For Clarion programmers: Joel Spolsky's 12 Steps to Better Code - now possible with Clarion!

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8 years ago the famous Joel Spolsky (Joel on Software) wrote an article on his blog about the "12 steps to Better Code" In the article he presented his "Joel Test" for software developers to take in order to measure the quality of their software operation. His second step was called "Can you make a build in one step?"

This is a reasonable question, particularly when you need to create builds on regular basis for Q&A teams to follow up on the work of the development teams. Often times this particular thing can be a daunting and error prone process and is often not done by software companies. This has been particularly difficult for Clarion developers because Clarion does not have a command line compiler, rather relies on DDE to control the Integrated Development Environment.

The Build Automator has changed all this. Because the Build Automator is written with Clarion in mind it fully supports the DDE communication to the Clarion IDE. We will also be adding actions this summer that can register templates and run utility templates. That will make it easy for example to rebuild your template registry from scratch. Rebuilding the registry is something that we would reccommend doing on semi-regular basis to keep the registry clean.

The Build Automator is not just for the old IDE, which will be replaced with the new Clarion 7 and Clarion# IDEs soon. The Build Automator has an action that calls MS-Build to compile any project or project solution that can be compiled with MS-Build. This includes any Visual Studio solutions/projects as well as Delphi. But more importantly this also includes the new Clarion IDE that is used in both Clarion 7 and Clarion#. So with the Build Automator you can pretty much cover all the major development tool, including most Clarion versions. On the Clarion front we have only really tested the Build Automator with the Clarion 6.3 IDE and the new Clarion 7 IDE. It should, however, work without problems with the older Clarion 5.5, Clarion 5.0 and Clarion 4.0 versions.

Many Clarion developers use the excellent Setup Builder from LinderSoft. The Build Automator was written with SetupBuilder in mind and in fact, Lindersoft has made several updates and changes to the SetupBuilder to accommodate the Build Automator. So the Build Automator is the perfect match for SetupBuilder users! You can now build your SetupBuilder installs with a single press of a button using the Build Automator. This is particularly efficient when doing web update builds. You can set the new version number in one place in the Build Automator and it will take care of the rest. We have been using the Build Automator for a few months now on our own installs, including the Build Automator installs, so you could say that the Build Automator has been building itself. :D

Separating Standard and Developer Editions

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We have now completed the separation between the two editions. We still have some coding left to complete the interface between the IDE and the external plugins, but that is minor work and could be completed tomorrow (Monday).

Next build will definitely be able to use third party plugins - in other words, you will be able to write your own plugin actions for it, using your favourite language:)

The Build Automator does not yet support .NET dlls but we plan on adding support for that soon after the Developer Edition goes gold!

We will provide simple skeleton projects in Clarion and Visual C++ that demonstrate how you can create third party plugins for the Build Automator. The Build Automator can even help you out by generating the skelton for you!

This coming week we will also start publishing tutorials and videos on our Tutorial page. We will make announcements about that on both this blog and our forum, so make sure that you check out the blog and forum regularly!

Moving on: The Developer Edition!

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As soon as we got todays release out we were back at work on the next task, which is to finish the Developer Edition. We have made great progress already! One of the big challenges in the Developer Edition is completely dynamic loading of DLLs.

This is needed both for the IDE itself as the Action Editor and all related functionality will from now on be in it's own DLL which will only be distributed with the Developer Edition. It needs to be completely independent of the main application so it has to be dynamically loaded at runtime. The other place where this is needed is for the action plugins. The only thing the IDE knows about each plugin DLL is what it's called and what the CallFunction is called! This is stored in the action file and is the only information that we need in order to load and execute the actions in the DLL.

We took the first step today by separating our own action dll into a dynamically loaded plugin. The IDE is no longer dependent on it and this also means that we can start working with additional plugins and thereby making it possible for you to write your own! Everything is looking good so far and early next week we will have the Action Editor separated and then we can put the Developer Edition together pretty quickly.

It's even possible that we might be able to release the Developer Edition ahead of our own target date of June 1st! But don't worry! The all inclusive $99.00 offer for the Developer Editon plus a one year maintenance plan from the Developer Edition release date will remain in effect until June 1st :)

Bug Fix!

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We just got a report that an error message was popping up when the program started stating that it could not create "Global Variables.avar". We have found and implemented a fix for problem. We have tested it on both Windows XP and Windows Vista to make sure that it's gone. We have uploaded build 1.10.200. We apologize for the inconvenience.

New version released

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Finally, we have got our new website up! We have also made a new build available, version 1.10.100.

For information about what's changed and added, please check out our forum posting at http://www.buildautomator.com/forum/index.php/topic,5.0.html

We are very excited about the new website and this new version. We are already working on the next build which will be out sometime next week. It's primary target is the separation of the Standard- and the Developer Editions and full support for external plugins so you can start writing your own plugins for it!

Like I mentioned in the last post we have added some "eye-candy" to the program and we will continue to do so. It is important to us that the program looks good, but first and foremost that it is simple to use and FAST!

Obviously we use the Build Automator to create the builds for itself:) For those who downloaded the original build, we would suggest that you uninstall it and then install the new build. Your projects and data will not be affected.

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