The Design of Software (CLOSED)

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What’s the problem?

So, I just spent the last 21-months as part of a team developing a fat client desktop application for a major electrical utility company.  The application is wickedly quick with hundreds of users simultaneously connected over WAN’s and LAN’s to a central DB. The UI very modern looking. The application will run on any Windows operating system from 95 up. The tool we used to develop this application is Microsoft Visual FoxPro 9.0.

Until this project the majority of my experience was C++/MFC as well as some .Net. I was very surprised by the power of VFP. I really don’t understand why this tool is not used more today. I see a lot of .Net development that would be a great fit for VFP. What’s the deal??
Derek Thomson
Monday, September 18, 2006
You could ask the same question about tools like PowerBuilder and Access. The biggest problem is that these are client-server database tools. The world often wants more than just client-server database apps. They want to be able to create web applications with web services as well. Sure, Sybase added support for web based programming way back in version 7.0 (or even earlier). But their support was crappy and PowerBuilder never could shake the stigma that is was only for client-server solutions.

So these tools are usually great at doing one thing. But they don't excel at multiple things so they get left behind.
dood mcdoogle
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
The current fashion is not "fat client desktop applications".  The current fashion is web services because the tech industry likes to keep moving the goal posts to keep the cash cows paying.
Stick around, the fat clients will have their day again.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
It's not the only reason, but I suspect customers are sold on web apps because they are automatically easy-to-use. I mean, look at the web sites. Even Aunt Tilly can use them. So logically anything in a browser is easy to use. ...And why do witches float?

So here we are in 2006 trying to re-invent the capabilities that were in FoxPro and its ilk back in the early '90's.
Michael Zuschlag Send private email
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Most internal development groups (and the IT that supports them) would rather have single point of deployment, auto-updating applications, and centralized security -- all of which are easier with the new development platforms.

Matt Lavallee Send private email
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
>I really don’t understand why this tool is not used more today.

Us Delphi users have been wondering the same thing for years.

Even more curious (or is it?) to us is that developers are singing the praises of C#/.NET even though it's Delphi technology wrapped up in an MS package.

Can't beat 'em, might as well join 'em.
Matt Foley
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
> I really don’t understand why this tool is not used more today.

FoxPro was an excellent alternative until it was purchased by MS. Obviously MS wants you to use .net etc instead of some one off tool they purchased just to take out a bit of competition.
son of parnas
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Would love to be the guy trying to find a VFP 9.0 developer to replace the contractors after they move to another project...

To the fat client fans: Would you like some cheese with that wine?
D in PHX Send private email
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
"Join em"?  Hell, why do you think Microsoft paid Anders Hjelsberg (the creator of Turbo Pascal) so much to leave Borland?

If you can't beat 'em, buy 'em.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
> Even more curious (or is it?) to us is that developers are singing the praises of C#/.NET even though it's Delphi technology wrapped up in an MS package. <

What in the name of Odin are you talking about?  Since when does Delphi have 44,000 classes and language-independent assembly interoperability?


Matt Lavallee Send private email
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
As others have mentioned, I think the problem with VFP is that it's strictly client/server. It's lacking on one end, with an inability to do web development, and it's lacking on the opposite end, with an inability (AFAIK) to do proper 3-tier architecture.
Shane Harter Send private email
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Its interesting to see the perception VFP has. I agree with all these comments based on the marketing that VFP presents (it is poorly marketed I feel). Thus, people may be interested to learn of the web and n-tier options VFP provides.
Every case is different ofcourse and needs to be evaluated with regards to the specific requirements of the project. But as a point of interest, one of our recent projects used SQL Server as the backend, .Net as the web UI, but VFP as the middle tier (ie serviced the web site via a COM+ hosted VFP compiled COM object) and a VFP rich client (desktop) module as well. I'm not saying this is the architecture we'd use or recommend on every project but it was the best one in this particular case and is working extremely well.
I've seen other projects use VFP and a VFP based web enabling product (West Wind Web Connection) to great effect. For example this site ( is Australia's largest retail IT online store and is built entirely in VFP.
Personally my biggest concern with VFP is not a techncial one, but a resourcing one. As alluded to by an earlier comment, finding VFP developers is getting harder. A shame really.
Craig Bailey Send private email
Friday, September 22, 2006
"Thus, people may be interested to learn of the web and n-tier options VFP provides. "

PowerBuilder also had the ability to do web and n-tier stuff. But no one ever really used it. I don't know if it was because it didn't work well or if PowerBuilder programmers really weren't of the n-tier or web mindset at the time. When Sybase brought all of that out, PowerBuilder was already on the decline. Very few people were picking PowerBuilder for new projects even though Sybase was marketing the n-tier and web capabilities pretty heavily. You could also say that Sybase sort of alienated many of their followers by making it seem like n-tier was going to be their main direction.

I would assume that VFP has a similar story. By the time the web stuff came out VFP was already in major decline. The only people still using it were thick client programmers who showed no real interest in the web stuff. But that's just my theory.
dood mcdoogle
Friday, September 22, 2006

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