The move from Visual Basic 6 to Visual Basic 7, or Visual Basic .Net as it also known, means VB programmers have some retraining to do.
However, opinion varies among developers as to how big a change it’s going to be.
The change is “a quantum leap”, according to Infinity Solutions Auckland software solutions manager Allen Jowitt.
“What .Net does for a VB developer is give them a lot of the advantages C++ programmers have.” With VB .Net, programmers will have true inheritance, he says.
Inheritance allows object-oriented programmers to easily reuse code and hence speeds development.
“.Net represents a fundamental change in the web programming paradigm, because it offers a programming ability for the web that is much more like the traditional client-server programming model. You can drag and drop controls on to forms and can write code behind the controls and the form itself and can choose your target deployment very simply at the outset of the programming exercise.”
Moving to VB .Net won’t be a struggle, he says.
“There are issues about deployment, especially when deploying into an established user base, but one of the traditional strengths of the Microsoft development tool set is that they have been very successful in providing a unified development environment across the whole suite of the toolset offering. What that means to a developer moving from VB6 to VB7 is that the learning will involve building on a foundation rather than having to learn to do things in a new way.”
VB programmers tend to command lower salaries than those skilled in C++ and Java, but Jowitt believes the introduction of VB7 and the whole .Net concept will lead to a shift in the programming job market for Microsoft development in which languages become less important.
“People will advertise for .Net programmers and there will be less emphasis on languages and more on the ability to work in that environment.”
Microsoft’s upgrade process will allow interoperability between VB .Net and VB6 at application and component level, Jowitt says, “which means it will be possible for .Net development to start without necessarily having to upgrade entire applications.”
Infinity employs approximately 20 VB programmers and one of its major clients is Village Cinemas.
Another VB developer, Dale Shaw, is less enthusiastic about VB .Net.
Shaw, who owns two small development companies, had VB .Net beta 2 “sitting on my desk” for a week but hadn’t tried it.
“If I do start developing in VB.Net then I have the same old VB problem — to ship out even small applications, I have to ship a CD full of support files along with it.
“The amount of testing this requires — and the possible support headaches it creates, for both me and my customers — encourages a slow, planned migration between versions, even between service pack releases.”
As for re-learning, “there are always new things to learn with VB, even if you don’t move to the next version, including new, underlying data access methods, new mail access etc.
“VB .Net promises 90% backwards compatibility, so most code will go forward just fine, particularly recently developed code — ADO, not DAO.
“However, learning the newer object-oriented data manipulation and object inheritance will take time.”
Finally, Shaw says, there’s the question of bugs.
“I’ll be waiting until service pack one is around before it [VB .Net] will even be considered stable.”