From Visual FoxPro to Alpha Five via .NET

Doron Farber of The Farber Consulting Group, Inc. is a well-known Visual FoxPro (VFP) developer and consultant, who started working with dBase in 1982 and FoxBase in 1986. Microsoft has discontinued development of VFP, and like many experienced VFP consultants he has been evaluating alternatives, especially products that can be used to easily produce data-driven Web and mobile applications. Recently Doron sent Richard a note about his journey to Alpha Five:

Life after Visual FoxPro

About five years ago I started working with the .NET framework, developing "smart client" applications, which is a fancy way of saying desktop applications. I was using the StrataFrame Application Framework for .NET. The capability to develop Web applications was not included in the base StrataFrame product, so I had to go straight to .NET, which wasn't productive for me at all.

After a couple of years I felt I really needed a more productive Web site development tool. I tried IronSpeed and LightSwitch. With LightSwitch, I did not get the desired results and it was really limited. With IronSpeed I was limited to 40 trials, and it took control of my database by inserting stored procedures. On the surface IronSpeed looks very impressive, with a bunch of videos and some testimonials, but in reality this is a .NET development tool, and you will need to work with Visual Studio when you take this product out of the box.

A year ago I switched to Alpha Five. Fast forward to yesterday: I demonstrated a Student Loan Web application that I developed in Alpha Five v11 to a friend of 20 years, Edhy, who like me was a Visual FoxPro and .NET/StrataFrame developer. He got the shock of his life!

Edhy could not believe how quickly and easily I can create a Grid, a search capability, and a form, without writing any code whatsoever. He couldn't believe that without doing any coding or customization it still looks great.

He was impressed by Alpha Five's ability to create SQL statements with its SQL Genie, for reports or for any component. His reaction was “Wow! That Genie reminds me of VisualRep.” VisualRep is the Report engine product that I developed in Visual FoxPro. One of the main features of VisualRep is that it allows you to create SQL statements without the need to know any SQL. (Edhy was the main beta tester for  VisualRep.)

Edhy was also impressed with the way Alpha handles Ajax. In most cases I did not need to write any JavaScript code of my own, and when I did Alpha created the code for me.  I also showed him how I can validate different fields using the Field Validation capability in Alpha by just clicking some check boxes. He was impressed with the assortment of properties available in the grid, and especially the Search properties.

"So," Edhy asked, "did you have to create stored procedures to support deleting, adding, or moving any record?"

"No," I responded, "no, Alpha handles all of that for us and no code is needed. It is the same way we used the Visual ProMatrix framework for Visual FoxPro."

Both of us used Visual ProMatrix and also were their MVPs. When using Visual FoxPro you cannot get this capability out of the box for professional custom applications unless you develop it yourself or buy a commercial framework. We both knew that, so it was a surprise to Edhy when I told him that Alpha Five has it all built in the product.

Make no mistake, I did have to write some code for check printing, and document management for dunning letters and so on. However, it is by far much less code then writing this application in .NET.

I told  Edhy that it would have taken me twice as much time to develop that application that I just demonstrated using .NET compared to Alpha Five v11. He disagreed.

"No, you're wrong: it would take you at least three times as much time!" With this kind of capability I have no doubt about that. I showed him that app for an hour and half, but I told him specifically there was so much to show that it would take at least three hours to do it justice.

It took me some struggle until I found Alpha Five, but for me it is the ultimate development environment. I don't need a general purpose development tool like Visual Studio. I need a data-centric tool that gets the job done very quickly, with minimum effort, and for me Alpha Five has it all.

Doron Farber develops data-driven Web site applications, and thanks to Alpha Five they can also run on desktop and mobile devices. Doron also provides Remote DBA services and can be reached at:

Alpha Five Development :
Convert MS Access to Web:

What do the Titanic and icebergs have to do with the market expansion being caused by Tablets?
JavaScript in Alpha Five: As Easy as it can be

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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