updated 11:45 am EST, Wed February 20, 2008
First Look: REALbasic
Due to a lack of visually-oriented programming tools, the Macintosh has a reputation for being a difficult platform for which to develop applications, especially when designing the user interface. Although Apple includes a free copy of XCode with every Macintosh, XCode is really designed for experienced programmers who are versed in several programming languages. Since C-based languages can be hard to learn and XCode can be confusing as well, most people can't write programs for the Macintosh. Fortunately, that's all changed with REALbasic 2008 Release 1, the latest version of the cross-platform development tool from REAL Software.
REALbasic makes programming easy in two ways. First, it uses the much simpler BASIC programming language, which was specifically designed to teach novices how to write programs. Second, REALbasic lets you visually design the user interface of your program by creating a window and filling it with common components such as push buttons, pull-down menus, check boxes, radio buttons, pop-up menus, tabs, and sliders. Designing your user interface requires no programming knowledge at all. If you can drag and drop items, you can design a user interface.
After you've designed a user interface, you need to use the BASIC language to write commands that tell your program what to do. Fortunately, BASIC is very english oriented, allowing users to form arguments that resemble English, rather than cryptic functions and statements. First you'll need to write commands that tell the user interface how to work by displaying or retrieving data from the screen. Second, you'll need to write additional BASIC commands that manipulate that data to create a useful result, such as calculating mathematical formulas or sorting a list of names alphabetically.
Although REALbasic is easy to learn, it's also powerful enough to develop professional applications. Like powerful programming languages such as C++, REALbasic offers object-oriented programming, which lets you divide a program into distinct objects that model the real world.
For example, a video game might consist of several objects such as objects that control monsters on the screen, walls and other obstacles, and a weapon that you use to point and shoot at attackers. By breaking a large program into objects, object-oriented programming makes it easy to write complicated programs and modify them as easily as taking apart and snapping together Lego building blocks.
REALbasic's most unique feature is its cross-platform compiler, which lets you write a program once, yet compile it for three separate operating systems. This lets you write a program on your Macintosh and create a Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux program at the click of a button. Such cross-platform capabilities gives programmers the opportunity to sell programs for three markets, greatly enhancing their potential income.
For anyone who has always dreamed about writing their own programs but found programming too difficult, REALbasic may be for you. With its ability to make programming accessible; create cross-platform programs for Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux; and advanced programming features such as object-oriented programming, REALbasic makes programming available to anyone. The Personal Edition of REALbasic costs $100 and can only create programs for a single operating system, such as Mac OS X. The Professional Edition of REALbasic costs $500 and allows you to create programs for Mac OS X, Windows, or Linux. The price of either edition includes 90 days of free updates that fix minor problems and add new features.
With REALbasic, programming the Macintosh is no longer complicated and confusing. REALbasic makes programming easy and fun, and with the ability to write Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux programs on your Macintosh, you can create programs that practically everyone can use.