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Choosing a Visual Designer

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    Choosing a Visual Designer

    I have been using PB very infrequently since it was originally available as Borland TurboBasic and recently decided to upgrade my development environment with the latest version of PB/Win and PBForms. After doing some searching in the forum, I have discovered that there appears to be 4 primary 3rd party IDEs offered to support PB/Win.

    So, I am now considering purchase of either PwrDev, EZGUI, FireFly, or Phoenix and would appreciate any comments about these IDEs from existing users. I can see that each tool has its own approach to coding support. i'm really interested in knowing what users consider the major pros and cons of each tool; basically a summary review of PB IDE tools.

    Is Phoenix still being actively supported? The website looks like the product and website have not been updated at all in 2007.

    Any comments will be most appreciated.
    Last edited by Joel Ruths; 4 Jan 2008, 12:46 PM. Reason: correct typo

    There where a few polls in the past.
    These polls usually attract users in favour of one single designer.
    Not enitrly objective imo.
    (While it could be though)


      I too was wondering about Phoenix. When I bought FireFly, it was just coming out strong and looked very promising. I tried it out a few times and liked how it generated code. It had some bugs early on which I think are fixed, but eventually FireFly went to about the same coding model, so I stuck with it. I had been watching it though because it had a few more advanced things and if something looked appealing I would have snagged it too.

      I haven't done much with the other two. I bought PB because I didn't want to have to include DLLs with my code...if EZGUI released a version with inline/inc code instead of DLL I'd probably buy it, but one of the things making it valuable/more expensive is the advanced features in the DLL which would probably never get to code form. Although it sounds like it is just the way it is done and uses standard API and not some 3rd/4th party calls/dlls/applications, so I'm not sure why it is such a secret.
      Mobile Solutions
      Sys Analyst and Development


        Sorry Edwin that I mis-spelled PwrDev. Sometimes working quickly doesn't pay!

        To be honest, I see features in EXGUI, FireFly, and PwrDev that leads me to want to use all 3 of them. But since I have limited funds and limited time to learn, my preference is to focus on one solution for the immediate future.

        I am currently working with the FireFly trial and will probably also look at EZGUI. Since there is no PwrDev trial offered, is there any way to obtain access to the Help file?



          I understand your desire to get other opinions on the various options available to you, but to be quite honest, what others think about one product over the others is really immaterial to you. All of the 3rd party designers are excellent. I know, I own them all. They each take totally different approaches to get to the end result though, and this is where they differ, and this is where you need to decide what makes more "sense" to you personally.

          Very Generally speaking all of the options mimic, in some respects, Visual Basic except EZGUI. So if you're comfortable with VB, one of those might be better. However, if you're coming primarily out of the DOS programming world (as I was), with little understanding of Windows programming in general, then you'd probably be far better off with EZGUI. That was me about 7 years ago. I have learned a lot about Windows programming over that time, but EZGUI helped me create programs fast with a very small learning curve. I've taken the knowledge from EZGUI and learned about Windows programming in general (SDK style) so I'm happy with my choice.

          However, while all of these tools are excellent, what works great for one will not be as usable to another. Some of these programs have trial versions. I suggest you download and try them out. Others don't, so you'll need to read about them and ask questions.

          I would highly recommend that you do a lot of homework before making a decision though, As I said, each has strengths and weakness's. If you choose one without looking at how the others work, you may find that as you get more advanced, you're more limited by your initial choice.
          Software makes Hardware Happen


            I have decided not to have downloads like trials or helpfiles online since i want people to actually use and somewhat persist using PwrDev.
            PwrDev requires you to have knowledge of the windows api and thus might not be your tool(?)

            Here is a snapshot though:

            The help has 1150+ pages of these..


            Oh btw.. if price is an issue.. you could wait for ~ 2 weeks.. hint. ;D
            Last edited by Edwin Knoppert; 4 Jan 2008, 12:19 PM.



              I appreciate your reply and I do realize that the final solution has to be my decision. Your comment about EZGUI offering a faster rampup for ex-DOS users is also helpful.

              All of the 3rd party designers are excellent. I know, I own them all.
              Does this mean you own all 4 that I listed? Are you continuing to actively use all 4 of them? It sounds like you started with EZGUI; is that right? If so, why did you obtain the other tools?

              Do you see any other significant cons with any of these tools?

              Thanks for your time and comments.



                Joe Byrne is correct.

                Take your time in evaluatiing your needs.

                I understands Edwins point of view, since EZGUI too requires users to make a commitment to learning to use the product.

                Even with a demo version, ones first impression of a product does not necessarily mean it is will be what is best for your long term needs.

                Some products have more advanced features which are not appreciated until after one learns the basics of the tool.

                The best place to start is to ask yourself some questions:

                (1) Do I want the Designer to emulate something I am already familiar with (ie. if VB, FireFly is a good choice) ?

                (2) What advanced controls must be supported well ? (ie. listview, treeview) ?

                (3) Do I require ActiveX support ? (rules out EZGUI, since it does not support ActiveX, so try PwrDev or FireFly or Phoenix)

                (4) What custom controls do I need (or prefer) ?

                (5) What kind of applications will I design ? (ie. Services, then PwrDev is a good choice)

                (6) Do I want to use my own code editor, rather than a built-in editor ? (some use external code editor of choice and some have a built-in one)

                (7) Code style. What coding style appeals to me ?
                (check out the tech support forums for each product to see examples of code)

                (8) What is my knowledge of the Windows API and how much am I willing to learn ?

                (9) Are there specific features in the specific tool that appeal to me ? (ie. PwrDev has some very neat custom controls)

                (10) Must the tool generate a single Exe or can I live with runtime DLLs ?

                (11) Do I prefer DDT, SDK or some other coding style ? (ie. EZGUI has its own unique command set)

                (12) Will I require a third party tool or custom control (ie. EGrid or SIGrid) as well and do they work well with the Designer I choose ?

                What you need to do is write a list of features you want in a designer tool and prioritise them in order of most important to least important. Then compare the existing tools with your list and see which one comes closest to what you want.

                I'll admit that no designer tool is perfect for all users, since we all have different tastes and needs. Find what comes closest to your needs.
                Chris Boss
                Computer Workshop
                Developer of "EZGUI"


                  Hi Joel,

                  Chris' list of questions to ask yourself is right on target. You need to prioritize your needs because each designer has its strengths and weaknesses. All products are being actively supported and updated so whatever product you select in the end should prove to be a good investment.

                  If you have any specific questions regarding FireFly then feel free to ask me here, via the PlanetSquires forum, or by email.

                  Good luck!
                  Paul Squires
                  FireFly Visual Designer (for PowerBASIC Windows 10+)
                  Version 3 now available.


                    Originally posted by Joel Ruths View Post
                    Does this mean you own all 4 that I listed?
                    Yes. I don't have the latest and greatest version of PwrDev but I have a license for the older version.
                    Are you continuing to actively use all 4 of them?
                    I mainly use EZGUI because (a) I'm more familiar with it, (b) I hate VB so the less I'm reminded of it the better, and (c) I find EZGUI has more features that I like.
                    It sounds like you started with EZGUI; is that right? If so, why did you obtain the other tools?
                    Yes, I started with EZGUI because I more or less stopped programming when DOS died. I couldn't quite get my mind around Windows. In 2000, I found myself needing a rather specialized application and couldn't find anything that fit the bill, so I looked at writing it myself. I had kept my PB licenses up to date, so that was the obvious choice for me. After a few weeks of struggling to grasp Windows, I wasn't getting very far. That is when Chris suggested I look at EZGUI. I purchased it right away and in less than a month I had a program working that did exactly what I needed. The way Chris wrapped Windows components together made logical sense to me and allowed me to do what I need to do. I also needed a database, so I ended up getting Paul Squires's Cheetah package. His support, along with the obvious talent he had for programming, made the decision to purchase FireFly a no-braniner when he released it. I was disappointed to see how "VB" like it was, and I've never been up to taking the time to learn the ins-and-outs of FireFly, but I have written a few smaller apps with it and find it extremely well done, exactly what I'd expect from Paul.

                    Edwin has an excellent program too, but when I purchased it (it was on sale!) I hadn't taken the plunge into Windows SDK style, so it didn't take long for me to understand I was way over my head. I haven't looked at PwrDev since the first (1.0) release, so I can't really comment much on how it works.

                    PBForms was a bit disappointing to me as well. While nicely done, I really hadn't done much in the way of DDT either, so the concept of message pumps and the like was a bit daunting. I have learned a lot since then though, and would say that the current version of PBForms is very usable and quite nice to work with.

                    I purchase most 3rd party tools for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is because I can write off the expense through my business. I also feel its important to support the work of these fine people and help to 'pay back' what they have given to the PB community. I also find that all of these folks are extremely talented programmers and I feel better about asking them questions when I'm a paying customer I also like knowing that I have the tools that I might need right at my disposal. Case in point, I purchased HIME but never really got around to using it. I made an 'off-the-cuff' comment once about having problems getting the encryption routine to work. Immediately, Eddy (who wrote the package) chimed in and offered his assistance. Within a few hours, I stripped out all my other code and replaced it with HIME which has turned out to be a great improvement.
                    Do you see any other significant cons with any of these tools?
                    All of them are excellent. Some people don't like the idea of extra DLLs to distribute. I've never seen the downside to this, especially since the DLL can reside in the same folder. However, if you're looking to build 100% stand-alone apps, then FireFly or PBForms (and pwrdev?) would be a better choice. On the flip side, if getting from DOS to Windows is your main objective, without sacrificing power, then EZGUI is, IMO, the best way to go. I've written about a dozen commercial applications over the last 7 years, 8 of them have been done with EZGUI, including the one that's taken most of my time over the past 3 years. This current application, made up of 27 separate programs, including 8 web-based CGI applications, have a combined number of code lines near, or at, 1 million. (this includes a number of 3rd party libraries). Needless to say, its huge. The choice to use EZGUI was simple for me mainly because I wanted a lot of flexibly for the user and EZGUI's tools made this possible with just a few lines of code where the other would have required many lines. I have created a couple of stand-alone programs within this application that don't rely on other components of the main system, and for those I used FireFly -- one to get a feel for the tool in real life, and two because these programs could be distributed to others without having to bundle the EZGUI DLLs with them. A bit easier to distribute via download.

                    However, I am sure that I could have used any of the above designers to get the job done. I am just partial to EZGUI at this time.

                    If you do any type of database programming (and I can't imagine a program without external data!) I'd highly recommend Tsunami or if you need SQL functionality, SQLTools. Both of these are also excellent tools to have in your arsenal.
                    Thanks for your time and comments.
                    No problem.
                    Software makes Hardware Happen


                      I would like to comment on dlls.

                      If you are programming any hardware devices that require Ring 0 access you will more than likely need third party device drivers and/or dlls.

                      I also use third party tools that aren't hardware related, such as:
                      • SQLTools (PerfectSync)
                      • Cheetah Database (Planet Squires currently freeware)
                      • Datatable (ProtoView)
                      • Spread 6.0 (Farpoint)
                      • A graphing tool (ProEssentials - Gigasoft)

                      I use EZGUI for a lot of things and like it. No matter which of the 4 IDE you decide to purchase, at some point you might need a third party tool which will require a dll.

                      It is really not a problem with free tools such as "inno setup". Besides you can reduce the size of #BLOAT a bit.

                      I doubt you can go wrong with any of the IDEs mentioned. They are all good and well supported by the authors.

                      The most exasperating part of the "rat race" is how often the rats are in the lead!


                        I'd like to thank all of you who took the time to post your comments and feedback to my inquiry. It has been quite helpful.


                          FWIW, if you are planning on creating applications using DDT-created dialogs (not full-blown CreateWindowEx et al), the compiler ships with the Microsoft dialog editor. (Tools menu of IDE).

                          YOu can drag and drop and relocate and assign symbols to pretty much all the standard controls and save.

                          That will get you a "filename.DLG" file which has all the x, y, cx, cy control sizes and locations. From that you can use DIALOG NEW .... CONTROL ADD and just copy those dimensions.

                          Pretty economical solution: $0 extra. No delivery delay either.
                          Michael Mattias
                          Tal Systems (retired)
                          Port Washington WI USA
                          [email protected]


                            Another free solution if you want to try out DDT is to download my freeware DDt Visual Designers. They generate actual working code.


                            They aren't fancy, but they work and they generate solid code.

                            Note: These freeware designers are not the same thing as my commercial EZGUI product. They are very limited and are based on some designers built years ago.
                            Chris Boss
                            Computer Workshop
                            Developer of "EZGUI"