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by Brett Sheppard - GUI Computing

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Tired of implementing the same code into most of your procedures? Looking for a way to analyse your program's code? If so, MicroHelp's AutoCoder 1.0 may be the add-in you've been looking for.

AutoCoder is a 16-bit add-in designed especially for Visual Basic 4.0, with several interesting features.

The AutoCoder manual claims it will automatically add standard code to programs without the drudgery of manually coding every thing from error handlers, to comment blocks, to profiling code. So this being the case, I spent most of my time evaluating these areas.

How does AutoCoder actually work? To begin with, AutoCoder has several templates which define what modifications are to be coded with each procedure. AutoCoder uses a rule-based evaluation to decide which templates will be used, depending on the contents of the code. Only one template can be used on each procedure, or you can simply create your own template using a script language. This allows you to insert or remove text, select text, add the time and date to your procedure, and more. Good stuff!

One template enables error handling. This template is quite impressive, as not only does it locate code which may produce run-time errors, but it also adds code which will trap that particular error, and handle them in a more "user friendly" manner. Add to this the ability of being able to display the line at which the error occurred, and you won't have to go through the annoyance of spending time debugging your program to find out where you went wrong.

AutoCoder also has the ability to preview what your code will look like after it has been modified. This gives you the luxury of being able to decide whether or not you wish to accept the altered format before saving it.

There is also the added feature of Project Wizard which allows you to process not only single procedures, but entire projects at once. I found this one of the most convenient attributes of AutoCoder, as it saves the altered code into a target directory so you are left with the modified and unmodified project. Screen Snap from AutoCoder
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AutoCoder also has some handy code formatting facilities. Simply by highlighting an area of code, a user can comment or indent sections of their program. This strikes me as an effective time saving device, especially for anyone who has spent valuable time trying to comment out large portions of code for various reasons. The indenting feature provides a neat way of being able to alter code after additions or deletions have been made.

AutoCoder's profiling abilities are also well worth mentioning. The Profiler is designed to:

  1. Locate the areas of code which are run the most
  2. Locate which areas of code are not run at all
  3. Calculate the time each piece of code takes to run

With the added bonus of being able to analyse results using graphs, in packages such as Excel, MSAccess, and Lotus 1-2-3, AutoCoder really does help optimise code. Unfortunately, I did find the steps involved slightly cumbersome to work with. Especially when trying to incorporate Excel into AutoCoder. But none-the-less, the end product was exactly what it was supposed to be.

Overall, I was quite impressed with AutoCoder. Everything which the add-in was designed to do was more than satisfactorily handled, and the included manual is clear and concise. To use a popular GUI Computing expression, it is quite "Choice".

Written by: Brett Sheppard
April 96

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