Wednesday, March 21, 2007

FoxPro is dead. Long live FoxPro!

eWeek is reporting that the current version of FoxPro, 9, will be the last. Normally this would be terrible news except for this: Microsoft has decided to move FoxPro to CodePlex. Well, "core portions" of it, anyway. And this is great news, assuming that it's the language itself that will be released.

Now, you may have read elsewhere that FoxPro is being Open Sourced. That's not entirely true. Oh, c'mon, let's face it, that's not true at all. This won't be an OSI-approved license; rather, it will be under some Microsoft Shared Source license. Nevertheless, this is more open than before, and may bode a better product than under Microsoft.

I've long maintained that FoxPro is the best product Microsoft ever bought. I've used it since it was FoxBase (and came on a single 1.2MB floppy, with room to spare!). It is the premier XBase language, and I'm sorry, but server software such as mySQL doesn't fit the same niche. I've been hoping for an open alternative to FoxPro for 10 years. Ever since Microsoft bought it in the mid-1990s they've been threatening to kill it, and have been thwarted by the aggressive and loyal user and developer community. In my humble opinion, if there were a competent brain in all of Redmond they'd kill Microsoft Access instead. But they haven't, and you can draw your own conclusions from that. As it is, I'm gratified that they recognized that VFP's value as a tool would have been decimated had they attempted to draw it into the .NET fold with the rest of their languages. As a result it's the only Visual Studio offering that's not .NET based.

Speaking of VFP and CodePlex, Microsoft has for some time hosted a group of projects, formerly called SednaX and now known as VFPX, to provide Open Source components for Visual FoxPro 9. You'll find it here.

Retiring to CodePlex, there's a good chance that VFP will survive its own death. My immediate concern on that front is the phrase "core portions". Does that or does that not include the IDE and GUI builders, or simply the compiler? It's tough to say with Microsoft. VFP's GUI is no good to anybody else, so it's hard to see why they'd exclude it. On the other hand, we're talking about Microsoft. They may offer crumbs. Let's wait and see.

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