StealthwareSoftware

WinDev

Prologue: I’ve used Clarion since version 1.5 (1995 era) through the current version 10; I bought Windev 10 and gave up on it. I bought Windev 17 and gave up on it. In 2016 I bought Windev 21 and am liking what I see thus far, but some of my original complaints about Windev still exist.  Because this page of my web site draws the largest number of hits of any page on my web site I thought it prudent to update it for a Clarion 10 versus Windev 21 comparison, as a lot has changed since Windev 17. To avoid the appearance of rambling, I’ve broken my train of thought into bite- sized subcomponents where I compare each language’s strengths/weaknesses. The Languages: WinDev’s language is pretty straightforward and easy to learn. Clarion, for me, is nearly a second language to me due to the length of time I’ve used it to create software applications, so I would rate them even. PC Soft continually adds new functions that I find very useful and that I would have to resort to the Clarion 3rd party market to duplicate, but there are some shocking absences within Windev’s function list (e.g. it’s missing a CLIP() function) that drives me crazy. Both are powerful and easy to follow. [TIE] Third Party Market: To put it simply, WinDev STILL doesn’t have one. I’ve scoured the Internet and could only find a handful of components that claimed WinDev in their compatibility list. Clarion, during its “glory days”, had over 75 vendors that marketed add-ons and templates; when Clarion 7 was announced quite a few vendors (e.g. TinGroup) threw in the towel; a few other long time vendors sold off their products to other developers (e.g. CPCS; Gitano); others continued to sell their version 6.x Clarion products but thus far haven’t updated them to Clarion 7 / Clarion 8 (e.g. TinGroup), and in the Clarion 10 world the list of Clarion vendors continues to shrink. Only a handful of longtime Clarion vendors (e.g. Capesoft; Handy Tools) continue to push the envelope on their product line and continue to release new offerings. [WINNER – CLARION] Community Support (English Language): WinDev is created / owned by a French speaking company; over the course of its existence, its owner hasn’t paid much attention to the non-French world, so the bulk of its support lies in the French language community. There really is only one English-language resource [http://27130.foren.mysnip.de/list.php?27131] – posts can go unanswered there for a while (or not get answered at all), and it relies on the kindness of other WinDev programmers (some of which are amazing, kindhearted people). There are a few WinDev books available on Amazon, but they are published in French (and not available as a PDF that could be easily translated); there is one official WinDev magazine “LST”, but PC Soft refuses to listen to a pretty vocal crowd of its customers that want it also published in English (and they also refuse to release their quarterly magazine in PDF format, which would enable its content to be translated to English). I’ve not found a WinDev English- language presence on USENET. Clarion, on the other hand, is created / owned by an American company – there are numerous books published on Clarion; it enjoys a very robust USENET presence with members that quickly respond to posts / pleas for help, and has enjoyed several Internet forums through the past decade that have sadly folded. Most third party vendors are present on the USENET forums and not only respond to posts regarding their products but also provide help on other topics. I’ve used Claron and Windev forums to ask for assistance - my requests are usually  well read but the Clarion group seems far friendlier, as I will sometimes receive 10 or more responses from Clarion programmers versus one reply from a Windev programmer.  [WINNER - CLARION] IDE Stability: Clarion’s IDE didn’t change too much from version 1.0 through 6.x – all of those years using that IDE made me very comfortable with where to find things (which greatly enhanced my productivity). The Clarion 7 IDE is dramatically different (and Clarion 8’s IDE is the same, by and large, as Clarion 7). Because Clarion 1.0 through 6.x had a 16 bit IDE, it had to be overhauled to make it 32 bit compatible to keep up with Windows releases. I’m not a fan of the Clarion 8 through Clarion 10 IDE - it still feels clunky and unintuitive. To its credit, the Clarion 10 IDE has only locked up a handful of times on me; the Clarion 8 IDE locked up often enough to nearly make me throw in the towel. The Windev 21 IDE has never locked up on me, but it still has some odd quirks that drive me crazy: the help system is hosted on the PC Soft web server instead of being a local .Chm file. This is convienient for PC Soft (as they only have to update their online help versus recompile/redistribute .Chm files) when they add language functionality, but it adds latency in obtaining help with a function that you need RIGHT NOW. [WINNER - WINDEV] IDE Use: The Clarion 10 IDE, in my opinion, is clunky, with too much real estate being chewed up for side panels that display properties to manipulate an object’s values. The Clarion 7 IDE allowed you to select a control and manipulate its properties via a movable popup, which allowed you to see what’s underneath – Clarion 10 forces you to use the horizontal scrollbar to navigate your workspace to manipulate control properties, which gets tedious – something always seems to be in the way of the space you’re working within. The WinDev 17 IDE (which I have the most time using of the various WinDev versions I’ve purchased) I thought was easy to navigate (once you hide the dashboard); the version 21 IDE is revamped but can be made to mimic version 17’s IDE. The Windev “7-tabs” process of manipulating control values is very easy to understand and has a lot of hidden power. One thing I really dislike in the WinDev screen designer screens is the difficulty in selecting a specific control – one could click 4,5,6 times to finally “grab” that control so it could be moved / manipulated. There were some features missing in the WinDev screen designer – for example, there is no group control (which, in Clarion, places a visible box around a collection of onscreen data entry fields / text / other objects) which enables the end user to use the tab key to move into the desired group of controls during data entry operations – the WinDev workaround is to place a box control around the onscreen fields and resize it to surround the desired controls – that provided the visual equivalent to a Clarion group, but then within the WinDev IDE if you needed to manipulate a control inside of that box (aka: the fake group control) you were forced to move the box elsewhere to get to the desired control, manipulate the desired control, and then move the “fake group box” back to where it was originally located. The Windev code editor is amazing - syntax is color coded and as you add code it will display a popup wizard to help you plug in variable/field names and help you fill in function parameters with a useful wizard. [WINNER – WINDEV] Deployed Application Size: A typical compiled Clarion application clocks in around 5MB in size (depending if you compile in LIB versus DLL mode); I’ve never deployed a Clarion application that was larger than 9MB (and that application used a lot of third-party tools that required their own .DLL files). The smallest WinDev application that I’ve seen clocked in around 23MB – this is due to the large number of DLL files that must accompany the .EXE file. If your application requires a professional grade reporting tool things even out a bit - PC Soft includes a very robust/high quality reporting tool that is FREE and clocks in around 120MB in size; for Clarion you have to resort to something like Combit’s List & Label reporting tool that has a larger deployment size. [WINNER - CLARION] Compiled Application Stability: All the years I’ve used Clarion, I’ve never had an issue with a compiled Clarion application acting weird / funky on a client’s computer (e.g. screen controls overlapped, or the mouse would move by itself). My first big WinDev 17 application that I deployed to a customer that was running an older box with an onboard Nvidia video chip + Windows XP turned out to be a colossal fail – onscreen controls disappeared / would overlap, and regardless of the screen resolution settings nothing would allow the application to display correctly! The only way I could enable all of the screen controls to be visible onscreen (after a few seconds of horrific onscreen “flash”) was to right click the .EXE file and change the settings to display the program using the lowest video settings (16 color, 8 bit mode), which looked atrocious but allowed the customer to see everything on the screen. I tried changing the theme used by the application (and then recompiled it with WinDev), with identical results each time on the client’s machine. This WinDev 17 application’s gross failure to display properly is the primary reason why I returned to Clarion 10 – after spending months coding the WinDev application only to have it fail on the client’s workstation is one thing, but to be faced with the reality that if I chose to sell this WinDev application I would possibly be reimbursing a LOT of customers whose video cards would have the same problem is too big of a problem to ignore. Unfortunately that particular computer configuration isn’t available for me to try this same application recompiled with Windev 21 to see if that problem is fixed.  [WINNER - CLARION] Compiled Application Resource Requirements: I have an application that I wrote originally in Clarion 6.x and updated with Clarion 10; I rewrote the app in Windev 17 and updated it with Windev 21.  RAM requirements were:  Clarion 6 (10MB) / Clarion 10 (10MB); Windev 17 (10.4MB) / Windev 21 (16MB). Disc space is a different story; I’ve written my VidTrak database program in Clarion 10 and Windev 21 - the Clarion *.TPS database file with 5100 database records required 2.6MB of space. The Windev *.FIC file with an identical number of database records requried 13.8MB of space plus another 550kb of space for it’s *.NDX file.  [WINNER - CLARION] Capabilities – QBE: Topspeed includes a rudimentary, but functional, QBE control within the Clarion language to enable endusers to quickly build (and save) queries to limit data displayed within a table or report. PC Soft includes a query module to build SQL select statements that I find baffling and overly complex - I would NEVER include their Query module within my application because my customers would stone me for unleashing it upon them. Clarion’s 3rd party has enjoyed an amazing QBE Wizard module that is SO easy to use and SO powerful that it has been the cornerstone of every Clarion application I’ve written in over a decade! A Windev developer/training company has developed a QBE control that can be used against table controls and reports that is still being fine tuned - it isn’t nearly as polished as the Clarion template or as powerful but it is a step in the right direction. Personally speaking, any application that doesn’t allow the enduser to quickly/easily filter out data from an online table display or a report is a HUGE failure - and the programmer can’t be expected to build every possibly filter condition and provide within a droplist of choices for the enduser to execute. [WINNER - CLARION] Capabilities – Table Control: A listbox/table control in Clarion includes a pretty useful ‘VCR’ control that can be displayed in the bottom left of the control to help the enduser quickly navigate up/down through the records being displayed. It can be configured to provide multi-column sorting and can be configured to display alternating colors for the rows (i.e. greenbar coloring). The Windev table control does all of that and WAY more - things that requires a healthy assortment of 3rd party templates for Clarion to achieve (e.g. export data to an Excel document; generate a report to a PDF file). The Windev table control is FAST - when I run VidTrak on my LAN the Clarion app can get ‘stuck’ if I try to scroll data too quickly - I’ve never experienced that with my Windev version of VidTrak. The Windev incremental search paradigm works (and works WELL) - the currently selected column’s header area changes to an entry box to execute the incremental search. Very intuitive/attractive/fast. The Windev table control’s vertical scrollbar displays where you’re at within the database via a popup tooltip - a fantastic feature that Clarion lacks. The Windev table control is automatically enabled to allow cell editing - double left clicking a cell will display the associated form. The Windev table control is amazingly configurable and feature rich; even if you combined several Clarion 3rd party templates it still can’t match the Windev version. [WINNER - WINDEV] Capabilities – Data Entry Forms: Even with the Clarion 10 IDE feeling ‘clunkier’ than the Clarion 6 IDE, it is still far easier to navigate and select a specific control (or group of controls) than the Windev 21 screen designer. Both have toolbar options for the basic needs (e.g. multi-control alignment; drag-n-drop fields onto the form) but use slightly different methods to achieve the same result. A Windev ‘oddity’ that drives me nuts involves their text control (used with a MEMO field) and the TAB key; on one form I have two memo fields placed on the second tab of the data entry form. At runtime when I CTRL-TAB to the second tab that contains the two text boxes the TAB key won’t move the focus from one text control to the other, nor will it allow me to use CTRL-TAB to revert back to the first tab. For years, PC Soft refused to enable Propercase conversion within a data entry field; Version 21 now possesses that capability but it’s a little clunky - for example, if you edit data onscreen and have that field marked as Propercase, when you edit the incorrect character the cursor is immediately placed at the end of the data entry field, which appear odd to end users. [WINNER - CLARION] Capabilities – Data Entry Form Lookup Tables: Both languages have the ability to use a combo box control as a lookup table on a data entry form. Out of the box, the WinDev method looks far better (since the combobox box is displayed onscreen as a droplist that has autofill capability – no onscreen entry field is required), whereas the Clarion method is to display the entry field + a lookup button to call a lookup table procedure. The serious disadvantage that WinDev has is you can’t add/edit/delete the lookup table’s stored entries while you’re in the data entry form – you can add some coding to detect when the user typed in something that wasn’t found in the lookup table and then save that new entry to the lookup table, but that method allows for garbage to be appended into an otherwise pristine lookup table. The Clarion method, with is uglier, allows you to add/edit/delete lookup table entries on-the-fly. With that said, I can’t say enough good things about the Prodomus PD Lookup template for Clarion, which I have used in every Clarion application I’ve written. When added to the data entry form, it performs the expected autofill feature; pressing the Alt-DownArrow keystrokes will display the external lookup table procedure so you can add/edit/delete lookup table data on-the-fly. Once you’ve used this template you will swear by it – and the lack of a WinDev equivalent nearly convinced me to quit using WinDev quite some time ago (and is giving me fits with Windev 21). [WINNER - CLARION] Capabilities – Help Authoring: Clarion does not include a help authoring tool with Clarion – compiled applications can display tooltip help or status messages, but there is no capability of generating help files with Clarion. WinDev includes a rudimentary help authoring tool that can perform the basics – with that said, I had real problems with the WinDev 17 help toolset forgetting the Help ID numbers – when I compiled the app it would change the Help ID number for that screen, which wreaked havoc with the help tool! The editor utility to author the text and embed screen captures also had some issues with formatting – I eventually gave up on that free tool and used another help authoring solution. In fairness I’ve not yet tried the Windev21 help authoring tool. [WINNER - WINDEV] Capabilities – Install Creators: Clarion does not include an installation package tool with Clarion – most Clarion developers purchase SetupBuilder (which is created with Clarion) for their install-creation needs (I personally prefer ‘Actual Installer’ for its simplicity and extensive capabilities without being too complex to use). WinDev includes a pretty snazzy installation builder that is tweaked to WinDev that is pleasing and straightforward. It might not handle extremely intricate installation needs, but it is very competent. The compression used in that tool doesn’t seem to compress files as much as other install suites though. [WINNER - WINDEV] Capabilities – Reporting: The Windev report designer is, IMO, better than the Clarion version.  Barcodes, pivot tables, crosstab reports are also a breeze in Windev - you’ll pay out the nose for Clarion 3rd party tools to add these important features to your reports. Clarion doesn’t provide an enduser reporting tool ‘out of the box’; the 3rd party has several reporting tools that you can purchase and add to your application - Windev has a free reporting tool that you can enable users to download from the PC Soft web site that will fulfill every possibly reporting need that would easily cost $1500 or more to duplicate for Clarion. The tradeoff for the Windev solution is the reporting tool is a separate executable, so you can’t quite match the design/theme to your Windev application - it also isn’t the most intuitive tool for retrieving saved reports (unlike the Fomin Report Builder for Clarion, which saves report definitions within a Clarion *.TPS file - reports are displayed within a Clarion listbox within your Clarion application and it looks seamless). The Windev reporting tool adds 125MB or more to the deployed application’s size, but, in all fairness, if you purchased List & Label or some other professional-grade reporting tool and added it to your Clarion app the deployment size would be as big (or bigger); you’d still have the design/theme difference between your compiled application and the reporting tool and other anomalies - AND your wallet would be lighter to the tune of $1500 or more.  [WINNER - WINDEV] Capabilities – Print Preview: The Clarion print preview screen hasn’t changed much from version 1.0 through version 10.0; it provides the bare minimum options (e.g. zooming) with a plain-jane interface. The Windev print preview screen is head-and-shoulders above the standard Clarion print preview window AND all of the Clarion 3rd party templates - it is quite amazing, with export to PDF built in (something you’ll pay a LOT of money for to add to a Clarion application); end users can write notes onto the report (nothing like that exists in Clarion at all) and more. The Clarion third party market has some print preview replacement options (e.g. RPM; Icetips Print Previewer) to level the playing field. I settled on the Icetips Print Previewer with the wPdfControl wrapper embedded for my print preview needs (along with some icon / color tweaks) as a very close replacement for the excellent WinDev previewer, but it took a considerable amount of work and cash just to enhance the Clarion print preview window to look better and add PDF export functionality - and I can’t duplicate the other Windev print preview features. [WINNER - WINDEV] Capabilities – Function Sets: Initially I had evaluated Clarion as winning this comparison; however, PC Soft continually adds new functions with every new release and Topspeed has not kept pace.  There are Clarion functions missing in Windev that causes me some frustration; however, Windev also possesses so many functions that are value added (that would require you to spend money on a Clarion 3rd party tool to duplicate) that I’ve changed my mind on this one. [WINNER - WINDEV] Capabilities – Image Controls: Both Clarion and WinDev can accommodate the storing of image files within a BLOB data field and both can resize / scale an image for displaying onscreen. Where WinDev fell short for me was how it copies a displayed image file to the Windows clipboard – in Clarion, if I copy the image to the clipboard it will use the native size of the stored image file (which is what I needed); WinDev, on the other hand, copies the image file to the Windows clipboard using the size of the image AS IT IS DISPLAYED ONSCREEN, which caused me a lot of grief. [WINNER - CLARION] Capabilities – Theme Support: Clarion has no themes ‘out of the box’ - you must seek out the 3rd party world for them and there are only two vendors that still sell products to beautify your Clarion application (and to be honest, I was underwhelmed with their theme packages when I ran their demos). Windev includes a couple dozen themes that you can quickly apply to your application - some themes will move your onscreen controls so there is so clean-up involved, and some of the themes are not that attractive (to each their own). The biggest problem with WinDev skinning is compatibility – one Windev 17 application I deployed simply would not display 75% of the onscreen controls on older Dell machines using an onboard Nvidia video chip and Windows XP; I then tried different skins to see if one would work, and after a few experiments I gave up (and had to rewrite the application in Clarion 8). The WinDev forum participants had me try a few old “tried and true” skins, and they all had the same display problem. That is a MASSIVE failure for WinDev – after investing dozens (or hundreds) of hours of coding you learn after making a sale that your application doesn’t display properly on the customer’s machines is an embarrassment AND just vaporized your reputation and bank account. I’d rather have a standard looking application in Clarion that is bulletproof on any Windows box than a pretty WinDev app that only looks correct on my development machine (and won’t display onscreen controls on a client’s box)! I am torn on this one to assign a winner/loser - I can’t try the Windev 21 recompiled application on that old Dell computer to see if the problem still exists, but Clarion has no themes included whatsoever. [WINNER - DRAW] Bug Fixes: No software application / programming language can lay claim to zero bugs. The WinDev online community is fairly vocal about the number of bugs within WinDev that have existed for several years – PC Soft apparently pays far more attention to adding 900+ new features to the next WinDev version than it does fixing reported problems. The PC Soft bug reporting system appears to have much to be desired; in 2013 there was a movement on one WinDev forum to create a non-PC Soft controlled bug reporting system to address longstanding issues that were frustrating longtime WinDev programmers. PC Soft is pretty secretive on sharing WinDev bugs to its community – there is no repository where a programmer can view reported bugs or see if a bug workaround exists / is being addressed. WinDev programmers don’t receive many downloadable bug fixes either – you MIGHT see one or two updates for the version you paid for, and then it’s time to pay for the next upgraded version (with the older reported bugs left intact). SoftVelocity has always been forthcoming on bug squashing and what customers reported, and I’ve often seen 10+ downloadable incremental builds after paying for the current Clarion version that resolved issues – the list of bug fixes (and sometimes new features) usually occupies a few printed pages, which tells me that the vendor is serious about squashing bugs. Clarion 10 applications have been pretty solid for me; sporadically I will read about bug fix regression and longterm bugs that are ignored by Topspeed that impacts the community. The WinDev online community is also fairly vocal about lack of technical support, and whatever tech support they do receive from the “techies” falls well short of the mark. The Clarion community seems to be better in that regard, with SoftVelocity staff members (from the President down) monitoring the Clarion USENET groups periodically and chiming in. [WINNER - CLARION] Code Editing / Embed Access: Inside the Clarion IDE, one has access to almost TOO many embed points – it is sometimes the equivalent to locating a needle in the haystack to find the correct embed to insert some code! You can also use the OMIT statement to bypass an embed (useful in instances where you need to override some default generated code with home-brewed code). In WinDev there were several times I needed to dig deeper and simply couldn’t – PC Soft provided the bare minimum of embeds to insert code, and if you need to dig deeper you’re out of luck. An example of this would be the simple combo box – I thought that I could tweak a combo box for a data entry form to emulate the Prodomus PD Lookup tool for Clarion – I wanted to intercept the right mouse click to call a procedure to add/edit/delete the lookup table contents from within the data entry screen – the problem was that there wasn’t an embed that I could hook into within WinDev to allow that to happen, and I had to abandon that workaround idea. I really like the WinDev code editor / code editing environment, as it would not only autofill information for you (which Clarion 8 now has a rudimentary capability of doing that), but also hand-hold you as you filled in function parameter code… very slick! With that said, the ability for Clarion to dig as deep as you need outweighs the glitz of WinDev, so it ekes out a win here. [WINNER - CLARION] Demo Mode Creation: Both languages don’t provide an “in the box” method of creating demo applications (that you would typically upload to your web site, allow potential customers to kick the tires for a few weeks, and if they like it you provide them with an unlock code to re-enable 100% functionality). Yes, in both languages you can pretty quickly embed code to cause a time out after a few days or limit access to various portions of the application – if you want something far more detailed and/or ensure that it will defeat most hacking attempts to re-enable 100% functionality, and include a software database tool to keep track of registered customers / generate software unlock codes, then you have a challenge ahead of you. One WinDev training company has a rudimentary software protection module that could be pulled out / tweaked, but it would take considerable effort to do so because it is (a) written in French and (b) the developer wants a good-sized chunk of your profits for each application that you sell with his software protection system embedded. The Clarion third party community has several excellent, and time tested, templates that provides a full suite of capabilities for a few hundred dollars (certainly much cheaper than you trying to do it yourself) [WINNER - CLARION] Help / Tutorial Resources: PC Soft included an excellent tutorial book + nearly 100 sample applications that show off WinDev’s features “in the box”; SoftVelocity includes a handful of meager examples (some dating back to Clarion’s infancy) and its tutorial is very weak – not to mention that you pay extra for printed manuals from SoftVelocity for Clarion. Both languages have some books available on Amazon.com – the problem being that WinDev doesn’t have a single English-language book available! The WinDev community does now have a volunteer-ran web site that makes available webcasts that experienced WinDev programmers will demonstrate tips & tricks that is very good (providing they are showing something that you want to know or learn). Starting with Windev 21 the IDE’s help files point to the PC Soft server - even with broadband the lag between pressing the F1 key and displaying the online help file in your web browser can be maddeningly slow.   [TIE] Speed: Saving a single database record to it’s associated file, even across a slow network, is fast with either language. I don’t do any work with SQL tables, but from what I’ve read Windev reportedly enjoys a speed advantage.  I’ve ported my VidTrak application from Clarion 10 to Windev 21; the ‘meat & potatoes’ of that program is recursively scanning a directory tree for files and then creating a database record for each file that meets a wildcard specification.  On my home network (DSL) via a RJ-45 connected laptop, the Clarion version scanned a 5000 file directory tree and rebuilt the database from scratch in about 45 seconds or so. The Windev version, scanning the same folder and populating an identically structure database file, accomplished the feat in less than 10 seconds! [WINNER - WINDEV] Way Ahead:  There were some strong reasons why I decided to try Windev again - I was working on an app that required charts within reports - something that is impossible to do with standard Clarion. To achieve that means would require me to purchase an expensive 3rd party reporting tool that would likely be difficult for the user to understand.  The Clarion Usenet forums are all about Clarion “H5” - from what I can gather, H5 is being slanted towards creating Internet-enabled applications, which I have no need for.  Several Clarion 3rd party vendors have frozen their product line - no new features are being added.  Other Clarion 3rd party vendors are expanding their toolkit for the Internet market (which I have no interest in).. so, to me, it feels like Clarion is not only shrinking but is moving away from the desktop and onto the Internet. That doesn’t give me a warm fuzzy. PC Soft has embedded alternate platform support into Windev for many years - if I wanted to write an Android app I could do so without buying anything extra. IMO, it currently feels that PC Soft will provide me with better tools down the road than what Topspeed will do…. so I’m rolling up my sleeves and trying to rewrite some longtime Clarion apps with Windev and see how it plays out! Scores:  The tally wound up with Clarion leading with 12 wins to Windev’s 9 wins; there were 2 tie scores and 1 draw.