By employing in-house programmers, companies benefit from applications tailored to the specific needs of the end-user. But because programmers are expensive and programming is complicated and time-consuming, application development costs quickly add up. The smart application development managers are the ones on the lookout for tools that make programming easier.
For Windows shops, one programming aid worth zooming in on is SoftWIRE 2.0 from SoftWIRE Technology LLC. SoftWIRE is a graphical programming add-in for Microsoft Visual Basic 6.0 that even inexperienced programmers can use to build useful Windows applications without writing a single line of code.
Like any graphical programming tool, SoftWIRE isn’t suitable for creating large or complex applications. Nevertheless, programmers can create surprisingly powerful programs that fetch data from databases, files, and hardware measurement devices, transmit information via LAN or Internet, perform financial or statistical analyses, and display data in a variety of ways. This combination of simplicity and power earns SoftWIRE a score of Very Good.
SoftWIRE is a standard Visual Basic add-in, and a SoftWIRE project looks like any other Visual Basic project. The difference is that it contains an additional window called the Diagrammer, which sits alongside Visual Basic’s Forms window, and a tabbed toolbar of SoftWIRE-enabled ActiveX controls.
To build a SoftWIRE application, programmers simply drop the appropriate controls into the Diagrammer window and “wire” them together according to the sequence of inputs and outputs and the flow of data they want. Thanks to 135 controls that range from the usual math and logic operators to TCP/IP network transmitters and tuners, SoftWIRE allows programmers to build a wide range of applications without manual coding. But if SoftWIRE’s controls should fall short, programmers can extend the functionality of a SoftWIRE program by creating custom controls or modifying existing code. Double-clicking any SoftWIRE control opens the Visual Basic code window, allowing coders to work the old fashioned way.
SoftWIRE won’t ease your company’s enterprise development efforts; it’s not that kind of tool. But by making experienced programmers more efficient and novice programmers more effective, SoftWIRE lowers the costs and skill barriers to creating all kinds of simple, specialized applications that make end-users more productive.
Dineley ([email protected]) is InfoWorld’s senior section editor and covers application development for the InfoWorld Test Center.
Supplier: SoftWIRE Technology LLC
Platform: Microsoft Visual Basic 6.0, Professional or Enterprise
Cost: One-year licence, US$199; full, unlimited licence, US$495. Corporate site licences available.
Pros: Simple enough for inexperienced programmers to create useful apps in minutes; experienced programmers can create custom controls and integrate Visual Basic code; excellent documentation and sample code
Cons: Expensive; not suitable for creating large, complex programs