Category Archives: delphi

New Delphi and C++ Builder Roadmap promises Linux server support

Embarcadero has published a new roadmap explaining what to expect in forthcoming editions of its RAD Studio suite, including Delphi and C++ Builder.

The company has been acquired by IDERA though the Embarcadero brand is to continue under the new ownership.

The roadmap covers two “development tracks”, though it is not completely clear what that means. One is described as the “Spring development track” which suggests a release in April, 12 months after RAD Studio XE8. However, the post adds that “The team is working the following features that will be included in 2016 releases,” raising the possibility that some features in this track may come later, perhaps in the scheduled summer update.

The Spring track, to be called “Berlin”, seems to be mainly a tidying-up exercise in any case, with features including Bluetooth LE support for Windows 10, DirectX 12 support, native support for Utf8String on all platforms (you mean it does not have this already?) and enhancements to the FireMonkey cross-platform framework.

“Spring” also offers C++ CLANG 3.3 on all platforms.

The second development track “will deliver a Fall release”, to be known as “Tokyo”, following the pattern of recent years where RAD Studio has two major updates every year. The Fall track is more interesting, and includes support for Delphi and C++ Builder on Linux Server, as well as “Linux platform support for console apps with IoT support.” I guess non-GUI Linux is the common thread here.

The IDE will remain on Windows, with cross-compilation for Linux. Initially supported distributions are Ubuntu Server and RedHat Enterprise, though further distributions will be added “as demand dictates”.

It is good to see Linux support back in Delphi. I remember Borland Kylix (2001-2003) well, but this was back in the days when desktop Linux looked like more of a thing.

The feature-list for Tokyo also includes Windows Centennial support. This is potentially big news. Centennial is a Microsoft project to deliver Windows desktop applications through the Windows Store, using application virtualisation based on the existing App-V technology to remove dependency issues. You can expect to hear more about Centennial at Microsoft’s Build conference at the end of March; it was covered at last year’s Build but we have not heard much more about it since.


Embarcadero is also promising a new installer for RAD Studio, based on its GetIt technology, which will reduce installation time and give more flexibility in selecting features. This would be welcome; I never look forward to installing RAD Studio as it tends to be a time-consuming process. It would also be good if it messed less with system environmental variables, though I do not know if this is on the cards. The new installer will comes in two phases, phase 1 in Berlin and phase 2 in Tokyo.

My own view is that two major releases a year is one too many, so I would prefer if Embarcadero scrapped Berlin and went straight to Tokyo.

Embarcadero RAD Studio XE7 (Delphi, C++Builder): is seven the magic number?

Embarcadero has released version 7 of its XE programming suite. The main products included are Delphi and C++ Builder, RAD development tools that share the same underlying libraries and visual designers but give developers a choice of language. Delphi uses an object-oriented evolution of Pascal.


Delphi is best known as a Windows Programming Tool – it used to be the main competition for Visual Basic – but over the last few years Embarcadero has added cross-platform Mac and mobile development with native compilers for OSX, iOS and Android. The IDE runs only on Windows but can compile for the Mac or for iOS New versions have come thick and fast – XE6 was released in April 2014 – so if you want to stay up to date, prefer for frequent upgrades or buy with a support and maintenance agreement. You can buy Delphi or C++ Builder separately if you do not require the suite.

The full RAD Studio also includes HTML 5 Builder, which supports mobile app development using Cordova (open source version of PhoneGap). There seems to be little new in HTML 5 Builder. An earlier PHP tool variously called Delphi for PHP and RadPHP was dropped some time back. I get the impression that Embarcadero is now more focused on its core good thing.


So what’s new? Making effective cross-platform development tools is not easy, with trade-offs between productivity (share more code) and writing the best app for each platform (share less code). This edition introduces a new approach to designing the user interface, called the Multi-Device Designer. It is based on a kind of inheritance. You build your base UI in a master form and write most of the event-handling code there. This master form is automatically adapted, to some extent, to other platforms. You can see how your form looks on these other platform by dropping down a list.


When you select the form for a specific platform, you can modify it for that platform. There is still only one form, but the platform-specific views override properties set in the master form. If you then further modify the master, the changes will flow down to the platform-specific forms unless properties have already been overridden.


My impression after a five-minute play is that you will indeed have to made modifications to get each form looking right; the automatically generated versions were not too good. There is still good productivity potential here presuming the designer proves to be robust.

A common criticism of Embarcadero’s approach is that visual controls are custom-drawn on each platform, rather than using true native controls. That does not matter at all, Embarcadero always assured me. It does matter though; and now in XE7 we have the beginning of a solution. There are a couple of optional Platform Native Controls, TEdit and TCalendar for iOS, which do use native controls. I suspect this will be popular and hope that more platform native controls arrive in due course.

App Tethering is a feature/library that lets you easily set up connectivity between Delphi/C++ Builder apps on a local network. The first version only supported Ethernet/Wi-Fi, but now Bluetooth support has come, including Bluetooth LE on Windows 8 and recent Android devices.

On Android, a new tool called Java2OP lets you generate Object Pascal interfaces for Java Android classes, which sounds handy.

Aside: the naming of this tool suggests that the language is now called Object Pascal again, rather than Delphi, which became the official name some years back. Object Pascal makes more sense to me.

The System.Threading library now includes a new parallel programming library, including Parallel For, task scheduling, and futures. Futures are a way of creating code that will run at an indeterminate time. You associate a variable with a function that calculates its value. That function will run when you access the value, or before that if a background thread is available.

The IDE now has limited Git support (local repository only).

Another new piece in XE7 is Enterprise Mobility Services, a REST-based middleware stack that runs as an ISAPI DLL in Microsoft’s IIS web server. This includes database connectivity (using the FireDAC library), user management (though not Active Directory integration as yet, as I understand it) and usage analytics.

If you are using IIS, why would you not use ASP.NET and the Web API? The answer is that with EMS you can do end-to-end Delphi/C++ Builder as well as getting the performance of native code on the server.

Challenges for Embarcadero and RAD Studio

In the nineties it was Delphi versus Visual Basic, and although most developers who gave Delphi serious attention discovered that it was superior in most ways to Microsoft’s tool, the big-company backing and integration with Microsoft’s overall platform meant that VB was not much disrupted (though we may have Delphi to thank for the appearance of native code compilation in VB).

Today Embarcadero is up against Xamarin, which is similar in that it gives Microsoft platform developers a route to cross-platform development for Mac, iOS and Android.

From what I hear, cross-platform support in RAD Studio has been successful in reinvigorating the product within its niche, but it is Xamarin that has grown explosively, thanks to a combination of the C# language, Visual Studio integration, and a degree of official endorsement from Microsoft. Whereas Xamarin fits with Microsoft’s Universal App concept, shared C# code across all platforms, RAD Studio takes its own path, avoiding .NET in favour of native executables.

[I realise that there is endless debate about what native means, and that while RAD Studio has a good claim to native code, it is weak when it comes to native controls as noted above].

Unlike Xamarin, which has its own cross-platform IDE for Windows and Mac, RAD Studio requires Mac developers to use a PC or a Windows VM.

Embarcadero chose not to support Windows 8 “Metro” or Store apps, a decision which now looks wise, though it could yet work against them if Universal Apps are more compelling in Windows vNext. Another omission is Windows Phone; perhaps this does not matter greatly given its small market share, but within the Microsoft platform community it is a bigger lack than simple market share implies.

The advantage of the RAD Studio approach is that it is less dependent on Microsoft’s constant changes of direction, and performance is generally good. I have always been a fan of Delphi. There were some quality concerns when the FireMonkey cross-platform UI library was first adopted, but now in RAD Studio XE7 there is reasonable hope that the library is mature enough.

RAD Studio is the obvious route for long-time Delphi or C++ Developers migrating to mobile; it is a viable niche but I question whether it can ever move beyond it to grab a share of the wider mobile development market.

More information here.

Embarcadero pre-announces AppMethod cross-platform development tool: Delphi repackaged?

Embarcadero is spilling the beans on a new development tool called AppMethod, which has its own site here and a little more information on TechCrunch. A fuller reveal is promised at SXSW, which kicks off on March 7 in Austin, Texas.


But what is AppMethod? The IDE looks very like Delphi, the languages are Object Pascal (like Dephi) or C++ (like C++ Builder), and target platforms include Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. It would be extraordinary if the GUI framework were not some variant of FireMonkey, the cross-platform and mobile framework in Delphi.

Just Delphi (and C++ Builder, which is Delphi for C++) repackaged then? In a comment Embarcadero developer evangelist David Intersimone says that is “way off base” though the only firm fact he offers is that AppMethod is less capable than Delphi for Windows, which presumably means that Delphi’s VCL (Visual Component Library) framework for Windows applications is not included.

Lack of a feature is not a compelling reason to buy AppMethod rather than Delphi so Object Pascal enthusiasts must hope there is more good stuff to be revealed.

I looked out for the Embarcadero stand at Mobile World Congress (MWC), which was a small affair tucked away in the corner of one of the vast halls.


The stand was hardly bustling and was overshadowed by a larger stand next to it for another app building tool, AppMachine. While I would not read much into the size of a stand at MWC, that accords with my general sense that while the recently added cross-platform and mobile capabilities in Delphi have won some take-up, it is a small player overall. Embarcadero may feel that a new name and a bit of distance between FireMonkey/Delphi and the original Windows-only tool will help to attract new developers.

Embarcadero RAD Studio XE5 (Delphi) for Android now available

Today Embarcadero released RAD Studio XE5 which lets you build apps for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. You can also buy Delphi XE5 separately if you prefer.

Embarcadero’s release cycle is relatively rapid. It was only six months ago that RAD Studio XE4 with iOS support appeared.

The big deal in this release is Android support. If you use the FireMonkey framework, you can build apps for all supported platforms.

There is also a new REST client library and some other enhancements – see here for a list of what’s new.

Embarcadero’s approach to Android development is distinctive. In keeping with Delphi’s tradition of native code compilation, Android apps are compiled using the NDK (Native Development Kit). Embarcadero’s developer evangelist John Thomas told me that this delivers excellent performance. I can believe it, though note what Google says:

Before downloading the NDK, you should understand that the NDK will not benefit most apps. As a developer, you need to balance its benefits against its drawbacks. Notably, using native code on Android generally does not result in a noticable performance improvement, but it always increases your app complexity. In general, you should only use the NDK if it is essential to your app—never because you simply prefer to program in C/C++.

Delphi developers are largely shielded from the complexity of the NDK, since you code using the high level abstraction provided by the runtime library (RTL) and the FireMonkey framework. If that is all you need I should think everything will be fine. If you have a Java library you need to call from your Delphi Android application, you need to use JNI (Java Native Interface) which is not so much fun.

Another point to note is that FireMonkey emulates most visual controls like buttons and lists, by drawing them itself. Users might not notice, if they look and behave exactly like the native controls, but this is hard to do perfectly. Embarcadero’s approach is native in respect of the code it generates, but not in respect of the controls it uses.

I installed RAD Studio XE5 on a Windows 8 machine and set about building an Android app. I already had the Android SDK installed so I asked the RAD Studio installer to skip the SDK but to install the NDK. As it turned out, I am not sure whether it did or did not (I could not find it quickly), but it was easier to download the NDK manually.

I have previously tried Delphi for iOS, for which the usual approach is to run Delphi (or RAD Studio) in a Windows emulator on a Mac, since the Delphi IDE is Windows only. This approach is not so good for Android development because its hard to attach Android devices to an emulator for debugging. Therefore, a real Windows PC is a better platform for Android development. If you want to target iOS as well, you can still do so, by using the remote agent running on a Mac.

Setting up for Android development is a little harder than setting up iOS development. The Android device I used for my test is a Sony Xperia T, and I installed the Sony PC Companion to be sure of having the correct USB drivers for debugging. With Java, the SDK, the NDK, RAD Studio itself, and getting the device connected, that is a fair number of moving parts.

It worked though. I created an Android app, connected my Xperia, and it showed up as a target in Delphi (it is also called the LT30p).


I threw a label, a listbox and a button onto my app’s main screen.


As it turned out, I should have taken a little more trouble. Here is my app running on the phone:


Something has gone wrong with the list, but it looks easy to fix.

According to Embarcadero, a recent survey of over 1300 Windows developers showed that 85% get requests for mobile apps. But what mobile platform is most requested? Android is apparently at the top of the list:

  • 83% Android
  • 67% iOS
  • 33% Windows Phone
  • 17% Windows RT
  • 14% Blackberry

Is that really Windows RT (ARM) or could it include WinRT (Windows 8 Store app) I wonder? Neither are supported by Delphi yet; but at least with Android it now supports the most highly requested platform.

Cross-platform mobile development is critical today, and the new capabilities in Delphi and RAD Studio will be welcome. Is it the best approach? The trade-off is this. On the plus side, you get a cross-platform GUI framework that lets you share the maximum amount of code across all the targets you support. On the minus side, that might not be a good idea; see this post for some thoughts on that. You also get a native executable that should perform well, certainly better than an HTML/JavaScript approach, though I’m not convinced that using the NDK on Android is ideal.

How big is your Delphi Android app? Using the Hello World example above, this is what I got in debug configuration:


24.52MB storage. I changed to release configuration and got this:


That saved nearly 3MB, to 21.62MB.

Here is the RAM usage:


I would be interested in hearing from developers using Delphi or C++ Builder for Android development. How is the quality of this first release? Is the fact that you are not developing in Java a problem in practice?

Embarcadero acquires AnyDAC data access libraries for Delphi, C++ Builder

Embarcadero has acquired the AnyDAC data access libraries from DA-SOFT, including its main author Dmitry Arefiev. These libraries support Delphi and C++ Builder and support connections to a wide range of database servers, including SQL Server, DB2, Oracle, PostgreSQL, SQLite, Interbase, Firebird, Microsoft Access, and any ODBC connection.

AnyDAC is well liked by Delphi devlopers for its performance, features and support. Its architecture includes a local data storage layer similar to the dataset in Microsoft’s ADO.NET.

While it is good to see this set of libraries added to the mainstream product, developers are asking the obvious questions. What will happen to the cost and to the support for AnyDAC?

I am both scared and relieved at the same time. We took the AnyDAC route a few years ago, getting out of the BDE, and we have not regretted it for a second. My fright comes from the fact that DA-SOFT could not be beat in terms of customer support…many of us have come to DA-SOFT with a problem, only to have it fixed the next day. It is only realistic to think that with Embarcadero, this will no longer be the case.

says Dan Hacker on product manager Marco Cantu’s blog.

Embarcadero launches C++ Builder XE3: first built on Clang

Embarcadero has released C++ Builder XE3, the first version built on the open source clang front end for the LLVM compiler. This has enabled the product to support many new features, including extensive C++ 11 support and a 64-bit compiler.


While it is a shame that the old Borland C/C++ Compiler is no more, it makes sense for Embarcadero to bring its VCL (Visual Component Library) and FireMonkey framework to Clang rather than continuing to work on its own compiler.

The other big change is cross-platform support. Through FireMonkey, C++ Builder XE3 supports Windows (including Windows 8) and Mac OS X, with iOS and Android promised for 2013.

Although Windows 8 is supported on the desktop, there is no official support for the Windows Runtime (Windows Store apps). Instead, Embarcadero has a curious application framework called Metropolis which fakes the Windows 8 style but with desktop applications, as if the Windows 8 world were not already sufficiently confusing.

The big question is how compatible VCL applications created for earlier versions of C++ Builder are with the XE3 release. With a new compiler and major changes to the VCL in order to support the new compiler, you might expect some issues.

“That’s what we’ve been spending all of our time on,” Embarcadero VP Michael Swindell told me. “This is fully compatible with all our previous C++ dialects. We’ve completely re-engineered the C++ front end but it’s engineered to be compatible with C++ Builder applications and Borland C++ applications.”

I would rather hear that from developers though, rather than from Embarcadero.

Although C++ Builder is a cross-platform compiler, it only runs on Windows. A common scenario is to run in Windows emulation on a Mac, using VMware Fusion or Parallels.

Similar changes are on the way for Delphi, which uses the same VCL and FireMonkey frameworks but with the Delphi language based on Object Pascal.

Note that the new Clang-based compiler is 64-bit only. You are meant to continue using the old Borland compiler for 32-bit, making it hard to maintain a single code base for both.

Embarcadero previews Metropolis in RAD Studio XE3: fake Metro apps?

Embarcadero has released a video (embedded at the foot of this post) previewing RAD Studio XE3, the next version of the application development suite which includes Delphi and C++ Builder.

Two big new features are Metropolis applications and an new HTML5 Builder tool which looks like a next-generation PHP Builder.

Metropolis – a neat name until Microsoft back-pedalled on the Metro designation for Windows Runtime apps – appears to be a framework for apps that look like Windows Runtime apps but in reality are not. At least, that is my presumption for “VCL Metropolis applications”. The VCL (Visual Component Library) is a Delphi framework (usable also in C++ Builder) which is tied to Windows and GDI, the old-style Windows graphics API, along with many other Win32 APIs. GDI does not work in the Windows Runtime.


No matter, all we need is full-screen apps, touch input, and a don’t-call-it-Metro look and feel, and presto, Windows Runtime apps in all but name. They might even run on Windows 7.


A glimpse at the controls.


Except that there will be significant differences between Metropolis and Windows Runtime. No support for Contracts, for example, the Windows Runtime mechanism for inter-app communication; no delivery from the Windows Store; no support for Windows RT.

The big issue though is this: why would you want a desktop app to look like a Windows Runtime app? And will not users be mightily confused?

The video then goes on to talk about converting existing apps with a “Convert to Metropolis UI” menu option. It turns out though that you can also create FireMonkey Metropolis apps, and the Convert to Metropolis UI option is shown with a FireMonkey app, not a VCL app. Since the FireMonkey framework is designed for cross-platform and uses custom drawing for all its controls, potentially a FireMonkey app could be a real Windows Runtime app, though I get the impression it probably is not.


I do think Embarcadero needs absolute clarity here, which is notably lacking in this preview. There is no point in pretending that a Win32 app is a Windows Runtime app when it is not. I have asked for further information.

HTML5 Builder

There is also a quick look at HTML5 Builder.


This tool targets server-side development with PHP, as well as apps for web,iOS,Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone. My guess is that there is PhoneGap/Cordova under the covers. I also saw some jQuery in the demo.


Here is a look at the CSS3 colour picker.


Update: looks like Embarcadero found a way to fake Live Tiles as well:

Metropolis applications are really traditional "desktop" applications styled to look like the Metro UI.
The TLiveTemplate component spawns a new process in the WinRT space which is is an actual WinRT LiveTile application. The LiveTile communicates with the Metropolis "desktop" backend via HTTP/REST to start/stop the application or update the LiveTile.

The screenshots are drawn from this video, or you can watch it on the Embarcadero site here.

For more info from attendees of the RAD Studio XE3 world tour see also:

DevExpress offering Metro-inspired Tile control for Delphi VCL, plans to drop support for Delphi 7

DevExpress has released an update to its VCL component suite, version 12.1, which includes a Metro-inspired tile control. That is, it looks like a Windows 8  Metro-style application, but in reality it runs as a desktop application. The VCL components support Embarcardero’s Delphi and C++ Builder, but not the FireMonkey library that runs cross-platform.


The new release also adds a “Server Mode” for  the ExpressQuantumGrid grid control, which retrieves only those rows needed to populate the current view.

DevExpress CTO Julian Bucknall has posted about the update. He says it is time to drop support for Delphi 7 (though this is supported in 12.1):

12.1 will be the last version to support Delphi and C++Builder 2010. I will sound a further note of caution: it’s likely that in 2013 we shall drop support for Delphi 7 and Delphi 2007 (what you might call the “ASCII IDEs”), so that we can concentrate on the latest run-times and environments.

Delphi 7 is significant because it was the last version to use its own dedicated IDE built with Delphi itself, and by today’s standards is delightfully small and fast.

Bucknall has reservations about Embarcadero’s move to Clang and LVVM for 64-bit C++ Builder and eventually for the other languages too:

I’m going to say we shall treat it with kid gloves. Re-engineering a compiler so fundamentally says “breaking changes” to me, especially given the necessary extensions that are present in the current C++Builder to interface with Delphi. So, fair warning: if the changes are too severe, we shall not support 64-bit C++Builder in 12.2. It took us long enough to support 64-bit Delphi across our entire product line, and this year we don’t have the resources. That doesn’t mean we won’t ever do this (after all, Embarcadero are saying that they’ll switch completely to Clang/LVVM at some point), just that we won’t this year.

Returning to the Tile Control: it will be fascinating to see if this sort of approach, mimicking Metro with a desktop app, becomes popular. Microsoft is promising some of the same with Office 15, though we have not seen much of this officially yet. The advantage is that you can make desktop apps just as touch-friendly as Metro apps. The disadvantage is that you do not get Windows Store support, Contracts, app isolation, or other benefits of the Windows Runtime which underlies the Metro side. Users may be confused.

I doubt Microsoft will mind though. It all helps to promote the Metro style which is the distinctive feature of Windows 8.

Embarcadero adopts open source Clang for future C++ versions

A couple of months ago Embarcadero’s John Ray Thomas published a roadmap for the company’s C++ tools. Coming soon: not only a long-awaited 64-bit compiler for Windows, but also native iOS and Android support. On top of that, there are plans for “the very best in C++11 and C99 language and library compliance in the industry.”

Sounds good; but this forthcoming upgrade is not quite what it seems. I spoke to technical evangelist David Intersimone about the changes. The company is adopting Clang, an open source project which creates a C/C++/Objective C front-end for the LLVM compiler. “We’re integrating all that into our IDE,” said Intersimone. “We’re also going to be using that same toolchain world with our Delphi compiler as well.”

“We have analysed what to do about C++. Our compilers both for Delphi and C++ have been around for a lot of years, and over time it just got harder and harder to add new capabilities to make programming simpler and also to add power and richness to the languages. In C++ in particular the language continues to be updated, with now C++ 11. So we made the decision to use Clang and LLVM on the C++ side, for the 64-bit compiler. We’re going to keep our existing compiler for 32-bit Windows for now, and then eventually replace that.

“For Delphi we’re still using our existing compiler to do some of the work, but we’ve been working on a next-generation compiler for Delphi and that is still in the works. For a while we’ll have two compilers, the existing architecture compilers, and then new compilers.”

Embarcadero has its own C++ extensions to support component development, and is working on adding them to Clang. “We’re leveraging and extending the Clang compiler with the property-method-event extensions that we added to our own C++ compiler.”

It is a sad moment in some ways, bearing in mind the long history of what was once the Borland C++ compiler. Equally, it is a sensible move. Intersimone said that the work of keeping up with the evolving C++ specification was disproportionate to the benefits. “It’s a monster language, with a lot of power and a lot of complexity. It made perfect sense to fit our extensions [to Clang] versus building a compiler from scratch and having to continue to track the language into the future.”

Embarcadero can focus instead on its IDE and tools, and on the frameworks for Windows and for cross-platform.

Look out for a more detailed interview with David Intersimone in a future article for Hardcopy.

Embarcadero updates Delphi XE2, full reinstall required

Embarcadero has released Delphi XE2 Update 4. The depressing news is that you have to uninstall RAD Studio completely before installing the update. The reward is a large number of bug fixes, listed here, as well as new features:

  • Printing support in FireMonkey OS X
  • Support for Free Pascal 2.6 in FireMonkey iOS
  • New FireMonkey types and methods
  • New VCL styles
  • 64-bit type library import, for using COM libraries in Delphi

Delphi XE2 was somewhat rough on first release, so upgrading is advisable. Maybe it is now sufficiently robust to attract those more cautious developers who do not like to use new products in their first incarnation.