Embarcadero has updated its RAD Studio IDE (integrated developer environment) for Delphi and C++ applications in an attempt to enliven the development tools vendor's staid business applications.
A new component of the just-released RAD Studio XE2, called FireMonkey, provides a framework for developers to make their native departmental applications look as snazzy as commercial applications.
"Most of the rich user-experience capabilities are going into non-native platforms like HTML5, Flash, and Silverlight, which are web-oriented platforms more focused on media entertainment and advertising," said Michael Swindell, Embarcadero director of marketing. "We really wanted to bring rich user capabilities to native business applications."
Increasingly, people are becoming accustomed to the slick interfaces of consumer applications and services, such as Google's Gmail, leading them to grumble about the stodginess of their work applications.
FireMonkey is an attempt to bring parity to the two worlds. It includes a set of components for building more sophisticated presentations of applications, ones that go beyond the typical collection of forms and edit boxes. Using a new set of components, methods and properties, developers can work with vector graphics, animation, 3D and other imaging effects.
"Anything the GPU can do, we can apply to user interfaces," Swindell said. FireMonkey supports all major GPUs through Pixel Shader version 2, a standard for rendering images through the GPU. Applications can glow or cast shadows. Forms can bend, be rolled up or change shapes. Applications can be mapped onto 3D objects or animations. Different levels of transparency can be added to applications.
FireMonkey can also offer the portability of web-based platforms, through the ability to separate the user interface from the business logic and data access. With this feature, developers can create front ends for specific clients, such as Windows, Macintosh and iOS, which all then call the needed data and logic from a cloud service.
"If I have a wide variety of products and form factors, I can centralise that functionality and build applications that share data and services," Swindell said.
FireMonkey will be included in the new release of RAD Studio XE2, and also with the company's Delphi XE2 and C++Builder XE2 products.
RAD Studio XE2 also includes other improvements. Delphi XE2 is the first version of Delphi to provide 64-bit development. "There are many applications dealing with very large data sets and objects, especially imaging applications, video, large databases," Swindell said. Thirty-two-bit systems offer only a 4GB limit on working memory.
XE2 has also updated its PHP environment, RadPHP. The new version includes more tools for building mobile versions of web clients.
The standard edition of RAD Studio XE2 starts at $1,000 (£619), and an upgrade to an existing edition can be purchased for $500 (£310). A starter edition for students and independent developers is $199 (£123) . A free trial version is available on the Embarcadero site.
Delphi is an object-oriented version of the Pascal programming language. It has long been used to teach computer programming and remains a viable choice for rapid development of line-of-business and departmental applications. Embarcadero estimates that two million developers use Delphi worldwide. Popular programs such as Audio Grabber, Macromedia Captivate, QuickBooks Point of Sale, Sirius32, Skype and Webroot Spy Sweeper all have been written with the language.
Embarcadero acquired the Delphi developer product line from Borland Software in 2008, along with C++Builder, RadPHP, RAD Studio and InterBase.