GFA Software Technologies 27 Congress Street Salem, MA 01971 800-766-6432, 508-744-0201 Price: $99; Professional, $295
Microsoft Corp. One Microsoft Way Redmond, WA 98052-6399 800-922-3675, 206-936-8661 Price: $199
DataBase Facilities Visual Basic GFA BASIC Native Database - Yes High=Level Objects Yes - 3rd Party Available Yes Yes Integrated Interface Yes -
Remember those old westerns where the slick gunfighter, in a battle over the preacher's daughter, comes up against the otherwise-ordinary farmer? You're supposed to root for the virtuous farmer, but the girl swoons over the confident, polished gunfighter. Well, if you're eyeing BASIC languages for Windows development, you may feel like that damsel in distress. On one hand, Microsoft's Visual Basic, the gunfighter, offers fast development. On the other hand, there's GFA BASIC from GFA Software Technologies, a less-glamorous, solid competitor.
The two environments are very different. True to its name, Visual Basic lets you create your application visually; sketching out your application by dropping objects from a tool bar into a form, rearranging, coloring, and reshaping the interface until it pleases you. In a few minutes, you can paint each screen and have an application ready to go. GFA BASIC, on the other hand, takes the traditional approach--grab your editor and the voluminous reference manuals, and start writing. You get some help from a rudimentary dialog editor.
You'll love Visual Basic because it's easy to learn and use, and it lets you create Windows applications without having to learn the details of Windows events, messages, API calls, and so on. Moreover, you can create Windows applications quickly. On the other hand, Visual Basic has some frustrating limitations. Some important features are missing from the language, such as lack of support for variable pointers. In many cases, power and flexibility are compromised for the sake of simplicity. These limitations mean that Visual Basic doesn't have the same capabilities as other Windows programming languages, such as C.
If you've used Visual Basic and are nonplused by its limitations or troubled by its non-Windows way of doing things, or if you're considering Visual Basic but want to shop around, GFA BASIC is a serious alternative. Surprisingly, we found that GFA BASIC engenders the same sort of love-hate relationship, but for different reasons. As you read on, we'll show you what we liked and didn't like about each of the two products, and how they compare with one another. First, since many readers may not be …