Category Archives: delphi

Compile Object Pascal to JavaScript with Smart Mobile Studio

Here is an interesting project for Delphi developers: a compiler and IDE that takes your Object Pascal code and outputs HTML and JavaScript. 


Smart Mobile Studio, also known as OPJS (Object Pascal to JavaScript) is a project from Optimale Systemer AS, and supports not only the Object Pascal language. but also reusable components in true Delphi style. The goal is to bring Object Pascal programming to mobile platforms, using PhoneGap to wrap the generated code as a native application for iOS, Android or other platforms.

According to the developers, “The Smart object pascal dialect is more or less identical to Delphi 7”. That said, there are no pointers, and ASM blocks contain normal JavaScript instead of machine instructions. This enables use of JavaScript libraries such as JQuery from Smart Mobile code:

You can access native JS through an ASM section, create an instance of it to a variant, and then access its methods directly.

Smart Mobile Studio is currently in closed Alpha so not ready for most of us just yet. Note that there are other options for mobile development with Delphi, including Embarcadero’s official FireMonkey project which can be used with the Free Pascal iOS compiler. Embarcadero has promised its own compiler for IOS in a future version, as well as an Android option.

Delphi XE2 FireMonkey for Windows, Mac, iOS: great idea, but is it usable?

I am sure all readers of this blog will know by now that Delphi XE2 (and RAD Studio XE2) has been released, and that to the astonishment of Delphi-watchers it supports not only 64-bit compilation on Windows, but also cross-platform apps for Windows, Mac OS X and even iOS for iPhone and iPad (with Android promised).

I tried this early on and was broadly impressed – my app worked and ran on all three platforms.


However it is an exceedingly simple app, pretty much Hello World, and there are some worrying aspects to this Delphi release. FireMonkey is based on technology from KSDev, which was acquired by Embarcadero in January this year. To go from acquisition to full Delphi integration and release in a few months is extraordinary, and makes you wonder what corners were cut.

It seems that corners were cut: you only have to read this post by developer and Delphi enthusiast Chris Rolliston:

To put it bluntly, FireMonkey in its current state isn’t good enough even for writing a Notepad clone (I know, because I’ve been trying). You can check out Herbert Sauro’s blog for various details (here, also a follow up post here). For my part, here’s a highish-level list of missing features and dubious coding practices, written from the POV of FireMonkey being a VCL substitute on the Mac (since on OS X, that is what it is).

Fortunately I did not write a Notepad clone, I wrote a Calculator clone, which explains why I did not run into as many problems.

Update: See also A look at the 3D side of FireMonkey by Eric Grange:

…if you want to achieve anything beyond a few poorly texture objects, you’ll need to design and write a lot of custom code rather than rely on the framework… with obvious implications of obsolescence and compatibility issues whenever FMX finally gets the features in standard.

There has already been an update for Delphi XE2 which is said to fix over 120 bugs as well as an open source licensing issue. I also noticed better performance for my simple iOS calculator after the update.

Still, FireMonkey early adopters face some significant issues if they are trying to make VCL-like applications, which I am guessing is a common scenario. There is a mismatch here, in that FireMonkey is based on VGScene and DXScene from KSDev, and the focus of those libraries was rich 2D and 3D graphics. Some Delphi developers undoubtedly develop rich graphical applications, but a great many do not, and I would judge that if Embarcadero had been able to deliver something more like a cross-platform VCL that just worked, the average Delphi developer would have been happier.

The company must be aware of this, and one reading of the journey from VSCene/DXScene to FireMonkey is that Embarcadero has been madly stuffing bits of VCL into the framework. Eventually, once the bugs are shaken out and missing features implemented, we may have something close to the ideal.

In the meantime, you can make a good case for Adobe Flash and Flex if what you really want is cross-platform 2D and 3D graphics; while VCL-style developers may be best off using the current FireMonkey more for trying out ideas and learning the new Framework than for real work, pending further improvements.

On the positive side, even though FireMonkey is a bit rough, Embarcadero has delivered a development environment for Windows and Mac that works. You can work in the familiar Delphi IDE and code around any problems. The Delphi community is not short of able developers who will share their workarounds.

I have some other questions about Delphi. Why are there so many editions, and who uses the middleware framework DataSnap, or other enterprisey features like UML modeling?

There appear to be five editions of Delphi XE2: Starter, Professional, Enterprise, Ultimate and Architect, where Architect has features missing in Ultimate – should the Ultimate be called the Penultimate? It breaks down like this:

  • Starter: low cost, restrictive license that is mainly non-commercial (you are allowed revenue up to $1000 per year). No 64-bit, no Mac or iOS. $199.00
  • Professional: The basic Delphi product. Missing a few features like UML diagramming, no DataSnap. Limited IntraWeb. $899.00.
  • Enterprise: For more than double the price, you get DataSnap and dbExpress server drivers. $1,999.00
  • Ultimate: Adds a developer edition of Embarcadero’s DBPowerStudio. $2999.00
  • Architect: Adds more UML modeling, and a developer edition of Embarcadero’s ER/Studio database modeling tool. $3499.00

The RAD Studio range is similar, but adds C++ Builder, PHP and .NET development. No Starter version. Prices from $1399.00 for Professional to $4299.00 for Architect. The non-Ultimate Ultimate is $3799.00.

All prices discounted by around 40% for upgraders.

The problem for Embarcadero is that Delphi is such a great and flexible tool that you can easily use it for database or multi-tier applications with just the Professional edition. See here, for example, for REST client and server suggestions. Third parties like devart do a good job of providing alternative data access components and dbExpress drivers. I would be interested to know, therefore, what proportion of Delphi developers buy into the official middleware options.

As an aside, I wondered about DataSnap licensing. I looked at the DataSnap page which says for licensing information look here – which is a MIDAS article from 2000, yes Embarcadero, that is 11 years ago. Which proves if nothing else what a ramshackle web site has evolved over the years.

Personally I would prefer to see Embarcadero focus on the Professional edition and improve humdrum things like FireMonkey documentation and bugs, and go easy on enterprise middleware which is a market that is well served elsewhere.

I have seen huge interest in Delphi as a productive, flexible, high-performance tool for Windows, Mac and mobile, but the momentum is endangered by quality issues.

CodeRage free online conference for Delphi and RAD Studio starts next week

Embarcadero’s CodeRage virtual conference starts next week from October 17 2011, and is worth a look if you have any interest in Delphi or the new RAD Studio XE2.

There are sessions on 64-bit Delphi, the new cross-platform FireMonkey framwork, the new LiveBindings data binding system, Prism (Delphi for .NET), and extras including a session on Regular Expressions in Delphi and elsewhere, Dependency Injection and Delphi Spring, unit testing with Delphi, and using 3D graphics in business applications.

Of course you could wait for the replays to be available, but if this is like previous events there is a chance to ask questions to people who might actually know the answers, so there is an advantage to the live event – though the event is schedules for Pacific Time so the afternoon ones involve a late night if you are in the UK.

Delphi and RAD Studio XE2 gets its first update as Embarcadero confesses copyright issue

Embarcadero has posted its first update for Delphi XE2 and C++Builder XE2. Whether this shows commendable responsiveness, or that that the original release was buggy and premature, is a matter for debate.

Either way, the list of fixed bugs is extensive. There is also a copyright issue, since Embarcadero says – note use of that mightily abused word “may”:

We were recently made aware that some code in the 3D support in FireMonkey may be similar to code in GLScene, an MPL open source project. We worked with Eric Grange, a key contributor to the GLScene project to remedy the issue and replace the code in question.

Unfortunately applying the patch means a full uninstall and reinstall, though Embarcardero says that future patches will be based on this new build which I presume means this surgery will not be required again.

Delphi team focusing on FireMonkey, VCL winding down?

Julian Bucknall at componnent vendor DevExpress writes a thoughtful post arguing that Embarcadero will focus on Delphi’s new cross-platform FireMonkey framework in future, and that the VCL (Visual Component Library) which has been at the heart of Delphi since its first release will receive little future investment.

Bucknall notes that ex-Borland employee Danny Thorpe tweeted about 1/3 of the Delphi VCL and IDE team being laid off in Scotts Valley, USA; while Embarcadero’s Tony De La Lama blogs about new posts in Europe. FireMonkey was originally developed in Russia.

The VCL is a mature framework by any standards (Delphi was first released in 1995), and now that the 64-bit VCL has been released the most pressing demands of developers have been met.

Further, Microsoft itself is slowing development of the Win32 API on which VCL is based, in favour of the mobile and touch-friendly Metro user interface and the new Windows Runtime on which it is built. The VCL will never adapt to Metro, but FireMonkey might do so. The Windows Runtime has an API which is represented by metadata in same format used by .NET’s Ildasm. If Embarcadero can adapt Delphi to read this metadata so that you can easily call the API, then a Delphi for Metro seems plausible, but it would not use the VCL.

Delphi already works well for Windows applications, so from Embarcadero’s point of view, growth will come from cross-platform and mobile development using FireMonkey.

The main snag is that unlike the VCL, FireMonkey is far from mature, and developers are complaining about lack of documentation as well as limitations in the current implementation.

There is also a philosophical difference between VCL and FireMonkey. VCL is a “heavyweight” GUI framework in that it depends on native Windows controls, with the advantage that you get a truly native look and feel in your Delphi application. FireMonkey is a “lightweight” GUI framework which renders the UI entirely through custom drawing, which is great for cross-platform consistency, but poor if you want a native look and feel. Performance-wise, and despite the name, heavyweight frameworks often feel faster because native controls are optimised for the operating system.

The key question then: will FireMonkey be as good for cross-platform, as the VCL has been for Windows? Based on my first experiments I am not sure at the moment, though I expect it to improve. I would be interested in views from others who have worked with it.

Hands on with Delphi XE2 for Apple iOS

Last week Embarcardero released RAD Studio XE2. RAD Studio is the suite of tools based on Delphi, a language – originally called Object Pascal – and visual development tool which still has a loyal following. XE2 is the most interesting new release for years, introducing a 64-bit compiler for Windows and cross-platform support for Apple’s OSX and iOS.

I have been trying the final release, paying particular attention to the iOS support, bearing in mind the importance of Apple’s mobile platform. The RAD Studio IDE only runs on Windows, so the most convenient way to target Apple’s platform is to install on a Windows virtual machine. I used a Parallels VM running Windows 7 64-bit, hosted on OS X Lion.

Setting up for iOS development with RAD Studio XE2 involves several steps. First, you have to use the new FireMonkey application framework in order to do cross-platform work. FireMonkey emerged after Embarcadero acquired the intellectual property of a company called KSDev early in 2011, along with its founder Eugene Kryukov:

KSDev’s intellectual property has been purchased by Embarcadero Technologies, the makers of Delphi and C++Builder Rapid App Development Tools. I am excited to announce that I have joined Embaracadero’s next gen frameworks team leading a very exciting project. As a result I will no longer operate the KSDev company and will not be accepting any further orders for KSDev products.

The products in question were Delphi frameworks called VGScene and DXScene, and these seem to have been melded with remarkable speed into what is now called FireMonkey. FireMonkey controls such as buttons and listboxes are all custom drawn, which is good for cross-platform consistency, but bad if you want your application to look and feel truly native. FireMonkey is not compatible with Delphi’s VCL (Visual Component Library), though the basic controls like TButton and TEdit are similar. FireMonkey applications can be either 3D, with the emphasis on Flash-like visual effects, or HD, used for more traditional user interfaces.

Support for Mac OSX is more fully integrated than for iOS. You can easily add an OSX target to a FireMonkey application, but for iOS you have to create a new application that only targets iOS. Another difference is that Embarcadero has its own Mac compiler, whereas the iOS support depends on the FreePascal open source compiler. If you are targetting OSX, you can code and debug entirely from the Delphi IDE, whereas for iOS you have to export your project and compile in Xcode.

In order to prepare for iOS development, you first need a Mac with XCode and the iOS SDK installed. Next, install RAD Studio XE2 on Windows. Then find the FireMonkey-iOS folder in the directory where RAD Studio XE2 is installed. This contains FireMonkey-iOS.dmg. Copy this to the Mac side, mount it and run the FireMonkey iOS installers to add FreePascal and the FireMonkey libraries to your XCode setup.


If you are also doing OSX development you will also need to install the Platform Assistant on the Mac, but for iOS this is not required.

Now you can go over to the Windows side, start a new application observing all the tasty new options, and choose a FireMonkey HD iOS application.


This creates a new form sized for an iPhone 4.0, though of course you can amend this. There is a tool palette which looks well-stocked with components, but note the following warning:

While you are designing your iOS application, you can only use components that are supported on iOS devices. However, the Tool Palette might contain components that are Windows-only or otherwise not supported on iOS.

That is an annoyance, and contributes to a feeling that iOS support is a little, dare I say, unfinished. Still, undaunted I built my sample app, following the path I have trodden before by creating a simple calculator.


You might wonder why all the buttons are green. I did, too, and played around a little trying to change it. This seems to involve creating a custom style. I started doing this, but decided it was not necessary for my simple test. It does make the point that the default appearance does not have the iOS look and feel.

There is what seems to me a small bug in the designer. If you select more than one control, the sizing tabs disappear and there is no visual evidence that the controls are selected, other than a heading in the Object Inspector that reads “n items selected.” At first I thought it was impossible to select more than one control, but this is not the case. However, there is no clipboard support in the visual designer. For example, if you want several buttons that are exactly the same, you need to add them individually, then multi-select and set the properties as needed.

While developing an iOS app, you can test it by running it on Windows within the IDE. When it is ready to test on iOS, you need to export the project. To do this, you need a command-line tool called dpr2xcode.exe, which is in the RAD Studio bin folder. Running this from the command-line is inconvenient, so the usual approach is to use Configure Tools from the Tools menu to add it to the IDE.


It is puzzling that Embarcadero has not included this by default.

Running the tool creates an xcode sub-folder in your project directory, with an .xcodeproj project file along with some default icons. I then copied the entire project folder to the Mac. It is also possible to use a shared folder accessed from both Windows and Mac, though I found this does not work if the folder is on the Windows side, so I simply copied it back and forth.

I opened the project in Xcode, and was prompted to “Modernize” it in Xcode jargon, to no ill effect. At this point I could successfully build it and run in the iPhone emulator.

Of course I wanted to test it on an actual device. I attached an iPhone 4 and did the Apple provisioning dance. After the usual messing around with certificates, it worked.


and here it is on the iPhone:


It works, and to that extent I am impressed. That said, I am disappointed with the performance. This is subjective, but I am talking about the responsiveness of the UI. There are perceptible pauses, which for such a simple app is surprising. I have created this same app numerous times using different development tools, and had expected that the Delphi version would be up there with the best, but while it is acceptable it is less responsive than some of the others.

Let me add though, a Delphi developer will find the process described above a easier than learning Objective C, and I was able to create this fully working app in an afternoon so I should not complain too much.

Maybe when Embarcadero comes up with its own iOS compiler there will be some improvement.

Delphi for Windows, Mac and iOS: screenshots and video of cross-platform development

Embarcardero is drip-feeding information about its forthcoming RAD Studio XE2 in an annoying manner; nevertheless the product does look interesting and promises cross-platform native code apps for Windows 64-bit, Windows 32-bit, Mac OS X and Apple iOS. I have grabbed some screens from a video recently posted by Embarcadero’s Andreano Lanusse; the video is also embedded below.

Here is Delphi XE2 showing a FireMonkey application in the designer. FireMonkey is a new cross-platform GUI framework.


Note the list of target platforms on the right. If you squint you can see 64-bit Windows, OSX, and 32-bit Windows.


How do you compile for the Mac? It is clear from the demo that Lanusse is running in a VMWare virtual machine on a Mac. He also has a Remote Profile option set to target the host Mac:


He then refers to a “Platform assistant” which you can see running in a terminal window on the Mac.  He is then able to compile and run from the Windows IDE:


Finally, he targets iOS, though this is a separate project, not just another target. The process exports the project to Xcode, Apple’s Mac and iOS IDE:


Next, we see the app running on the iPad simulator:


The ability to target the Mac is nice to have, but I suspect it is iOS that will attract more interest, given the importance of Apple’s mobile platform.

Here’s the complete video where you can perhaps puzzle out a few more details.

Update: there is also some Q&A in the comments here.

Graphics rendering is Direct2D or Direct3D on Windows, OpenGL on Mac. FireMonkey renders all components through the graphics API, it does not support use native OS components, though Embarcadero’s Michael Swindell says:

FireMonkey client area controls are rendered by OpenGL on Mac, but appear and work just like Cocoa controls – or however you want them to. There are many different Cocoa UI styles in OSX apps, and Firemonkey can render any of them – including iTunes, or Prokit which is an Apple UI style for Pro apps like Final Cut, not available to devs via Cocoa. Windows are Cocoa Windows and the client areas and all user controls are rendered by OpenGL in HD(2D) or 3D. Menus are std and rendered by Cocoa in the menu bar, and common dialogs are rendered by Cocoa. If the “true OSX” look isn’t for you, you’re welcome to use any included Style, download a custom style, or create your own custom style.

Swindell also addresses the matter of Linux and Android:

We do plan Linux and Android. But no eta yet until we get Win/OSX/iOS out. We would also like to provide language bindings for other languages.

Finally, a bit more about that Platform Assistant:

Developer requires a PC and a Mac (or Mac with VM running Windows). You will develop on Windows, and use the platform assistant (PA running on your Mac) to compile natively to your Mac and the PA handles debugging communication between the Mac and your IDE running on Windows. Delphi (or C++Builder) and Firemonkey create compiled stand alone OSX executables that you can sell/distribute to your users. They are native Mac apps. They “copy install” and run like any other Mac app, or you can use a Mac installer if you like.

What’s coming in Delphi RAD Studio XE2: more details of 64-bit and Mac announced, introducing FireMonkey

Embarcadero’s David Intersimone has posted more details of what is coming in the new version of Delphi and RAD Studio XE2, to tie in with an international publicity tour.

One intriguing comment is a reference to FireMonkey:

with FireMonkey, the GPU-powered next-generation application platform, you’ll be able to create visually stunning HD and 3D business applications

Here is the teaser list of features:

  • Create GPU-powered FireMonkey applications
  • Build 64-bit Delphi applications
  • Create a single application and target both Windows and OS X
  • Extend your multi-tier DataSnap applications with new mobile and cloud connectivity in RAD Cloud
  • Connect any visual element to any type of data using LiveBindings™
  • Modernize the look and feel of your Windows applications with VCL styles
  • Create mobile-optimized web applications and standalone apps for iOS and Android devices using RadPHP

Hmm, so RAD Studio XE2 is targeting iOS and Android not with Delphi, but with RadPHP. That suggests some sort of HTML and JavaScript approach rather than a true native executable.

I was not greatly impressed with Delphi for PHP when I first looked at it. That was four years ago though, and since then Embarcadero has acquired Qadram, the third-party developer behind Delphi for PHP, so I would expect something more worthwhile in the forthcoming new version.

Update: Embarcadero’s Andreano Lanusse has posted more details about FireMonkey.

Embarcadero RAD Studio XE2 will have cross-platform compilation

A Google search for RAD Studio XE2, presumably the successor to RAD Studio XE which includes Delphi, Delphi Prism (for .NET), C++ Builder and RAD PHP, throws up the following page:


The actual links need a login for a closed beta unfortunately.

Hmm, what caught my eye is the entry for cross-platform applications. Good to see this coming soon.

Embarcadero promises Delphi everywhere: Mac, iOS this year, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone to follow

I noticed the following remark from Embarcadero’s David Intersimone regarding Delphi, its application builder based on Pascal.

We are putting Delphi (and C++Builder) everywhere this year and over the next 5 years. Today you can use Delphi for Desktop, Client/Server, Multi-Tier, Cloud, Web, Web Services (REST and SOAP). This year you will also be able to build for Macintosh and iOS. Linux is also on the roadmap for the coming years along with Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone 7.

Welcome news; though Delphi enthusiasts are all too familiar with bold promises. Two years ago I interviewed Embarcadero’s CEO Wayne Williams and he promised cross-platform Delphi in 2010; but when Delphi XE appeared last year neither Mac nor 64-bit (another longstanding request) was included.

That said, I am still a big Delphi fan. Mobile is a particularly interesting prospect. I have tried numerous cross-platform mobile toolkits and they all have problems; on the other hand they are improving fast and in a couple of years things like Appcelerator’s Titanium and  Nitobi’s PhoneGap may be hard to catch.

Update: what will Delphi’s Android support look like? I would be interested to know whether Embarcadero is working on its own compiler, or whether it is partnering with RemObjects and that what Intersimone is referring to is Project Cooper:

“Cooper” is a new and exciting research project going on in the RemObjects Software Labs, to bring the Oxygene language to the Java and Android platforms. The original Oxygene for .NET set out to bring a modern and “next generation” Object Pascal to the .NET world; Project “Cooper” is taking this endeavor to the next level, expanding the reach of Oxygene to the second big managed platform.

In other words, Project Cooper will compile Delphi code to Java.

Note that Embarcadero officially adopted Oxygene and offers it as its own product called Prism. It seems plausible that the same will happen with Project Cooper. Since Windows Phone is a .NET platform, there is also potential for Oxygene/Prism to target Microsoft’s mobile platform:

Windows Phone 7 – Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 7 uses Silverlight for application development,  and did I mention Delphi Prism does Silverlight?

says Jim McKeeth at RemObjects.

What about Delphi on the Mac and on iOS? There is also a possible Oxygene/Prism route here, via MonoMac: Delphi to .NET/Mono to Mac. However, I suspect Delphi developers would be disappointed if this turned out to be Embarcadero’s approach to Mac and iOS support. Programmers choose Delphi because they like compilation to native code.