Ironspeed Designer recently announced the upcoming release of the latest version of their .NET code generator product. As is their custom, a webinar was held this week to show the latest features and updates to their product prior to shipping.
Jim Dusoe, Alpha user and a BMSI Software developer, attended the webinar, and wanted to share his opinion of the new Ironspeed 6.0 with you. Instead of interpreting what he said in a very detailed letter to me, I'm just going to copy it, verbatim, here for you to review.
In my opinion, they are making some fundamental errors in the direction they have chosen to go, and will most likely continue to frustrate developers and lose customers.Write to me if you have any questions for Jim.
First, let me briefly tell you of my experience with Ironspeed. I have primarily been a Visual Foxpro, SQL Server and ASP developer for many years, making the decision to use MS products as my development platform. Over the years, like most developers, I have created foundation classes and certain methodologies to try to enable as much code reuse as possible. I have been successful with that for VFP, but knew that web-based apps were definitely the direction I needed to go.
Unfortunately, every attempt to try to move to other platforms (Visual Studio, VB and misc open source tools/other development environments) all meant a MUCH longer development cycle, even if I was to become proficient in a particular language.
After creating several web applications using both classic ASP and .NET approaches, I started looking for an alternative that would help to shorten the development life cycle.
Enter Ironspeed Designer. After reviewing several options, there were a limited number of companies that provided any substantial time savings in application development or that created a useable application.
ISD provided 80 to 90% of the typical CRUD (CReate Update Delete) functionality that often takes so much of a developer's time. Their approach is to generate multiple SHOWTABLE, ADDRECORD, EDITRECORD, SHOWRECORD pages based on the database schema. In fact, this is fairly well implemented, but relies heavily on a properly designed database. I was successful in creating some reasonably sophisticated applications, with my goal being to try to avoid manual coding as much as possible.
Through this process I began to discover some of the shortcomings. Ironspeed makes no bones about the fact that they are a Code Generator and not an IDE. It has become apparent that they intend their product to be used with Visual Studio to create and maintain any significant application. One of the core problems for me was the lack of layout control.
With ISD, you are locked in to their styles, with no simple way to edit record rows or field controls without manually writing HTML code. Trying to bring it into Visual Studio was not viable as you could not generate any kind of WYSIWYG view of the final layout. Your only option is to manually hand code the HTML, recompile, launch the application, then view your page.
This obviously takes a good deal of time, and each compilation requires a full .NET recompile. Their approach means that you need to purchase not only Ironspeed, but if you intend to do any significant modifications, you will need Visual Studio as well.
ISDs approach is to provide fixed table and record layouts, with configuration options. Rather than provide control over the position and style of individual panels and controls, you must select from a list of preset page styles.
ISDs ongoing addition of page types speaks rather strongly to the fact that the user base has been demanding more layout control. I think it is a fundamental error in direction to head where they are going. In fact, they rather casually dismissed the fact that you can no longer drag and drop controls (buttons, text, images, etc.)
but that you would have to manually enter code to insert ASPX controls.
I can see no good reason for them taking this step backwards.
One of the things that strikes me is the features that were presented today are already incorporated into Alpha 5 V9.
Although they avoided a WYSIWYG display in the past, they have given into the need for a preview of the active pane, something the ISD community has been requesting for some time.
- Live preview
- Configuration pane (in conjunction with live preview)
- Email page option
- New page types to address layout needs
As I mentioned early on in our conversations, I have found that Alpha 5 provides an excellent balance of drag and drop, action script based development, xbasic code and HTML/CSS editing capabilities which allows you to go as deep as you need to for your application.
Ironspeed does NOT have:
There are also little things that I question. Because ISD relies on .NET, compilation times impact the overall efficiency of development. The live preview pane seemed a bit sluggish. And this was connected to a local Northwind sample database. I am not sure that the performance against a hosted database is going to be acceptable.
- An IDE
- WYSIWYG layout
- Ability to create desktop application
- Inline styles
- Drag and Drop controls
- No quick HTML view (used to be in prior version for quick HTML fixes)
I've found that working with Alpha 5 has been quite acceptable in the performance arena when it comes to the development process. The work I've done to date has been connected to remote SQL servers, and the performance has been fine.
The live preview panes work well for the most part. Any idiosyncrasies have been resolved by a restart, and to date I've not lost any changes I was working on.
I think something that is going to be VERY significant is the work Selwyn is doing with the AJAX development, especially the grid component. Where Ironspeed needs to create multiple pages, which means multiple round trips to the server for various functions, I can do all my add, edit, delete functions in a single form/grid with no full screen refresh access to controls/functions all managed by the security framework.
This is going to have a HUGE impact on how I create web apps.
Applications BMSI Software has created with Ironspeed include:
I am looking forward to converting most of these to Alpha 5 in the coming months.
- Vision Payment Solutions (Merchant Account Credit Card Sales Agent Portal)
- Hybrid SQL Server(SSIS, SSRS, TSQL, etc.), ASP, Ironspeed, Web and Visual Foxpro frontend
- 1.5 year project, approx. $160k
- Church Event Management front end (Provides dynamic content for events with
- start/dropoff date)
- Communication Timeline (simple task based project management)
- Document Management System (medical transcriptionists)
- Simple CMS (Content Management System . page content backend)
- Misc. small projects
I trust this helps give some insight to what Ironspeed is doing Let me know if you have any questions or thoughts.