First Looks

Turbo C# 2006: Create Model Apps With C# Alternative

Check out this alternative IDE for building applications on the .NET Framework using the C# programming language.

In 2002, Borland licensed the .NET Framework and SDK from Microsoft and launched .NET versions of its development environment. More recently, Borland's new CodeGear subsidiary re-introduced the Turbo line of products, which have been absent from the market since the mid-1990s.

Fifteen years ago, Turbo stood for inexpensive, high-quality products with lightning-fast compile times. Today, two out of three ain't bad, as Turbo C# uses the same .NET JIT compiler as Visual Studio. The Professional version costs $399; the baseline Explorer version is a free download. Upgrading to the Professional version gives you the ability to perform remote debugging. It also includes additional code templates, a repository that simplifies code reuse, and an extensible architecture—all on top of the long list of features and tools available for the free Explorer version.

One caveat that you should be aware of: Turbo C# uses version 1.1 of the Framework, rather than the more current 2.0 (or the emerging 3.0). You cannot use Turbo C# as an equivalent replacement for Visual Studio, but there is still much to recommend the product if you can accept that limitation.

The IDE is a descendent of the environment Borland inherited with the acquisition of TogetherSoft years ago and is shared across the other Turbo products. Files are organized into projects (but not solutions), and the files are equivalent to what you would expect developing C# applications in Visual Studio.

The development approach is similar. You draw the application user interface on a visual palette using the same .NET controls you would in Visual Studio. Double-clicking on the form or on individual controls opens the code window, and you can start adding logic to event handlers. Like Visual Studio, Turbo C# employs code completion tools that can take an object as it is being typed and pop up methods, properties, and parameters to complete it.

Turbo C# lets you build full UML models of your classes and then convert them to application source code—a more full-fledged treatment than the class diagrams available with Visual Studio. You can also create ASP.NET applications (again, with the 1.1 Framework), writing code-behind the Web page, and executing them on the Cassini Web server. There are a variety of other file types available, including HTML, XML, and stylesheets. These enable you to create a wide variety of rich client and Web applications. CodeGear includes the Interbase DBMS with a license for up to 20 simultaneous users and 80 logical connections, as well as support for MSDE 2000.

Anyone experienced with Visual Studio will have no problem getting used to Turbo C#. It features a similar layout that includes a control palette, property window, and project explorer. The default locations are different, but you can move them around to your liking. This tool relies on the Together IDE, so you have a menu devoted to refactoring, which incorporates a fairly robust set of refactorings that you can apply to your code. You can also create and run unit tests from within the IDE.

The System Requirements include a 1.4 GHz Pentium III/4/M, 512KB of memory, and 300 MB of disk space (separate from the .NET Framework and SDK). I ran it with close to the minimum configuration, and performance was adequate, perhaps a shade better than Visual Studio on the same system.

When using this product, it's hard not to escape the obvious question: Why would a development team, student, or hobbyist want to use Turbo C in lieu of the version Microsoft provides? Cost is one answer; the Professional version is substantially less than the full Visual Studio. But the Explorer version and the Microsoft Express single-language products are both free downloads. Express also gives you the .NET Framework 2.0, whereas the Turbo version gives you tools such as unit testing, an integrated database, a Web server, and refactoring.

CodeGear TurboC# 2006
Phone: 831-431-4109
Price: $399 for Professional version; free Explorer version.
Quick Facts: Alternative IDE for building applications on the .NET Framework using the C# programming language.
Pros: Comprehensive and inexpensive IDE for building rich client and ASP.NET applications in C#; includes some tools and features available only in higher end editions of Visual Studio.
Cons: Works with Framework 1.1 only (update is due later this year), significant overlap with Visual Studio editions.

About the Author

Peter Varhol is the executive editor, reviews of Redmond magazine and has more than 20 years of experience as a software developer, software product manager and technology writer. He has graduate degrees in computer science and mathematics, and has taught both subjects at the university level.

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