OpenInsight 10 – Hope or Hype?
Our apologies, the title of this article is a shameless attempt to get your attention. The truth is, nothing has excited the staff of SRP more regarding the future of OpenInsight than the planned release of v10. If you are a developer or consultant for Revelation Software products and have not been keeping tabs on its progress, we highly recommend you beat a path toward the Building OpenInsight 10 blog, bookmark it, subscribe to it, or use whatever your preferred method is for staying informed. Not since the dawn of OpenInsight 4, the first 32-bit release, has there been such a milestone in the history of this venerable product.
In case this never gets stated elsewhere, SRP would like to publicly congratulate Revelation Software for their commitment and vision toward OpenInsight 10. Adding true 64-bit support alone is significant enough, but the shear wealth of other features – both in the user interface and under-the-hood – is staggering. We would also like to thank Revelation Software for tapping into the talents of Carl Pates for this project. Carl’s credentials are impressive and his commitment to the Revelation Software products and community are well known.
For those who are familiar with the development progress of OpenInsight 10, especially in the area of enhanced user interface features, you might wonder why SRP would be so excited. After all, won’t this undermine the demand for our own suite of ActiveX controls, many of which will be supplanted by native features in OpenInsight 10?
To be brief, the answer is no. But perhaps a fuller explanation is required. First, it should be noted that SRP’s primary business has been, and will continue to be, software application development and consulting. Selling ActiveX controls, and other tools (e.g., SRP Editor), are mostly by-products of our consulting and custom software projects. There is no financial threat to our business if demand for our controls were to vanish tomorrow.
It is important to understand the reason SRP developed our own ActiveX controls in the first place. We have long advocated the need to create contemporary, visually appealing, and highly functional user interfaces. Regrettably, despite the wonderful underpinnings of the OpenInsight database and programming language, the Form Designer has long presented the developer with an anemic set of very basic controls. This forced companies like SRP to come up with very creative ways to simulate user experiences that were much easier, and more natural, in other development platforms. Ironically, while OpenInsight enjoyed true rapid application development in the area of the database, designing modern user interfaces often became a chore and eroded those gains.
OpenInsight 4 was a ground breaker in many ways. While it did not unveil additional native (or common) controls, it gave us the next best thing: support for ActiveX controls. In anticipation of this release, SRP began to invest in ActiveX development for its own projects and goals. We completed our first control, the SRP Button, circa 2002. With it came features like true transparency support, themes, hover effects, true icon management, and automatic button state handling (i.e., hot, disabled, etc.) From there we created other controls, some simple (e.g., SRP Hyperlink) and some rather complex (e.g., SRP EditTable).
The important issue to note is that we have always looked at ActiveX control development as a necessary means to an end. Our preferred solution has always been one that is native and properly integrated within OpenInsight itself. After all, we remain developers and we would prefer to work with a feature that is built into the product rather than one which is to be managed through an intermediate layer.
Therefore we are celebrating the release of new controls – and other user interface enhancements such as border styles, auto-complete, and custom colors – as this will be a benefit for all. It will also allow SRP to direct more attention toward truly custom ActiveX controls, which is the primary reason why ActiveX exists (at least as far as OpenInsight is concerned.) It should also be noted that support for ActiveX is reported to be continued, and improved upon, in OpenInsight 10. If all goes as planned, we will see the holy grail of ActiveX support in OpenInsight – the ability to databind controls! Thus, developers will no longer have to maintain an invisible databound control and constantly transfer data from the ActiveX control to the OpenInsight control, and vice-versa, in order to keep the user interface data in sync with the database.
So, there is much to be excited about with OpenInsight 10. But does this mean developers in older versions of OpenInsight will be left behind? Not as far as SRP is concerned. In fact, over the next few weeks we will begin publishing a blog series with OpenInsight 8 and OpenInsight 9 systems in mind. It will be titled The Future is Now. Each article will focus on a specific control or feature which has been documented in the OpenInsight 10 blog and will show you how you can achieve the same, or similar, feature using SRP controls. We hope you will enjoy the series.