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PenRight! for Windows 95

Software upgrades appear fairly regularly in the software development tools marketplace. Some upgrades do nothing more than offer the vendor a way to ask for more money with marginal benefit. Fortunately, some product upgrades are so significant, they become the defining development platform for their marketplace. So it is with PenRight! for Windows 2.0.

What continues to distinguish PenRight! is its focus on creating powerful tools that address the unique requirements of the mobile and pen marketplace. The latest release shows maturity in all areas of the visual development environment. The new Windows version runs faster, allows for C++ and C based development, and includes extensions for platform-specific handheld functionality. PenRight! for Windows also provides a high degree of task automation with hardware and software library wizards, and the user interface has been subtly refined to enhance developer productivity. As in previous versions of PenRight!, the signature handwriting recognition engine is incorporated into the environment.

Rapid application development with mobile focus
PenRight! for Windows provides strong support for rapid application development methods (RAD) with an overall focus on the needs of mobile handheld developers. RAD, of course, refers to a host of services designed to cut down on time to market and complexity. PenRight! for Windows 2.0 scores high in that area with its platform- independent, graphical, icon-based view of projects and event-specific coding which allow for brisk design, coding, and compilation of PenRight!-based applications.

Compared to older versions of PenRight!, there are many improvements. In addition to the ability of using the popular C++ programming language for development, PenRight!?s new version creates applications that run under Windows 3.1, Windows 95, DOS, and DOS protected mode from a single application design. This cross platform capability allows developers to target platforms such as low cost PDAs, handhelds, and tablets, as well as laptops and desktop computers without having to code for each environment.

Project Manager, Form Designer and Toolbox
In PenRight!?s Project Manager you can visually organize high level application components like forms, code modules, and resources. This is performed via a project window that presents each component of an application as an icon. The flow of the application is defined by graphically linking one icon to another. PenRight! then automatically generates the program flow.

The new Form Designer and Toolbox is where you can graphically create forms, much like in Visual Basic. In addition to added functionality in the form designer? like snap-to grid, multi-select, and color BMPs?the standard PenRight! controls now support the Windows look and feel by simply changing selections in the property window. For Windows development, PenRight! now supports VBX controls, which make available hundreds of third party controls to PenRight! applications. This support should translate into providing ActiveX, COM, and DCOM controls in future versions. PenRight! now also allows users to create custom controls that work both in DOS and Windows based applications.

There are a number of new ease-of-use features including short-cut menus that appear when the mouse is right clicked on most objects. These short-cuts lead to code editing and properties management windows where appropriate. In the properties window you change basic parameter values in an object, before the code generation phase, and without having to work through a sequence of dialogs.

Another nice touch is the Function Palette, which gives easy access to the syntax of over 350 API function calls. Selecting a function automatically inserts the code into the current code editor window and directly into the application design.

Extra attention has been paid to taking advantage of the look and feel of different target platforms from a single source code base. A consistent programming interface provides the programmer with a single set of libraries for all platforms. I was especially pleased by the subtlety and elegance of the enhancements to this area of the product.

Cross platform development
Another prominent addition to the product is the support for different project types. When a new project is created, a Project Type dialog appears, prompting the user to select a project type from the given choices. The Project Types that currently ship with PenRight! for Windows 2.0 are PenRight! Classic, which targets DOS, DOS Protected Mode, and Windows; PenRight! DOS; and PenRight! for Windows. Project types are like templates, and generate an environment specific to a given platform, providing the functionality and options available for that platform. For example, since ODBC connectivity drivers require Windows, the ODBC Wizard will not be available when the PenRight! Classic or DOS project categories are selected. However, the Codebase Wizards providing dBASE IV database management operates on all supported platforms and, therefore, is available in all project types.

Developers can also create their own project types by saving the project under a new name. These saved categories are useful as templates when writing new applications. This allows the creation of new applications with common settings, such as screen sizes, source code, and custom libraries to be preset in subsequent application designs.

Windows developers can take advantage of PenRight!?s open architecture by integrating DLLs and VB resources into their PenRight! for Windows projects. As with past PenRight upgrades, applications created within PenRight! Pro 3.x and PenRight! for Windows 1.X can be automatically imported into the new version.

Mobile wizards
One of the most profound enhancements to PenRight! are new Mobile Wizards that automate many of the data collection services provided by third party libraries, such as power management, bar code scanning, database access, and audio support.

PenRight!?s Mobile Wizards offer a series of dialogs that query the developer about basic options and then automate the generation of code in a way that is tightly integrated into the development tool. The hardware Wizards work in concert with the SDK from the targeted hardware manufacturer. For instance, PenRight!?s Symbol Scanner Wizard allows for the creation of code to drive Symbol?s PPT-4600 scanner library from a DOS or Windows PenRight! application. Through the use of the Wizard, the developer is spared two steps in the development process: First, learning the Symbol Scanner library; and second, learning to integrate the library into a PenRight! application. This version of PenRight! for Windows ships with Mobile Wizards for Norand, Symbol, and Telxon power management and scanners; ODBC and Codebase Wizards for database development; and SoundBlaster, and SoundWave Wizards for multimedia support. PenRight?s development team has also announced it will soon release a specification document for developers to create their own PenRight! compliant Wizards.

Integrated database support
Other additions to the product aimed at the serious commercial data collection and retrieval handheld community are the ODBC and Codebase database Wizards mentioned above. These Wizards allow developers to map the data between rows of database tables and the fields on PenRight! forms. The Codebase dBASE IV compatible database engine, available in the last release, has now been made into an easy-to-use Wizard. Codebase databases are perfect for the small, standalone data collection tasks typically performed on efficient handheld platforms.

The new ODBC Wizard allows developers to map data between columns of a SQL database and PenRight! forms. For direct access to corporate data repositories, nothing beats direct access to ODBC compliant database servers. This tool automates the use of ODBC based data store in PenRight! applications, but it does not trivialize the task so as to hide the SQL queries or data store from the developer. The generated code from this Wizard is expected to be easy to be read and modified by the developer. This means that writing systems for hand held units can mature from batch data collection and upload to full blown client server technology based systems.

Moving forward
With its pen-based focus and cross-platform approach to application development, PenRight! for Windows is a premier development environment for the mobile hand held market. The enhanced PenRight! standard controls, the ability to manage VBX components, multiple project types, Mobile Wizards, and many other ease-of-use features make PenRight! for Windows v2.0 the only development tool you need for the creation of powerful mobile applications, now and into the future. And PenRight! is already working on additional Wizards, more project types, and new code generation options.

Category: Application Development Tool
Cost: US$595.00
Contact: PenRight! (510) 249-6900
Web: http://www.penright!.com
System: Windows 3.1, 95, NT

- Bob Besaha

Bob Besaha is principal of Strong Software, Inc, <> a programmer training firm specializing in Java, C, C++, TCP/IP, Smalltalk, Perl, Internet, and Client / Server technology.

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