RealBasic 3.2

Manufacturer:

RealSoftware
Suggested Retail Price:

$100 (standard), $300 (professional)
System Requirements:
  • Mac OS 7.6.1 (or X)
  • 4.5 MB RAM
  • 6.5 MB Hard Drive Space
Review Date:

Jul 16, 2001

RealBasic 3.2 is a great resource for up and coming programmers, as well as experienced programmers. Incorporating a very nice interface builder, with a simple but powerful code editor, and an array of user plug-ins, it's exactly the opposite of Metrowerks CodeWarrior.

Installation:

There are two ways you can install this. Buy a CD (only direct from the company), or download and register (ala shareware). I opted for the download and register, because it's cheaper and fast, plus I can always burn a CD with all my installed plug-ins, and downloaded documentation. Also, there are professional and standard editions. The professional edition (costing thee times as much) adds the ability to make Windows applications, and use databases larger than 50 items.

Usage:

When you start up for the first time, you will be presented with a brand new project, and an empty window. In this window is where your adventure beings. You will see an object window to the left, and a properties window to the right. Also, there will be another window behind the 'untitled' window that is the project window where all the windows, images, menu bar, movies, methods, etc. are stored.

The Object window to the left holds all of the user interface things you need to build your applications. You can add such things as text, editable fields, lines, boxes, and images, as well as scroll bars, sliders, progress bars, and chasing arrows. Plus, advanced objects such as QuickTime movies, sprites, musical note players, timers, and others. To add these objects to your windows, simply drag and drop them into place. As you build stuff, very helpful positioning lines will let you build a much more clean interface.

Each of these objects, plus menus, windows, and everything else to do with your program has properties that can be edited in the properties window. There are so many different properties, it's not even worth trying to list some of them. Almost everything you can think of can be changed with these properties. Some properties are difficult to understand, but look it up in the language reference, and you should find a nice definition.

One of the most important things in Mac OS applications is the menu bar. To create menus, double click "Menu" in the project window. This will pop up a little menu bar in an "Application Menu" window. RealBasic automatically puts in the Apple, File, and Edit menus, plus a few menu items. To add more menus, click to the right of the edit menu, and type in the name of the menu. To add a menu item, click the menu you want, then click in the empty space below, and type in the name. It's that easy.

Creating About, Help, and menu separators is a little different, but very easy. To create a About menu, click under the Apple Menu, and add "About application name...". When it's compiled, RealBasic will fill in the line separator, and the code that adds the Apple Menu items. For a Help Menu, just add a Help menu. Depending on the OS, it will put it where it belongs, and add things like show balloons. For a line separator, just add a menu item with text "-". That's it. When making the applications for OS X, the menu items will automatically move around to where they belong.

But the real magic happens in the Code Editor. That is where you make the interface do what you want. This is also where the real programming comes in. Now, you will be immersed in text, variables, functions, and so much more. This is the hardest part to learn, but because the language is based on the old BASIC, it's actually quite simple. Not to mention case insensitive, no ending semicolons, and easy operator statements. I have studied many different programming languages, and this one was by far the easiest to learn.

The only real built in help system is the language reference. A searchable, indexed, very large reference, that can be helpful, if you really take some time with it. I go here first when looking for answers, and sometimes even find some really good sample code. I wish they could have built a little more example source, or further explanations into it, but it does work.

RealBasic has a plug-in architecture just like web browsers, Photoshop, and many other programs. There are already many user created plug-ins, and you can even create your own with the RealBasic Plug-in SDK, and some C or C++ knowledge. Plug-ins can add all sorts of funcuality to your programs, such as more databases compatibility, and different types of music to be played. The possibilities are endless.

But plug-ins are just the beginning. Methods, classes, external shared libraries, and so much more. As you get more advanced, and start using these things, your coding will go even faster, your programs will get more involved, and you will become one of the big boys. This is one part of the included documentation that could use a MAJOR overhaul.

Finally, we get to the application building stage. Just select "Build Application" from the File menu, and you will be presented with a dialog. There, you select what kind of target you want (Mac OS, Carbon, or Windows). Oddly, you can create Windows apps at the same time you make Mac OS or Mac OS X apps, but you can't create Mac OS and Mac OS X simultaneously. In this dialog, you can change memory sizes, version information, application information, and even the icon. For Mac OS X icons, you must add a resource file with the appropriate 'icns' information to your project.

Problems:

The only problems I had were because I did not understand something. Usually, looking at documentation, other people's source code, or experimenting will fix it. If you can't figure out some hard code, check the links and resources at the RealBasic website.

Conclusion:

If you are a beginning programmer, this is one of the best ways to get into programming on the Mac. If you are an experienced programmer, you will be pumping out applications at a blistering pace. Either way, a great tool to have in your programming arsenal. (To see my first ever application built with RealBasic, see this site)


ProsCons
  • Easy to build user interface
  • Easy, powerful code editor
  • User plug-ins
  • Build Mac OS, Mac OS X, and Windows (with the professional version) native applications
  • Fast recompiler
  • Database compatibility
  • Supports QuickTime, AppleScript, AppleEvents
  • Sprite animation engine
  • Macintosh drag-and-drop
  • Hard to understand documentation
  • Language reference only partially helpful
  • Classic Mac OS and Mac OS X applications must be built separately
  • So many windows open at once, two monitors is nearly a must
  • Doesn't support Mac OS X icon when creating applications

5/10 stars
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