Shareware Beach

Tuesday, 15 February 2005

Behind The Scenes

Filed under: Just Great Software — Jan @ 20:02

Two of my blogging buddies, Nick Bradbury and Adam Stiles, posted a behind-the-scenes look of their development process. In me-too style typical of many bloggers, I couldn’t be left behind.

Like Nick and Adam, Delphi is my development platform of choice. I’ve been using Delphi since Delphi 1 was released in 1995. My first shareware product, HelpScribble, released in late 1996, was developed in Delphi 2. Today I’m using Delphi 7 for all commercial development (including HelpScribble). I’m still happy with the choice I made a decade ago. I’m quite amazed, since 10 years is a long time in the software industry. In that time span, Borland pulled off two name changes (to Inprise, and back to Borland), developed and all but abandoned a Linux version of Delphi, and now released Delphi 2005 which bundles Delphi for Win32, Delphi for .NET and C#.

I don’t know if I would go with Delphi if I were starting out today, with no legacy code. There’s a lot of factors to consider. Still, when I hear people rave how much they increased their productivity by switching to Visual Studio.NET, I can’t help but wonder why they didn’t use Delphi. VS.NET is quite a step forward from VB6 or Visual C++ in terms of developer productivity, but it seems pretty much on par with Delphi for desktop applications. Web applications are a different story. But since Delphi now supports .NET, the differences are minimal. I’m glad I’ll be able to leverage existing code. In fact, I’ve already been using Delphi 2005 to make some of my core source code that is shared between products compatible with .NET.

I’m a firm believer in eating my own dog food. I use EditPad Pro and AceText every day for editing all sorts of files and customer support. I’m writing this blog entry in AceText. Makes it easy to keep all my ramblings handy on my local PC.

HelpScribble is used to write all help files, and the setup programs are all built with DeployMaster. RegexBuddy’s help file is the exception. I wrote it entirely in EditPad Pro and compiled with a Perl script I rigged together. I wouldn’t recommend this method, though. But as the developer of a help authoring tool, I wanted to test some mechanisms at a lower level as research for HelpScribble’s future. Using HelpScribble is definitely easier.

I use very few third party components. While books about “best practices” in software development tend to chide the “not invented here syndrome”, there’s a very real trade-off between not re-inventing the wheel, and building your product on top of some other company’s sorry excuse for a wheel. If the functionality is part of your product’s selling point, better build it yourself and keep full control over design, features and quality. Maybe I’ll elaborate in a future blog entry. If you can’t wait, Joel Spolsky makes some good arguments.

For the most part, Delphi itself ships with all the components I need. Some components I use are VCLZip and the data conversion components from Scalabium. I’ve also purchased the ExpressBars components set from Developer Express. PowerGREP 3 will have dockable/floatable panels, and Delphi’s built-in docking support is pretty poor.

But I can’t get over how Nick Bradbury’s behind-the-scenes screen shot shows a single monitor with bright white backgrounds. The default Windows color scheme hurts my eyes. Getting a second monitor was the most productivity-enhancing thing I’ve done recently. Developing with the code on one monitor and the visual design or application being debugged on the other one is just so much more comfortable. Once you’ve gotten used to a dual monitor system, you never want to go back!

1 Comment

  1. Hi JG,

    I reached your blog through and I found both really interesting. I’m a freeware author and I will try shareware in the next few months and all your thoughts about shareware developing, about your life etc are a very valuable information for me.

    Thanks. Welcome to my bookmarks.

    Comment by Carlos AM — Thursday, 17 February 2005 @ 4:13

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