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PowerBuilder: Article

Come Get Your Beta While It’s Hot

The PowerBuilder 12.0 beta has officially started

The PowerBuilder 12.0 beta has officially started. It's pretty hard to overstate the magnitude of the changes that are taking place within PowerBuilder for this version. As a result, it's more important than ever for as many people as possible to participate in order to get the most amount of feedback as possible back to Sybase. It's going to be a lot easier to let Sybase know there's a problem with a feature now before the "die is cast" and it's easier for them to fix than to wait until after the release to find the problem, and then have to wait for an EBF for a correction

In case you haven't been following the announcements leading up to the beta, including the release of a CTP version, PowerBuilder 12 is slated to contain the following enhancements:

A New IDE
PowerBuilder.NET is a new IDE built upon the Visual Studio Isolated Shell. As a result, we automatically gain some of the long-awaited IDE features we've been asking for (Intellisense, collapsible code bands, line revision marks, go to definition, bookmarks, code formatting, code snippets, split screen editing, dockable tapped panes, etc.). We will also still have PowerBuilder Classic, the existing IDE with a few enhancements for continued work on existing Win32 and .NET (Winform, Webform, Web Service and Assembly) target types. The new IDE is initially intended to support the development of WPF-based applications (see below). Other .NET target types will be ported from PowerBuilder Classic to PowerBuilder.NET over time.

WPF Support
Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) was originally introduced by Microsoft with the release of .NET 3.0. It is based on an XML style markup language called XAML, and uses DirectX rather than GDI to render the user interface for Windows-based applications. It is intended as the replacement for WinForms. A very similar technology (Silverlight) was also introduced by Microsoft largely to compete against technologies such as Adobe Flash, though it could also be used to replace or at least embellish WebForms.

WPF DataWindow
In order to support the generation of WPF targets, Sybase has developed a fully managed code version of the DataWindow that generates its output through WPF.

WCF Support
Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) was also originally introduced by Microsoft in .NET 3.0 as a second-generation method for consuming (and creating) services. The primary advantages of WCF is that later web services standards (e.g., WS-Security) were directly supported (support was provided through an add-on in prior .NET service implementations) and protocols other than SOAP for transport could be used (for example, support for REST was introduced in .NET 3.5).

PowerScript Enhancements
In order to more fully support .NET target development, PowerScript has been enhanced to support a number of .NET language features such as parameterized constructors, user-defined enumerations, delegates, generics, interfaces, as well as broader support for array types.

Fully Managed Code
As a result of the development of a fully managed code version of the DataWindow, it is now possible to create PowerBuilder applications that are also fully managed. Previously, the unmanaged libraries required for the DataWindow as well as unmanaged database drivers would often cause problems in locations where only fully managed code is allowed.

The Death of the PBL
At least in PowerBuilder.NET, which stores all of its source code as individual files. As a result, support for using non-MSCCI-based source control systems is greatly enhanced. It also means no more corrupted PBLs.

I see some great potential for the future based on these new enhancements. WPF is basically a new way of creating Windows desktop applications. Once that is done, it would seem (based on the similarities between WPF and Silverlight) that support for Silverlight as well might easily be included in the future. Allowing PowerBuilder developers to generate WPF applications give them some new capabilities for Windows applications, but Silverlight support would provide an alternative to the current WebForms method of generating web apps, which would be an even greater benefit. Silverlight-based web applications have (in my opinion) much better capability for maintaining the rich client look and feel of the Windows desktop application than the current WebForm approach. Microsoft is also currently developing a Silverlight for mobile that would allow Silverlight applications to run on a number of different mobile device platforms.

I also hold out hope that the capability for PowerBuilder to generate fully managed code would allow it to run via Mono on other desktop platforms (e.g., Linux, Mac). The primary problem with this is that Mono currently does not support, and had indicated no current plans to ever support, WPF (http://www.mono-project.com/Roadmap#Unsupported_technologies). We would either need to have the other .NET targets (i.e., WinForm) also available in fully managed code in the future, or Mono plans would need to change so that they do support WPF.

In any event, the changes represent a huge leap forward in PowerBuilder capabilities and open the door to even greater capabilities in the future. Now's the time to get on board.

More Stories By Bruce Armstrong

Bruce Armstrong is a development lead with Integrated Data Services (www.get-integrated.com). A charter member of TeamSybase, he has been using PowerBuilder since version 1.0.B. He was a contributing author to SYS-CON's PowerBuilder 4.0 Secrets of the Masters and the editor of SAMs' PowerBuilder 9: Advanced Client/Server Development.

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