off.  I would expect the entire process to get better over time.

With this major milestone out of the way I hope we see considerable progress on Interops, creating plugins from within Xojo, Android, and Web 2.0 in the next couple of releases.  I’m sure we’ll find out more next week at XDC.

What excites you in 2018 R1 and what gives you some concerns?

Musings on the Xojo Framework

The Xojo framework was first introduced with Xojo 2014 Release 3 (December of 2014).  That’s when iOS was added as a target to Xojo.  Since it’s initial release it’s received plenty of bug fixes and some libraries have been added to the desktop, web, and console targets that use the new framework.  But it sure seems like there hasn’t been much news about the new framework.

If I go back into my archives and what I’ve reported from past XDC’s we were told in March 2014 the new Xojo framework would come first to iOS with it’s own version and then to console, web, and finally to desktop apps.  At the time I took that to mean that they’d be a replacement to the old global framework but, in retrospect, it’s obvious that they meant what they had done for iOS would get introduced to those targets.  That meant that the core data types, Auto and Text and the core classes, MemoryBlock, Date, DateInterval, Dictionary, FolderItem, Crypto, and so on, were available for use.

Some things like the Xojo.Net.HTTPSocket are now the ONLY way to communicate with some servers because it can handle HTTP 1.1 and supports proxies which the old global HTTPSocket can’t do.  So for some things we are forced to use the new version.  For some it’s quite a change because the old global version could do things synchronously but the new version can ONLY do things asynchronously.  Using sockets from the new framework is not a simple proposition.

There are still huge swaths of functionality that is not available in the new framework and if you need it you’re forced to either develop it yourself, or to use one of the open source projects the Xojo community has released.  While the community has been generous this goes against the modus operandi of Xojo where they’ve provided all of the basic functionality.  This is particularly vexing for newbies that know there’s a new framework but need functionality not provided yet.  And as someone who has tried having global and Xojo frameworks working together it’s not very fun.

Because it appears we’re not seeing much progress, Xojo developers are starting to get nervous and asking questions.  Is the Xojo framework a bust and will Xojo be going in a different direction?  I’m hoping that both of these questions get answered in a couple of weeks in Denver at the annual Xojo Developers Conference (XDC).

We already know that Xojo Web 2.0 will be introduced at XDC 2018.  If it’s still using the old global framework I think it will call into serious question on whether or not the Xojo framework is viable.  I mean, if you’re going to the trouble of rewriting the web framework, why not make it use, exclusively, of the Xojo framework?  If it’s not, why not?  

Well also know that we’re getting some major news for Android for Xojo at XDC 2018.  Will it use the new Xojo framework?  If not it’s a clear sign that the Xojo framework is dead on arrival.  If it is but Web 2.0 is not again I have to ask why not?  Xojo then is sending out mixed messages as far as what the Xojo framework means to their future.

XDC 2018 is going to be an important one.  We’re going to learn about the progress on Web 2.0 and Android.  Hopefully we’ll have reasonably firm targets for releases.  As part of that I really want to know what the status of the Xojo framework is what the future brings for it.

Other topics that I hope to hear about:  plugins made in Xojo, and Interops

What are your thoughts about the Xojo framework?

Does Xojo Crash On You? Try Clearing the Plugin Cache

Several people on the Xojo forums have complained about Xojo crashing on them multiple times per day.  I rarely, if ever, have that issue but I do occasionally get an issue where a compiled application will do something that’s batsh*t crazy and nonsensical.  

For example, I had some database code that was doing a simple database query where the error bit was returning true (or at least the compiled application was saying so).  I spent hours trying to figure out why it was returning an error.  I replaced the database file (SQLite) with a fresh file, ran the query in external editors, I did practically everything and finally I gave up.  I shutdown Xojo and restarted my iMac.  The issue persisted.

Finally I did my fixit option of last choice:  I cleared my plugin cache.  I restarted Xojo and voila!  The problem went away.

This happens once or twice a year for me.  We use a lot of plugins from Monkeybread and Einhugur (and others too) and switch versions of Xojo quite a bit so I’m never really surprised that this happens.  Usually when I clear the cache there are a LOT of versions listed.

The Xojo IDE has plugins that it has to compile and use so those that don’t use third-party plugins may also experience this issue.  And of course the project cache is true for everyone as well.

For those using third-party plugins, it’s ALWAYS a good idea to keep up to date.  I know Monkeybread Software has done a LOT of work recently getting ready for 64-bit for Windows and Einhugur has done a lot of work recently to support Gtk3 in Linux and 64-bit Windows. I know I’m still waiting on the Einhugur Treeview plugin so I can move a Linux project from 2017 R1.1 to something newer.  Before complaining to Xojo do your due diligence and check for newer versions!

So my advice is when things are acting weird, empty the plugin and project caches.  On macSO this is in ~user/Library/Caches/Xojo.  In Windows this at C:\Users\YOUR USERNAME\AppData\Local\Temp\ with two folders, XojoIDEPlugins, and Xojo scratch XXXX folder with XXXX being some specific number (build number?).  I have no idea for Linux (sorry).

This might not be a perfect solution but it might keep you from going crazy(er).

RAD Still Means You Have to Learn the Language

Xojo is a great development tool that is a Rapid Application Development (RAD) environment.  That’s marketing speak for you can get stuff done quickly.  The marketing speak isn’t wrong but for many people they think this means that Xojo is ‘easy’ and the learning curve is next to nothing.  I hate to break it to those developers, but it just isn’t true.  Xojo, like any development language has a learning curve.  It might be a lot less than others but there is definitely one.

The truth is that Xojo is RAD once you learn how it works.  This means you have to learn the basics of the IDE, the language, and the debugger.  And only after understanding the basics of Xojo can you start taking advantage of the RAD part.

There are parts of Xojo that aren’t so RAD.  One of those, in my opinion, is database coding.  You still need to know SQL, and use the basic database classes to read and write data into your application.  In fact, it’s so low level that the IDE does not help you, in any way, which may lead to database errors.  The IDE will happily let you try to put a string into a numeric field in the database.  What worse is that depending upon which database is used (looking at you, SQLite) it won’t complain when you do so (thankfully this is not true of all databases).

Putting data into a database using the database classes is a two step process.  One, you have to query the database knowing what the field names and datatypes are as there is no autocomplete for them.  Xojo will happily let you (try at least) put a date value into an integer at design time.  It’s not until you try all this at runtime that things fall apart.  The same is true for updating and inserting data.  These are the reasons why we came up with ActiveRecord – our database classes for Xojo.

ActiveRecord is our way of making the Xojo compiler a little bit smarter.  It maps each table to a class and the properties in that class map to the database fields.  ActiveRecord checks to make sure that all of the fields in the table are represented in the class.  If not it flags the developer.  (It does way more but this post isn’t really about ActiveRecord.)

From our experience, jumping straight into ActiveRecord isn’t all that helpful for new Xojo users.  It’s a shortcut and you’re depending on our code without understanding it and I strongly discourage it until you’ve gone through the pain and tedium of using the standard Xojo classes.  In fact, when we train new developers we ALWAYS have them do a small project using the standard Xojo database classes.

Then we train them in how to use ActiveRecord.  The setup is a bit more involved and it’s not a perfect system, but once they start using the Table/Field autocomplete and having the compiler warn about mismatched datatypes they start to understand how much faster they can code database applications.  We are consultants, after all, and time is money.

Rapid Application Development systems do NOT mean quick to learn and being able to create an application with no experience.  RAD means that AFTER you’ve learned how it works it can be incredibly fast.  Once you learn Xojo is *can* be very fast to develop applications.

Anyone disagree with this?  What is the best method of learning Xojo?  Online documents?  Webinars?  Videos?

What is the Best Font for the Xojo Code Editor?

Somehow, after working with Xojo for seventeen years I’ve never changed the default typeface for the Code Editor.  It’s not that big a deal, really, but there are times when the default proportional font causes some issues.  At times it’s hard to read the difference between i’s, l’s, and 1’s as they all tend to blur together.  There are also some issues with selection and cursor placement that are annoying.

If I can find the right font I’ll change in a heartbeat.  What do you use and why?

Xojo 64-Bit Debugging

We’ve migrated a couple of projects to 64-bit and for the most part I’m pleased with how Xojo handles it.  It’s pretty seamless and it just works.  I can’t ask for anything more.  Additional observations:

The lack of Windows 64-bit debugging makes life difficult.  This appears to be corrected in 2018 R1 (in beta now) so that will be a most welcome change from having to go old-school and use logging to debug my Windows applications.  64-bit debugging in macOS and Linux works just like 32-bit applications.

There is no incremental compiling, yet, in Xojo.  This makes the debug cycle much longer than we’re used to with 32-bit applications.  When you debug a macOS or Linux application the dialog is quite clear that incremental compiling is off so there’s hope that the next step in this process is to get incremental compiling working.

The 2018 R1 beta cycle has taken a long time.  Presumably the level of effort to get the LLVM compiler working for Windows 64-bit debugging was painful.  And now that it appears to be solved hopefully all the other goodies on the plate (interops, Android, web 2.0) can all proceed at a good pace.

I had an instance the other day in 2017 R3 where Target64bit didn’t work.  After struggling with it for a while (because it should have worked) I deleted the plugin cache and restarted Xojo and voila!  It started working again.  I wish I had a better way of diagnosing stuff like this.

Miscellaneous:

I’m a big fan of the Einhugur Treeview control for several reasons.  First, it’s very fast with the ability to LockDrawing.  Second, since nodes are persistent you don’t have to go to extra lengths to manage your nodes as the user expands and collapses nodes.  Load them once and they’re there for the duration.  It’s a good option, in my opinion, for really fast development work.

The only drawback I have with the TreeView control is that it’s not compatible with Gtk3 yet.  According to Bjorn it won’t be until this summer.  This means any Linux projects using it will have to stick with Xojo 2017 R1.1 until it’s updated.

Happy Coding!