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Sybase refashions PowerBuilder; preps 4GL+

[MARCH 4, 2003/ADT'S PROGRAMMERS REPORT] - DB and tools maker Sybase has released PowerBuilder 9.0, the latest version of its rapid application development tool. Available on March 24, Sybase representatives say Version 9.0 will allow developers to build rich-client applications while expanding their ability to do Web and N-tier development.

The PowerBuilder tool was among the most popular in the early 1990s. It used elements of so-called 4GLs to encapsulate functions and allow developers to work at a higher level of abstraction, closer to human language than machine language. Java had a great effect on the development world beginning in the mid-1990s.

PowerBuilder lost both mindshare and market share to the new language. But PowerBuilder backers suggest the world may be ready for another look at 4GLs. In fact, a few Java IDE vendors have begun to support unique ways of tagging that reduce programming complexity and look suspiciously, to some, like 4GLs in gestation.

''A lot of people wanted to go the [route of] new and exciting technology, but many have come back,'' said Sue Dunnell, PowerBuilder product manager at Sybase's Enterprise Solutions Division. ''Java tools have less drag-and-drop capabilities, and there is more code that you have to write yourself. We consider Java a '3.5 GL.''

She said many PowerBuilder users continue to prototype in PowerBuilder before deploying in Java, and many existing PowerBuilder apps need to be integrated with interdepartmental Java apps. Some aspects of the latest PowerBuilder version address these developers. Also supported: Improved integration with Sybase's PowerBuilder Designer modeling tool.

But Java is quite prevalent, and aspects of PowerBuilder 9.0 are intended to address this fact. Said Dunnell: ''We're targeting a lot of developers that need to work with JSPs [Java Server Pages]. Now these folks can program JSP updates using wizards [to generate tags on the fly] in order to access Web services from JSPs.''

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About the Authors

Jack Vaughan is former Editor-at-Large at Application Development Trends magazine.


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