New IDEas

by Mark Trescowthick - GUI Computing

VB 4 sports some fundamental changes not just in what itís capable of but in how the development environment works - and in how it can be added to.

Clearly the most important is the innocuous menu item "Add Ins..." which heralds a whole new world of developer utilities for VB programmers. Of course, VBAssist and a few others have been adding to the environment almost since VB was released, but it was always a kludgy solution, as those who have tried to run two or more of these VB add-ins together will testify.

VB 4 takes the approach of declaring itself an OLE Server, so it becomes possible to add to the environment with ease, and weíll see a raft of add-in tools ship very soon after VB 4. But they have significantly more competition with the revamped VB 4 IDE, which sports a number of new features.

Most notable is the significantly enhanced Options dialog, which now includes rather slicker colour (and font) selection for various code components, the ability to use "Full Module" view in a Code Window rather than the segmented view thatís all thatís available in VB3 and, in the "Advanced" Tab, some options that hint of things to come. Compile options abound... including background compilation, command line arguments and conditional compilation options as well a few OLE-related features.

Naturally, the right-mouse context menus so popular in Windows 95 make an appearance as does the ability to drag and drop files into the project Window and controls into the Toolbox. While weíre on drag and drop, itís also possible to put an OLE Container on a form, then drag and drop an object into it at design time - a neat trick.

Other necessary new features include the standard OCX properties boxes and the inclusion of an Object Browser. This is a bit primitive, but certainly useful. It can view properties and methods an jump to the appropriate Help file, but just its ability to select multiple objects/controls for inclusion alone makes it worth the price of admission.

Perceived performance also gets a boost with background loading of Projects as an option. Now add background compilation and really make that PC work!

All in all, a nicer look, some new bits, but the important thing is the opening of the environment to add-ins that, hopefully, will make my development life easy.

Written by: Mark Trescowthick
Aug 95