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Visual FoxPro 8.0: The venerable database tool gets a makeover

The flood of interest in .NET accompanying the release of Windows Server 2003 might tend to obscure recent improvements in Visual FoxPro. With the release of Version 8.0, Microsoft said that it is not only staying true to longtime users of Visual FoxPro, but it is also expanding the reach of the tool to other development frameworks.

This release features structured error handling, auto-increment support for data tables and Windows XP Themes support, said Ken Levy, product manager for Visual FoxPro, and part of the team that made the first Microsoft version of the product in 1992, following Microsoft's acquisition of Fox Software. New event binding for objects, XML Web services features, an updated OLE DB provider, and compatibility with Visual Studio .NET and SQL Server 2000 are also key.

But even with all of the new additions, Levy said the tool has retained its long-standing focus on data. "That's probably what sets it apart from other typical development tools like Visual Basic," he explained. "It has its own engine for data, and the language is specifically tailored around that database engine, so when you're doing database programming, the language and the engine feel like one thing."

Levy added that the speed and adaptability of Visual FoxPro has also led to its use in areas it wasn't necessarily designed for, but has performed well in nonetheless.

"The primary use of FoxPro is not for Web apps, but people do use it that way because it's a very fast engine. What we're finding is that Web apps are migrating to ASP.NET, and then calling FoxPro as a business component," he said. "So it has certain capabilities that are very specific for data manipulation, and people use that kind of in the middle tier. It might just build up a string and send it back, or you might just send back certain pieces of data and then let ASP or ASP.NET handle the HTML that gets returned."

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