A Developer's Journey from Visual FoxPro to Alpha Five v11, after evaluating IronSpeed, Iceberg, FileMaker, and Servoy

by Richard Rabins

We are always interested in talking to our customers and understanding the journey they have taken to get to Alpha Five v11. We have talked a fair amount about Access developers who are adopting Alpha Five v11 because of its power and productivity for building data-driven web and mobile business applications. There are also other groups of developers who are adopting Alpha Five v11 for similar reasons. One of these groups is professional Visual FoxPro developers, and I would like to share (with his permission) a message we received recently from Jaime Ben David, a professional developer in Israel, who outlined his journey in the email below.
Hi Richard:
I first checked IronSpeed by downloading their Express version. In this version you just have one or two available templates. I tried to build a basic data entry form (i.e., similar to a grid with a detail view), which i achieved, but not as easily as building a grid with a detail view in Alpha Five v11. The resulting form was OK, but a little bit too cluttered in my opinion, and trying to manually modify it was not obvious. I understand this may be doable through .NET editing, but one thing I didn't want to have to do was to learn nor use .NET. I then played a bit more with their available options, but all along I had the same feeling of being caged in their rigid templates and display methods, so after one or two days I decided to abandon IronSpeed.
Iceberg is similar to IronSpeed; a little bit easier and also easier to modify, but still too complex to build anything that is slightly different from a basic grid/detail view scenario. I even had an online session with the developer of the tool, a nice guy from Ireland, but after going through all the sessions where he demonstrated his stuff, I realized that there would be a steep learning curve that also involves .net, and the price is even higher than IronSpeed.
FileMaker is a joke. [ed: Jaime's own opinion. Israelis can be harsh.] They don't have any suitable Web development in place, and even their desktop developing platform, is as we say in Israel, is not ay ay ay. [ed: roughly, "not fantastic", or "didn't blow me away"]
Servoy is the only serious development platform I considered at the time. They have a solid platform and are supported by Ken Levy, whom I know personally. He is a genius who at some point was the Visual Foxpro product manager at Microsoft. He  evangelizes for Servoy now. They have a good community, and the company issues new versions in a timely manner. Nevertheless, I followed many discussions of fellow Visual Foxpro developers who made the switch and I soon realized that there would be a steep learning curve as well. Also, the tool is very expensive.
As for Alpha Five v11, I really liked at the ease-of-use, the intuitive way in which a complete newbie like me could create an impressive grid/detail view or even a  grid/dialog. Every basic feature I tested just worked, and every advertised feature just delivered. I noticed I could modify the basic templates with Xbasic, which didn't scare me at all -- I see Xbasic as being very similar to the Visual FoxPro language. I am learning HTML and JavaScript, but with the solid foundation I found in Alpha Five v11, I am not scared to try, so now I am "learning while walking" [ed: roughly, "training on the job"] with great success.
I bought Alpha Five version 10 developer version over a year back, but didn't make use of  the tool until after testing all the other tools as described above. Then I bought my subscription right with v11, and when I went through the videos and trainings that come with the subscription, I realized I had enough material and knowledge to start creating applications with Alpha Five V11.
Finally, prior to committing to Alpha Five, I read a lot about how quickly bugs were fixed and about the pace at which new features were implemented, Overall, I have been overwhelmingly impressed by Alpha Five v11.
Warm regards,
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About Author

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Martin Heller

Martin Heller is a contributing editor and reviewer for InfoWorld. Formerly a web and Windows programming consultant, he developed databases, software, and websites from his office in Andover, Massachusetts, from 1986 to 2010. More recently, he has served as VP of technology and education at Alpha Software and chairman and CEO at Tubifi. Disclosure: He also writes for Hewlett-Packard's TechBeacon marketing website.


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