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A few years back, I dropped in on a friend who was busy at work on her computer. "Whatcha doin'?", I asked playfully.

"I'm writing a program", she replied without looking up.

As I looked over her shoulder I was befuddled by what I saw. She was opening drop menus and clicking on options or typing simple addresses into dialogue boxes. I was familiar with the monstrous task of typing complicated code in a text editor, and then going through the painful ritual of compiling and debugging.

She said this was a new application called "Visual Basic". It allowed the developer the luxury of staying at a GUI interface, and required no complicated debugging or linking.

Now, it seems, there's this new kid on the block - I think his name is "Java" - and there are a growing number of clients who are demanding applications that are built on his platform. To tap into this lucrative new market, it becomes necessary to learn a whole new programming language. This, as most of you know, is a very tedious and time-consuming adventure. Tedious? Time-consuming? Not anymore! Now there is an amazing new building application from Halcyon Software, Inc. called Instant Basic for Java. Not only does Instant Basic for Java (IB4J) allow development of Java applications in a VB-like architecture, it also enables the developer to migrate existing VB applications to Java platforms.

Installation
IB4J installs easily on any 90MHz or better Pentium (or SUN SPARC and other Java platforms) with 24 MB of RAM (32MB recommended). It's Pure Java, and therefore will need a functional JDK 1.1.5 or higher. I installed my demo by setting a classpath to the stored directory, and the rest went down as smooth as gravy. It ran on my Cirrus 150 mh2 system with no trouble at all.

Oh My! It Reminds me of VB!
As I began to use this product, a lot of stuff I thought was lost to memory started to come back. I dare say that if I had been using VB all along, I wouldn't have to consult a great deal of documentation to get started. IB4J features full support for most BASIC Functions, Statements and Objects. Full compatibility with the BASIC language syntax is also provided.

Java All the Way
Don't be misled by what you've read so far. Although IB4J looks and acts (somewhat) like VB, it is not just some VB knockoff. This is a powerful, stand-alone Java-based builder through and through. A quick examination of a few of its features confirms this. IB4J comes with a Form Painter, a Source Code Editor (for those of you who must type code!), a Project Browser, a Menu Editor, a Compiler and a Graphical Debugger. This tool can help you make the simplest of applets or the most complex Java applications with the bare minimum of time and effort.

What About my Existing VB Work?
The version of IB4J I worked with (the professional edition) is bundled with a feature called the "Instant Converter". This is a clever device that enabled me to migrate my existing VB applications to the Java language. It supports all Microsoft VB Datatypes including variant and object. Existing DAO code is transparently migrated into Java using JDBC. I experienced no real difficulty in converting any of my forms, models or classes into Pure Java classes.

What About Database Development?
Some of you may develop from and maintain a large database. IB4J can be a powerful and useful tool for you also. Bundled with the professional edition, is another feature, Cloudscape's evaluation version of JBMS, a leading Java-SQL Object-Relational Database system for high-performance database development. Support for Data Controls, Data Access Object and Remote Data Access Object is included. This support is built using a standard JDBC interface. This couples with many popular SQL's like Oracle, Informix and Microsoft SQL.

It Can Even Help with Your Install Challenges
The professional edition I worked with came equipped with another neat feature: Instant Installer. This permits you to create single-step installation files that can be executed on any Java-enabled platform. It provides support for various installation features, like serial number generation, creating and saving of multiple distribution configurations, and even those "Compact, Typical or Custom" installation options we've all come to know and love. This can generate a really professional installation wizard that can display promotional side-screens and even go as far as to provide JVM auto-detection as well.

IB4J is really a slick tool. It has invited another group of people, VB developers, to jump right into the warm, inviting waters of Java development. If you are VB proficient (and even if you're not) and you want to see what this Java thing is all about, put Instant Basic for Java on your "must have" list.

About the Author
Edward Zebrowski is a technical writer based in the Orlando, FL area. Ed runs his own Web development company, ZebraWeb, and can be reached on the net at [email protected]

 

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