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A Review of REALBasic

  • By Sonu Kapoor
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REALBasic is tool that allows programmers to develop applications using the BASIC programming language. Unlike Microsoft's Visual Basic, in addition to Windows, REALBasic will also create applications for MAC OS Classic and MAC OS X. We reviewed the Windows version with the understanding that the Mac versions worked the same. Even with the Windows version, you can set your target platform within the development environment.


If you start REALBasic you will see an IDE (Integrated Development Environment). This IDE contains several windows: an interface builder, a code editor, a properties window, and more. As you need these windows to create a fully functional application; they are all open at the same time. Additional windows like menus can be also opened. In addition to these windows, a "tooltip" window appears automatically when you enter code in the code editor. This window provides useful tips about classes and methods.

The Interface Builder

The interface is one of the important parts of developing an application. The interface builder allows you to easily create your interface by dragging and dropping controls. It contains many useful controls. In other languages you would have to write some of this controls on your own. By dropping a control into your working window a dotted horizontal and vertical line appears automatically, which helps you to align your control at the correct position (See Figure 1). As shown in the figure below, a useful tooltip appears when you hover your mouse over the control. Through the properties window you can set the property of any control. This window also contains a number of useful features for a control. For example you can easily set the tooltip of any control via the property window.

Figure 1 - Interface Builder  Control alignment help

This screenshot displays the standard controls that are installed. You can download additional controls from the REALSoftware Web site. Several third party controls are also available on the Internet. If you install these additional controls, they will appear in the last row of the controls window.

The Code Editor

The Code Editor allows you to enter your code, which is executed on any event. As seen in Figure 2, this window is divided in two panes. The left pane of the window shows a tree with several subtrees. One of the important tree items is the Control, which displays each control in the application. Each control itself contains several event items, which can be added to the application.

Figure 2 - The code editor &tooltip window

By entering any code in the code editor ( right pane ), another "Tips" window appears that provides some useful tips about the typed keyword. The "Tips" window contains a small bug, while resizing the window, the tip dissapears. If you do a minimize and maximize of the whole application, the tip appears again. However its a useful feature. Another nice feature while typing is the autocomplete, when you type any known keyword, REALBasic tries to complete the word with a light gray shaded color. The completed word from REALBasic can be chosen with TAB key. If there is more than one suggestion, you see the ellipsis (...).

The Compiler

The REALBasic compiler does not work like other known compilers. Other compiler do not stop before the whole code is compiled, it does not matter whether you have any errors in your code or not. The REALBasic compiler stops immediately when it has encountered an error. This can save your time, while developing software.

Figure 3 - The Compiler help

When any error is found, it leads you directly to the position of the error with a short description in the tooltip. Figure 3 displays how it looks.

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This article was originally published on May 29, 2003

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