Back to BASIC with NS App Studio for mobile

I was intrigued to discover NS Basic/App Studio, which offers a simple Windows IDE targeting iPhone and Android mobile devices.

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It is all a bit retro, especially when you discover that the company (NS Basic Corporation) has the leading Basic on the … Apple Newton.

Still, something like Visual Basic for iPhone and Android sounds interesting. Does this thing deliver?

I tried the demo. What NS App Studio actually does is to translate Basic code to JavaScript, so the end result is a web application targeting mobile browsers, rather than a mobile app. There is a bit more to it though. Apps have access to local storage including SQLite databases, since this is available to the WebKit-based browsers on iPhone and Android. You can create a shortcut to a web app and even run it offline, making it behave somewhat like a locally installed app. Further, the FAQ notes that you can wrap your web app with PhoneGap to create an app that you can distribute through the App Store or Android Market; and this or similar capability may eventually be included in the IDE.

The question though: why would you choose to use Basic rather than just learning JavaScript? I can make sense of the Google Web Toolkit, which compiles Java to JavaScript, but Google’s effort is more sophisticated. You are not expected to puzzle out the generated JavaScript, but just work in Java. By contrast, with NS App Studio you code in Basic but debug in JavaScript, with all sorts of potential for confusion.

I got the impression that the product is not yet mature. I changed the name of the form in my Hello World project, for example, but found generated code that still referred to the old name, causing a JavaScript error. I found it confusing that the property listed as “text” in the visual grid was “textContent” in code. The IDE is very simple, but also very lacking in features. Most developers would find a modern JavaScript IDE more productive.

Nevertheless it is interesting as a proof of concept, and shows the capability of these mobile browsers as a pre-installed application runtime.

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8 comments to Back to BASIC with NS App Studio for mobile

  • George Henne

    Thanks for having a look at our product!

    You’re right – it’s a new product, and lots of stuff is still coming. We are getting lots of great feedback from our users and have incorporated many of the suggestions already. The form name change bug is fixed in the next build, which will be available in a few days. We’re also working on resolving the property name issues.

    NS Basic was indeed the leading BASIC for the Newton – but we are also the leading BASIC for Palm OS and Windows CE/Windows Mobile.

    Why use BASIC when you can simply learn JavaScript? Many people are used to using Visual Basic, and have code they’d like to bring over. JavaScript can have a steep learning curve. NS Basic/App Studio can provide a much gentler way to get into mobile development. It should also be noted that there is also an option to use JavaScript instead of BASIC as a programming language.

  • Carlos Gabriel Arpini

    It remembered me PocketStudio from WinSoft that allowed Basic development for PalmOS…

  • Tim

    I have been working with NS Basic App Studio for two years, since launch.

    My thoughts are this:-

    If you plan to do any kind of development which you want to look professional then forget App Studio. NS Basic App Studio has some major failings, number one on the list being documentation. The documentation supplied with App Studio is truly appalling, covering basic commands and functions only, and even then, not fully. The moment you want to dig deeper there is no help for you and even the writers of App Studio say “Search the Internet for answers”. This makes App Studio a ‘development’ system for amateurs.

    If your intention is to develop anything that remotely resembles a professional application then I am very sorry to say you will have to use something else.

    I speak as a professional developer of 30 years experience, having developed on all sorts of platforms. We recently completed a project (not the way we wanted to due to the limitations) using NS Basic App Studio and it took a whole year to make. The equivalent in almost any other environment would have taken a matter of weeks. There were times when my team and I wanted to blow our brains out in frustration, mainly with the woeful documentation and zero support offered by NS Basic.

    NS Basic bill App Studio as a Visual Basic-like environment. Do you remember the days when IBM clone-makers were saying that their machines were compatible to the IBM PC and it turned out they meant they both use a 5amp fuse in the plug? Well that is how App Studio is to Visual Basic. Whilst App Studio uses the BASIC language, it is so far removed from VB when you start wanting to do anything interesting that it makes the comment “Visua Basic-like” a mockery at best and misleading at worst.

    There are many fanboys of App Studio, but don’t be misled. The product is not at a fit state yet to be used for any kind of professional development. You will end up going insane. From the advancements I have seen the product make since launch (two years now) I would guesstimate that it will take NS Basic another five years to create a development environment that is suitable for professional developers.

    NS Basic App Studio could be a good product, however with so many fundamental flaws, which become apparent only after you have gone through the very basics, you start entering a nighmare world.

    I hope this post helps prospective developers in making a choice about their development environment.

  • tim

    Helpful comment, many thanks.

    Tim

  • Please do not take the troll’s comments seriously. He posted the same comment about a dozen places on the web, under different names. In the many years we have been in business, he’s only guy we actually had to ban from our forums. Here are some real comments on the product:

    Feel free to contact us for more info!

    George Henne
    NS BASIC Corporation

  • Sorry – the URL with real comments did not appear:

    User Comments

  • tim

    To Mr George Henne (owner of NSBasic corporation)

    Are you going to accuse everybody who uses your substandard products of being a “Troll”.

    You just need to face the facts that App Studio is not a serious enough development environment for professional development and for professional apps. It is fine for amateurs who want to produce Mickey Mouse apps. The latter are willing to suffer the numerous bugs, appalling documentation and general failings of your software, although I suspect not at $99.

    What you need to do is quite simple. Just listen to your users and find out why so many of them are displeased with what you are charging $99 for, rather than rubbish them and proudly state that you banned them from your forum.

    Recently, you issued a 3.0 update, which fixes many bugs and shortcomings of the 2.00 software yet you have the nerve to charge an additional $49 for the privilege of having an update which fixes the fundamental shortcomings that simply should not have been present in the previous version.

    This is how you lose customers.

    So, once again, I am not a “Troll”, as you like to mislead people about. I am an honest user, who paid good money for a substandard software package. I am out of pocket by $99 and was driven nearly insane by your software.

    I have no doubt that you will eventually get it right, perhaps in several more years. NSBasic App Studio simply is not a viable option at this time. It cost me and my team many hundreds of frustrated hours due to fundamental bugs and appalling documentation.

  • Dave

    I purchased NSBasic several months ago. My background has been sports game. I created most of them under the company Micro Sports Inc. I really like NSBasic and app studio within a few days I created several apps installed on my phone and had them accessing databases, animating images and reading text files. It is an awesome tool and anyone who disagrees must not have really tried the product. It far exceeded my expectations.