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Visual FoxPro

This is a plug for this great, overlooked language from Microsoft. Visual FoxPro has a little bit of a VB feel (case-insensitive, weakly typed) but with built-in data handling (offering both record- and set-based operations) and a much stronger OO implementation -- it has featured true inheritance for ten years now.

While MS markets it now primarily for business objects that manipulate data, it also makes a great front-end tool, and in fact has a decent DBF-based storage system, so you can use it for every tier. Designed right, an all-VFP solution can easily be converted to use a true SQL back-end without a ton of effort.

I could say a lot more -- about a friendly and helpful community, impressive speed (particularly in string manipulation), an upcoming version that incorporates good ideas from .NET, the great commercial frameworks that are available, and a wealth of functions that are "in the box" -- but I think I'm gushing now  :)

Disclaimer: I am a developer using this tool. I do not work for MS, nor for any of the framework vendors.

Link: http://msdn.microsoft.com/vfoxpro/

Zahid
Saturday, July 26, 2003

Saturday, July 26, 2003

I posted a question here some time age as to how perplexed as to why Fox is not more popular. (by the way...I just noticed that there is no date in any of these posts. I just added the above date to my word macro that puts in my sig).

The Fox developer team was incredible in 1990, and the tradition of this excellence continues to this day.

That talented team continues to develop a first rate product with a single vision:

  To make the best database product.

I am not surprised that the product is so good when a team has such single goal and vision.

Anway..that past thread:

http://discuss.fogcreek.com/joelonsoftware/default.asp?cmd=show&ixPost=29933

Albert D. Kallal
Edmonton, Alberta Canada
kallal@msn.com
http://www.attcanada.net/~kallal.msn

Albert D. Kallal
Saturday, July 26, 2003

Ah..there is a date at the end of each post....

Albert D. Kallal
Saturday, July 26, 2003

Well, out of curiousity I tried to create a little database application using the FoxPro version that ships with the current MSDN Pro subscription, and I wasn't impressed.  Very clunky IDE compared to VS.NET, and the language felt like dBase III with some random extensions.

Note that I didn't try to create a real application here, and I'm not a professional database developer to begin with -- FoxPro may well have subtle advantages that I'm missing out of ignorance. But my superficial impression was one of an outdated language with an outdated IDE.

Chris Nahr
Saturday, July 26, 2003

Albert, I went back and read through that thread. There seems to be a perception there (not universally held) that VFP is no longer around, but in fact it is. As Simon mentioned there, version 8.0 was released about four months ago, and a local user group will be presented with a version 9.0 preview in about six months.

By the way, the reason VFP is no longer included in Visual Studio is related to the transition to .NET and the requirements for a language to fit in there. Apparently, in order to be CLR-compliant, VFP would have had to lose some of its most useful features (integrated data manipulation and compilation-on-the-fly). That was the stated reason of the MS VFP team for leaving the product out.

In addition, and this is just my speculation, it may be that they were tired of having to share marketing budget with Visual Studio, and felt that they would have a dedicated marketing budget if the product were sold separately. In hindsight, either they weren't thinking that, or they were mistaken, because I still haven't seen much in the way of marketing.

Zahid
Saturday, July 26, 2003

"because I still haven't seen much in the way of marketing. "

Except for in magazines like FoxPro Advisor, fat lot of good that does, advertising it to people who by definition already have it (The magazine is about nothing but FoxPro).

And for 90% of people who use VFP and are required by sales to make it use a SQL Server DB instead of the file based DBC files, and then to attempt to produce a web application with it (using something like WestWind) - the simple answer is that you should be using ASP.Net (which is what we will be doing from now on).

My prediction is that Version 9 will be the last (if it is even released) - and if 9 is released then 10 will only come about if they make VFP.Net (much the same way as they made VB.Net.

Chris
Saturday, July 26, 2003

Chris, I agree with you about the marketing. It's a strategy akin to treading water ... it keeps you alive for a while, but doesn't get you anywhere.

Your comment about version 9 may turn out to be accurate. Then again, it wasn't accurate when people were saying the same thing about version 5, seven or eight years ago, and versions 6 through 8 since then.

Zahid
Saturday, July 26, 2003

Yes but if you look at attendances at events such as Advisor DevCons, 7-8 years ago there was >2000 people, this year I believe there was <400 people (I am probably wrong, it is just what I heard http://fox.wikis.com/wc.dll?Wiki~VFPConferenceAttendance~VFP ). I just think the circumstances are different than they were when Version 5 and 6 came out.

Chris
Sunday, July 27, 2003

True, but look at all the other devcons- attendance is almost static. I'll venture that the Advisor DevCons are generally attended by magazine managers and "fair weather developers" (people who go where the winds blow them) - it's the lesser devcons that indicate the true user community...

In addition, the 3,000 at the 1995 Advisor DevCon was on the leading edge of the dotcom boom, when everyone was into anything IT, and conference budgets were probably picking up steam. (I also wonder *where* it was).

IMHO, looks like VFP simply has a stable core of devs. I wonder what the attendance records of C++ UG/devcons looks like. ;-)

Philo

Philo
Sunday, July 27, 2003

Right, Philo. In fact, Chris, while you were looking at http://fox.wikis.com/wc.dll?Wiki~VFPConferenceAttendance~VFP, you should also have clicked the link to http://fox.wikis.com/wc.dll?Wiki~VFPConferenceCrashMyth

That page demonstrates that DevCon, the VFP conference with the worst attendance drop, has lost about the same number of attendees proportionally as DevCon. And attendance at the conference I went to last year, the Great Lakes Great Database Workshop, has remained stable for the three years it's existed.

Zahid
Sunday, July 27, 2003

"DevCon ... has lost about the same number of attendees proportionally as DevCon". Who would have thought?  <g>

I meant to write, "... as Comdex".

Zahid
Sunday, July 27, 2003

The time of big fat conferences is over, with so much continual interaction and group involvement online.  Also corporations don't have the budget for parties for their tame nerds, tame sales and marketing hacks well that's a different story.

I haven't decided whether the VFP product group has shot itself in the foot by not working harder on getting a .NET interpreter out, personally I'm still using 7.x because it does what I need it to do.  I can't imagine a current need for anything like a 9 unless its a .NET language.

I don't have quite the same urge to jump into .NET because the kinds of apps I use VFP for I want a heavy client with a strong class structure and for me its just quicker to stay with VFP for that.

For distributed apps and lightweight clients I'm much more likely these days to use perl or python.

Its always been true that there was a hard core of developers that stuck with Fox, there's still a very large set of vertical market applications, probably self written and maintained by small group or single developer shops.  In Keith Levy its probably got the most knowledgeable Product Manager in terms of the product and what can and should be done within it, I'm impressed he's managed to stay inside MS and also impressed MS lets him do what he does.

Simon Lucy
Monday, July 28, 2003

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