Thursday, May 10, 2012

Gambas

Click to visit the Gambas
documentation site.
This evening I've been playing around with Gambas, a BASIC IDE for Linux. I really expected this to either be a crappy clone of VB, or to simply suck like every other BASIC attempt I've seen in *nix. I'm happy to report that Gambas not only doesn't suck, but is pretty damned impressive for what it is... and that is a tool to build quick-n-dirty apps fast, fast, fast. 


Although it occupies the same sort of conceptual space as VB6, it's not a clone. The designers seem to have simply taken BASIC and implemented it as best they can, without being the slightest bit shy about their improvements, and without feeling the need for backward compatibility. GOOD CHOICE. This allowed them to borrow conceptually from Delphi, and Java, and anything else that makes sense.


For instance, a Gambas "project" is a directory on the filesystem, plain and simple. Each class, form, or module is a separate text file in that directory. If it's not a class, form, or module, it's "data", which can be literally anything. A Gambas program is interpreted, not compiled, but that shouldn't concern you, because that's true of any of the wildly popular scripting languages, as well as Java and DotNet programs. And Gambas is a sight easier to code in than most of those.


Programming in Gambas "feels" like programming in Delphi, or Visual FoxPro, with VB-like syntax. I'm not familiar enough with it yet to give a final verdict, but thus far I've seen little to dislike and a lot to like. Just one example: It's not necessary to see if a string is empty by using Len(). Instead, an empty string evaluates to FALSE, and a string with a value evaluates to TRUE. So you can simply say "If myString then...". Smart.


It's very PC to hate BASIC, but don't let blind prejudice get the better of you. There's  a place in the world for environments like this where you want something useful done fast.

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