ASNA Updates RPG Technology for MS Visual Studio 2010
July 13, 2010 Alex Woodie
ASNA, a division of BluePhoenix since 2007, this month will begin shipping ASNA Visual RPG (AVR) version 10, the latest release of its technology that generates Windows executables from its RPG-like syntax. With version 10, AVR gains support for Microsoft Visual Studio 2010, and the capability to run within that popular development environment. Version 10 also gives users the option of running within the free Visual Studio Shell.
AVR is a .NET-based RPG compiler that allows companies to transition their RPG-based investments in AS/400, iSeries, i5, System i, and Power Systems applications in the direction of Microsoft Windows and SQL Server. The compiler generates 100 percent compatible Microsoft Intermediate Language (MSIL) code from AVR’s RPG-like syntax. In addition to allowing RPG applications to take advantage of advances Microsoft built into its platform, including things like .NET components and Windows forms, AVR eases the Visual Studio learning curve for RPG programmers.
AVR version 10 is best characterized as an incremental upgrade from previous releases, although there are a couple of nice functions in the new release that will save users time and money. Most of the benefits that AVR users gain with version 10 reside within the enhancements that Microsoft has made with Visual Studio 2010, which shipped in April along with version 4 of the .NET Framework.
AVR 10 Enhancements
One time-saving enhancement in AVR 10 is the introduction of the DataGate Server Explorer. The new DataGate Server Explorer component was designed to explore DB2/400 database connections, libraries, files, and objects, all from within the Visual Studio 2010 environment.
DataGate Server Explorer is the replacement for the free-standing ASNA Database Manager that shipped with previous versions of AVR. That product was based on “state-of-the-art Windows 3.1 technology,” says Roger Pence, ASNA’s education director. The new DataGate Server Explorer offers a more sophisticated user experience, and works very similarly to the SQL Server Explorer function that Microsoft offers in Visual Studio, he says.
The money-saving feature in AVR version 10 has to do with support for the Microsoft Visual Studio Shell, which is a free and lightweight development environment that Microsoft first introduced with Visual Studio 2008. ASNSA customers who have no need for the more advanced functions in Visual Studio, such as the VB.NET or C# libraries, will save money by using the free Visual Studio Shell, Pence says.
In previous releases, AVR customers who were upgrading their AVR environments also had to buy a new license for the latest Visual Studio environment, but no more, Pence says. “Existing AVR 9.x customers can upgrade to AVR 10 at no cost whatsoever, and they don’t have to pay to upgrade to Visual Studio 2010,” he says.
There were several other minor, mostly under-the-cover enhancements in AVR 10 that will pave the way for better backward compatibility with older releases, and smoother integration with Visual Studio in future releases, Pence says. These include improved use of the AVR memory files, support for direct access to DB2/400 and SQL Server data areas within the AVR language itself, and utilization of the new openness in the IntelliSense feature of the Visual Studio code editor.
Besides the new AVR functions, new Visual Studio 2010 features may entice ASNA customers to upgrade.
Visual Studio 2010 Enhancements
One of Microsoft’s goals with Visual Studio 2010 was cleaning up the “clutter” and reducing complexity for the developer. It accomplished this by redesigning the code editor in Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), its most recent GUI technology. Microsoft also allows programmers to have multiple document windows and even “floating” tool windows open simultaneously in Visual Studio 2010. The new IDE also offers better support for multi-monitor installations. Customers can simply drag and drop a window to another monitor with this release.
Debugging has also been enhanced in Visual Studio 2010. The new IntelliTrace debugger feature in Visual Studio Ultimate 2010 automatically records all application events, and allows programmers to “play back” the steps that led to an error. While it will consume more resources than the traditional debugger, IntelliTrace is expected to help programmers write cleaner code, especially in situations where a programmer forgot to set a breakpoint. AVR supports all non-language-specific debugging facilities in Visual Studio, Pence says.
Other areas of improvement in the new IDE include a new help system, as well as better support for parallelism and improvements in utilization of processor cores through multi-threading. This feature comes in part through a new plug-in that Intel developed for the IDE.
AVR 10 will become available this month. For more information, see www.asna.com.