Early Reactions to Turbo Delphi Explorer

Early Reactions to Turbo Delphi Explorer.

It wasn't until yesterday afternoon that I could carve out a big enough block of time to really go after Turbo Delphi Explorer, having downloaded the product Tuesday. As with all products this complex, it went up for testing in its own Win2K VM.

I imagine (and taking a quick look just now at borland.public.delphi.non-technical confirms) that some people are going to be annoyed that Turbo Delphi is a .NET app. This didn't surprise me, but it may surprise people who last bought a copy of Delphi in 2000. Those caught up a little too much in “us vs. them” psychology (where “them,” as usual, is Microsoft) are bitching about the .NET connections. I say it with a little regret born of a yearning for lost simplicity, but Win32 is not enough if you're going to write a world-class developer tool suite. .NET is becoming more and more to integral to Windows functioning with every release, and Borland can't ignore it just because MS are The Other Guys.

Some of the bitching may simply be due to the .NET elements of installation. The really big issue with Turbo Delphi for Win32 is a complicated and virtually undocumented installation procedure. This is especially true for people who have no experience with .NET, of whom there are still many. Before the BDS (Borland Developer Studio; Turbo's IDE) is installed, there is a fat file full of prerequisite installations that must be done, all of them associated with .NET. Alas, there was no “readme.txt” file in the prereqs.zip archive, and no instructions for the prerequisite installs. This is not easy to dope out from first principles; I knew from earlier work that dotnetfx.exe was the installer for the .NET runtime, but a person used to looking for a setup.exe file might be puzzled, especially since there are three .exe files in that directory and nothing to indicate which installed what. The .NET runtime must be installed first, and nothing tells the user that anywhere that I could see. The J# runtime has to go in next; both runtimes must be installed before the .NET SDK will install without yelling.

Another potential puzzler comes up when you run ie6setup.exe after having installed the .NET SDK, .NET redistributables, and J# redistributables. Evidently IE6 is installed in the process of installing .NET (that was something I didn't know) and something very like an error message tells you that IE6 is already installed and you had better exit the installer now. Again, a good readme.txt file or good installer script would have prevented this. Minor issue: The MSXML installer is an .MSI file. A fair number of people probably don't know that you can install a .MSI file by double-clicking it.

The first time I ran Turbo Delphi, I was asked for the Turbo License Activation File. I had received this file via email after requesting it from the downloads page, but had put it in the wrong directory. Once I moved the file where it needed to be (in Documents and Settings\Jeff Duntemann rather than Documents and Settings) the product came up. This was my mistake, but it was a very easy one to make, and a little install doc would have prevented it.

The Turbo Delphi installer does not ask if you would like a desktop icon, but it should.

Peculiarly, although the installer asked whether I would like Indy 9 or Indy 10 to be installed, as best I can tell it installed neither. I got the impression talking to David I. a month or so ago that the Indy Components would be part of the Turbo Delphi Explorer, and while I will understand if a decision was made later on not to include them, their mention in one of the installer dialogs will make a lot of people wonder if something went wrong during install.

For the benefit of readers who are trying to install Turbo Delphi Explorer, do the prereqs this way:

  1. Install the .NET redistributables by executing dotnetfx.exe.
  2. Install the J# redistributables by executing vjredist.exe.
  3. Install the .NET SDK by executing setup.exe in the dotNETSDK directory.
  4. Reboot the system.
  5. Skip the installation of IE6. If you try to install it, you'll get a box telling you it's already installed.
  6. Install MSXML V4 by double clicking msxml.msi. in the MSXML directory.

At this point, you can execute the TurboDelphi.exe installer and follow the dialogs. Make sure that the license file is in the account name directory. You can't put it under All Users or Default User. If you run as Administrator, put it under Administrator. If you run under a different account name, put the file there. Turbo Delphi will look for the file, which contains serial number information, and if it can't find the file it will ask you to enter the data manually. Since this data is embedded in an unstructured, unlabeled block in a text file, you won't know what it is.

The IDE is radically different from Delphi 7 and before, and if that's as far as you got with Delphi, I powerfully recommend running Nick Hodges' Camtasia videos. There's a lot of unlearning and relearning to do, and as I've always said, Delphi shows better than it tells.

That's about all I have room to cover today. I'll continue tomorrow. [Jeff Duntemann's ContraPositive Diary]

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