REALBasic 5 for Mac arrives

REALBasic 5 for the Mac is now available from REAL Software, with enhanced support for Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar, including drawers, brushed-metal windows and toolbars.

The latest version of the development environment will be the first one for Windows (though the Windows version is a month or so away), but the main interest to Mac users will be its Jaguar-only features and cross-platform capabilities. Project files in REALbasic 5 will be cross-platform compatible. REAL Software will also have a new plug-in file format, so that plug-ins can be cross-platform, as well.

"One of the things we're most pleased about in REALbasic 5 is the enhanced support for the Jaguar UI [user interface] features," Matt Quagliana of REAL Software told MacCentral. "Previously, a lot of things that made Mac OS X unique from the UI perspective was unique to Cocoa. Metal windows, for instance. However, Apple has done a great job of stepping up to the plate to bring as close a parity as possible to Cocoa and Carbon. And as a Carbon application, we can now support features such as Mac OS X toolbars, drawers, compositing of windows and more."

He added that the result is the ability to use REALbasic 5 to create "great looking" applications with the polish and sheen of Apple's line of i-apps.

"You can't tell the difference between Cocoa and Carbon apps anymore," Quagliana said. "The things that made Cocoa unique are now available in REALbasic. For instance, we're using the Quartz engine for rendering, as well as doing a lot of little things such as support of the Apple Keychain."

REALbasic 5 also supports new Internet communications capabilities, including e-mail and HTTP classes, SSL and UDP communication. UDP is very important for real-time games and chats, said Geoff Perlman, president and CEO of Real Software.

"In REALbasic 5, we've added a server socket that makes it easy to write a server application," Perlman said. "The socket handles the management of all connections for you. We think this will enable the development of a whole new generation of Mac OS X server applications."

In version 5, the REALbasic language has been enhanced with new features such as operator overloading, a new compiler and a debugger that improves stability while debugging, according to Perlman. A problem in the past is that when a developer was building and debugging an application, it was running inside of REALBasic itself before the standalone app was built. But if something went wrong and the in-the-works software crashed, REALbasic might crash as well. And with the previous REALbasic compiler, it was difficult to support new processors. All that has changed.

"We're introducing a two-pass compiler in REALbasic 5," Perlman said. "When debugging, it builds a standalone version of your application that has extra code for talking to the IDE's debugger. Now if an application crashes, it doesn't crash the development environment. The compiler also makes it easier to support new processors and to maintain and compile the optimizer. We think all these features help make Mac OS X the perfect development environment for REALbasic."

REALbasic now has Unicode support, which simplifies writing software that supports more than one language. (In the past, for instance, "Japanese customers had to 'jump through some hoops to use RealBasic,' Quagliana said.) And to help VisualBasic users (of which there are about six million), Real Software will release a free utility for converting VB projects to REALbasic. The utility, now in beta testing, will convert the UI and code, even rewriting the code when possible. This should help bring some Windows applications to the Mac, Perlman said.

Finally, although REALBasic is very Mac OS X centric, it still has Mac OS 9 support. The system requirements haven't changed.

"This is important for us because there are several schools that teach REALbasic that may not have moved to Mac OS X yet," Quagliana said.

Pricing starts at US$99.95, with upgrades starting at $29.95. Academic and volume discounts, as well as license-only and subscription pricing options, are available. REALbasic 5 is available in English, French, German, Portguese and Japanese. It's also now available, for the first time, as a boxed product on store shelves. In a few days, you'll be able to pick up version 5 at Apple retail stores, CompUSA, Fry's and many smaller Apple vendors.

"The more we can support developers, and potential developers, for the Mac, the more software will be developed for the platform," Quagliana said.

This story, "REALBasic 5 for Mac arrives" was originally published by PCWorld.

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