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RealBasic Doesn't Mean Bad

From The Flickering Candle, Issue #11, May 2002
Copyright 2002 Jason Anderson

RealBasic. Some of you will have heard of it. Some of you will have a bad impression of it. For those of you who have no idea what it is, please allow me a few moments of your time to tell you about it.

As you probably know, creating a computer program requires someone to use some sort of programming language. There are thousands of programming languages: some which are popular and used for a variety of purposes (C, C++); some which are rarely used for new software, but which were used a lot in the past (COBOL); and some which are quite rare, but have a small loyal following (Modula-2, IDL). On the Macintosh, C and C++ are by far the most common languages used, although Mac OS X has seen new language (Objective-C) start to become more common.

So what is RealBasic? RealBasic is a version of the programming language Basic, which used to be included with every personal computer you could buy in the 80s. The Commodore 64, BBC Micro, TRS-80 and many other computers all came with a version of Basic. RealBasic is a version of this language specifically for Macintosh. It is more than just a language - it provides a complete environment (editor, debugger, etc) within which a user can create a program. Since it is based on Basic, RealBasic is extremely easy to learn. And many people have used it to create one or more programs.

Now more people developing more software is a good thing, don't get me wrong. But unfortunately, some people who develop their software don't take the time to properly test it before they release it to the world. Or they develop something which doesn't follow the standard user interface we are all used to when we use our Macintosh computers. This can happen no matter what language the programmer uses. But since it is more difficult to complete a program in C or C++, most beginners tend to give up before they have something ready to release.

On the other hand, since RealBasic is relatively simple to use, many beginning programers are able to get their programs to a stage where they can release them to the world. The catch is that some of those programs really need more work before they are ready to be released. As a result, many people now have a bad impression of _all_ programs created with RealBasic.

If you think about it for a minute, you will realise that the fault doesn't lie with the language. , Most RealBasic programs are really great programs, no different from one created with another language, like C++. A good example of this is Ambrosia's Coldstone (a program which allows you to create your own computer RPG - Ambrosia used it to create Pillars of Garendall). Coldstone has received a lot of praise for being a powerful program which is simple to use, and lets you create complex computer role playing games. Yet it was developed in RealBasic.

The point I am trying to make is that RealBasic makes no difference on whether a program is good or bad - the real reason for that is the programmer.

Why do I mention RealBasic? For two reasons. The first is that it really annoys me to see people say "don't use program X - it was written in RealBasic so it must suck", without actually trying the program for themselves. The other reason is that I have been considering using RealBasic in the future (although at the moment I am still undecided about the whole thing). The other options are Apple's new Cocoa (although that is Mac OS X only), or sticking with C++ (which I have been using for the last 7 years or so - boy do I feel old all of a sudden).

One advantage RealBasic has is that it allows someone to develop their programs for Windows as well as Macintosh. Of course, the software world for Windows is vastly different to the Macintosh one - there are so many more programs to compete with for one thing. So at the moment I am undecided which way I will go.

I guess the real thing I am trying to say is, even if a program was written using RealBasic, if it sounds interesting to you then give it a go. You might be pleasantly surprised.


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