From the Editor-in-Chief of PowerBuilder Developer's Journal

Bruce Armstrong

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Related Topics: Enterprise Architecture, Enterprise Application Performance, HTML5


PowerBuilder – Have Your Cake and Eat It Too

Lately PowerBuilder has reinvented itself as a more modern development tool

As you may be aware, the company I work for does both PowerBuilder and RIA (Flex) application development. We actually create client/server and web-based front ends for the same application. Doing that has really emphasized just how much faster we can do development using PowerBuilder. Of course, we're originally a PowerBuilder shop, so one could argue we're faster using PowerBuilder because we know it better.

But along comes a thread in the Adobe Flex Developers discussion groups on Linkedin with this heading: "I'm sometimes amazed at how unproductive [modern] development tools are compared to the client/server tools of 20 years ago."[1] There's a lot of discussion back and forth, but it seems that a number of other folks chimed in with similar feelings. While the development environment has changed (mobile devices and the web), many of the tasks that are simple to do in a product like PowerBuilder (e.g., formatting a field) require coding, sometimes a great deal of coding, to implement in more "modern" IDEs.

It was pointed out in that discussion that "modern" application development requires development at a number of different layers (database, application server, client) and communication between them (services). However, the counterpoint was that "client/server" applications were often similarly partitioned (database, stored procedures, client) and all that changed was the language used and method of transport. That partitioning alone didn't account for what appears to be a tenfold increase in the development effort.

A number of people indicated that what was really missing were wizards or graphic designers that took care of the mundane tasks for you. Nobody has an issue with having to write a lot of code to handle real complex logic. It's the amount of code that needs to be hand-generated to do the routine stuff that seems to be consuming inordinate amounts of time.

Of course, lately PowerBuilder has reinvented itself as a more modern development tool. That reinvention should become complete when PowerBuilder 15 arrives with the ability to emit HTML5 and/or Silverlight targets. That also didn't go unnoticed in that discussion. What PowerBuilder will soon provide is all the development capabilities of "modern" development tools along with all of the productivity benefits of the older "client/server" development tools. That should be an attractive combination.

That might help explain why a recent analysis of job posts in by Dennis Moore [2] shows that the language (or development tool) that has the highest percent increase in postings is....HTML5. But the second highest is..... PowerBuilder!.... which showed a 26% increase over the last 3 months and a 39.6% increase over the last 12 months.

Perhaps people have decided they want the productivity that those "client/server" development tools provided. Perhaps they've seen the new capabilities in PowerBuilder and have discovered that it can be used to do "modern" application development. And perhaps they've discovered that it's not an either/or proposition - with PowerBuilder you can have both.


More Stories By Bruce Armstrong

Bruce Armstrong is a development lead with Integrated Data Services ( A charter member of TeamSybase, he has been using PowerBuilder since version 1.0.B. He was a contributing author to SYS-CON's PowerBuilder 4.0 Secrets of the Masters and the editor of SAMs' PowerBuilder 9: Advanced Client/Server Development.

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