Tag Archives: firemonkey

Embarcadero preparing Delphi, C++ Builder XE3 release

Embarcadero has announced a world tour to promote its forthcoming XE3 development suite.


But what is in it? No details yet, but a few clues:

  • Windows 8 “look and functionality” for VCL and FireMonkey apps
  • A new edition of the FireMonkey cross-platform framework, called FM2
  • A new tool called HTML5 Builder.

There are a few more clues in a leaked PDF document on what is new in Delphi and C++ Builder XE3. This refers to “full support of the Windows 8 Metro user interface” and describes new project wizards for “VCL Metro Desktop Application” and “FireMonkey Metro Desktop Application”.

Since “Desktop” normally means non-Metro in a Windows 8 context, this phrase is puzzling, making me wonder if the tool will build apps that look and feel like Windows Runtime apps, but really are not. That would be unsatisfactory, because features like Contracts and Live Tiles only work with real Windows Runtime apps. Or is Embarcadero is planning full Metro support and is distinguishing from mobile apps.

There are also changes in FireMonkey to add support for Actions, Anchors, and Layout managers. Sensor and gesture support will be important for Windows 8 apps.

Finally there will be a SQLite database driver in XE3.

All the above, save the tour announcement, is unofficial and may be wrong or subject to change. I doubt the Metro name will feature so prominently in the eventual release, for example. And Metropolis?


Looking at the wording here seems to confirm suspicions that Delphi and C++ Builder are not getting true Windows Runtime support:

  • Create Delphi, C++Builder and Prism applications with Windows 8 styling and functionality
  • Create HTML5 web apps and mobile apps for Android, iOS and more with new HTML5 Builder
  • Build Windows 8 apps with WinRT using Prism XE3 in RAD Studio

Otherwise, why would Embarcadero state “WinRT” for Prism but not for Delphi and C++ Builder?

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.

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.

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.

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.