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Archive for September, 2020

Quartex Pascal Build 13b ships

September 30, 2020 4 comments

While it can come across as disingenuous, I frickin love this project! As a developer yourself you know that feeling, when you manage to unify various aspects of your program, so that it all fits just perfectly. And the way I implemented file-handling and editors is within that sweet spot.

What is new?

It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted here last, so the list of changes will be quite dramatic. I think its best to focus on the highlights or this post would become very long!

Ironwood license management

Up until 2018 one of my products was a component package called HexLicense. This is a component package for Delphi that provides serial number validation, license handling and (most importantly) serial number minting. The HexLicense components were sold commercially until 2018 when I took them off the market and open-sourced (access was via Patreon. It is now moved to the Quartex Pascal project instead).

Ironwood is now an intrinsic part of the RTL and IDE

Im not going to go into how difficult it is to produce thousands of distinctly different serial numbers based on seed data, but it’s no walk in the park.

The final implementation I made for license minting and validation, was called Ironwood. It took the engine behind HexLicense and took it to a completely new level, incorporating both obfuscation and number modulation.

Generating license-number batches is literally one mouse-click to achieve

Needless to say, Ironwood is now a part of the Quartex Pascal RTL. To make it easier to work with the IDE has a nice utility for generating license-numbers, loading and saving keys, exporting license number batches – and much more.

There is also a ready-to-rock node.js application that can generate keys from the command-line (which is good to invoke from a server or service, so that it executes as a separate process).

HTML structure provider

The IDE has a very clean internal architecture, where the actual work is isolated in a set of easy to understand classes. One of these classes is called a TIDEAstProvider class. This is a class whose job it is to parse and otherwise work with whatever content an editor has, and deliver symbolic information that can be displayed in the file-structure treeview.

The IDE provides structured parsing and also Tag suggestions. More clever functionality will be added as we move into the final phases.

Obviously we have an object pascal provider, which will quickly compile and generate an AST very quickly in memory. This is used to power both the structure treeview and the code-suggestion.

Next, we have the exact same provider for JavaScript. So when you open a JavaScript file, the file will be processed to produce an AST, and the symbol information will be displayed exactly like your object pascal is. So behavior between these are identical.

We now also have a HTML provider, with a CSS provider on the way. The HTML provider is still in its infancy, but its flexible enough to represent a good foundation to work with. So I will no doubt return to this task later to smarten the provider logic up, and better handle un-valid HTML and CSS.

Code suggestion

Code suggestion is a pretty standard function these days. We have had support for this under Object Pascal for a while now in the IDE (with JavaScript on the way).

Note: the code suggestion-box is un-styled at this point. Custom painting will be added once the core functionality is done.

The IDE displays both a structural view of the unit, as well as in-depth code suggestion

Code suggestion for HTML is now in place too. It needs a bit of polish since the rules for HTML are wildly different from a programming language, but common behavior like TAG suggestion is there — with attributes, properties and events to follow.

So even if you are not an object pascal developer, the IDE should be nice to work with for traditional JavaScript / HTML code.

Form Recognition

While we cannot activate the form-designer just yet, since we need more AST functionality to extract things like class properties and attributes “live” to be able to do that properly — we are getting really close to that milestone.

The IDE however now recognize form files, so if your unit has an accompanying DFM file, the IDE is smart enough to open up a form-page. Form pages are different from ordinary pascal pages, since they also have the form designer control on a sub-tab. More or less identical to Delphi and Lazarus.

When you open a form-unit, the IDE is smart enough to recognize it as a form, opening the file-pair up in a layout capable page, just like Delphi

It is going to be so nice to get the form-designer activated. Especially the stack-based layout, which makes scalable, dynamic layout easy to create and work with.

The QTX RTL also supports orientation awareness as a part of the visual component system. One of the first things you will notice when exploring the code, is that ReSize() ships in an Orientation parameter, so you can adjust your layout accordingly.

Help and documentation inside the IDE

The IDE now has a PDF viewer with search functionality built-in. So when you click on Help and Documentation, a tab which shows the documentation PDF opens. This makes it easy to read, learn and find the information you need fast.

The IDE now has it’s own PDF renderer, so you can read the documentation directly

Well, that was a brief overview of what has changed since last time!

Next update is, as always, the weekends. We tend to land on sundays for new binaries, but do issue hotfixes in the evenings (weekdays) if something critical shows up.

Come join the fun!

Want to support the project? All financial backers that donates $100+ get their name in the product, access to the full IDE source-code on completion, and access to the Quartex Media Desktop system (which is a complete web desktop with a clustered back-end,  compiled to JavaScript and running on node.js. Portable, platform and chipset independent, and very powerful).

A smaller sum monthly is also welcome. The project would not exist without members backing it with $100, $200 etc every month. This both motivates and helps me allocate hours for continuous work.

When the IDE is finished you will also have access to the IDE source-code through special dispensation. Backers have rights since they have helped create the project.

Your help matters! It pays for components, hours and above all, tools and motivation. In return, you get full access to everything and a perpetual license. No backers will ever pay a cent for any future version of Quartex Pascal. Note: PM me after donating so I can get you added to the admin group! Click here to visit paypal: https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/quartexNOR

All donations are welcome, both large and small. But donations over $100, especially reoccurring, is what drives this project forward.

Remember to send me a message on Facebook so I can add you to the Admin group: https://www.facebook.com/quartexnor/

Quartex Pascal, status

September 14, 2020 1 comment

With Quartex Pascal development at full steam and a dedicated Facebook group for the backers – It’s not often that I post updates here on my blog. One of the benefits of being a backer is that you have direct access to the latest builds, and also that you take part in the dialog on the group.

Be that as it may, here are some of the news happening with Quartex Pascal!

What’s new?

Quite a bit has happened since my last blog post. The IDE is coming together piece by piece, and at the moment i’m focusing on helper functionality for the AST (abstract symbol tree).

Quartex Media Desktop [Node.js powered cluster] – powered by Quartex Pascal

As you no doubt know, when a program is compiled it’s first parsed and converted into objects in memory. So every inch of your program becomes an elaborate tree-structure. This structure is what is commonly called the AST – and it is the raw material if you will, that code is generated from. In our case we don’t produce machine code, but rather JavaScript.

As you can imagine such an AST is quite complex. It has to be able to represent all the nuances of Object Pascal, as well as simplify finding information about everything. Every datatype, every record, class or complex structure, every field, expression — it all exists within the AST.

Without code to quickly traverse and work with the AST, things like code suggestions, parameter suggestions, code completion, the much loved ctrl + click — none of those would work. So while boring, it has to be done.

Oh and the mini-map has been re-implemented from scratch, so it’s now fast, accurate and responsive – and it works with mousewheel and keyboard.

Code suggestion

One of features that is bubbling up to the surface right now, is code suggestion. It’s something that we simply take for granted these days, and we dont really consider how much work it is to make. Eric has done a lot to simplify this for DWScript, but you still have to build up the codebase around it. But thankfully that is now largely done, leaving only a bit of styling and focus handling.

Code suggestion is starting to surface. Still needs work but it’s getting there

Form Files

New form is now active

In the previous build the IDE only recognized unit files (.pas), but in the current version it will check for an accompanying .DFM file. If a form-design file exists, it will open up a form-designer page rather than a pure code page.

The form-designer itself has received a bit of love lately too. Keyboard shortcuts have been added, such as holding down CTRL during a multiple selection — and changes to the layout is signaled back to the IDE and reflected in save-states changing (i.e if you change a form layout, the Save and Save All icon becomes enabled).

The form layout objects (visual widgets) have also been re-worked a bit. We want our DFM file-format to be JSON, so full JSON object persistence has been implemented. The form-designer widgets inherit from TQTXJSONPersistent, making it a literal one-liner to load and save form design.

Multi-select is now key sensitive and hooked into the signal highway of the IDE

We do need to wait for the AST explorer code to finish though, before you can start dragging & dropping widgets. Visual controls dont magically appear by themselves. Packages must be registered, and visual controls must likewise be registered with the IDE before they become known to the designer. So once the AST code is finished, we move on to packages – and finally glue the pieces together.

RTL advancements

The RTL has seen just as much changes as the IDE itself, and for good reason. Unlike “other” Web Technology tools, Quartex Pascal has an RTL that supports everything HTML5 has to offer. You are not limited to a static, fixed layout like we are used to under Delphi or Lazarus.

The ability to work with dynamic layout presents some interesting and highly efficient design opportunities. I find myself using the blocking layout model more and more, since it simplifies building up a dynamic UI that scales. Being able to work with different font scales too, like point (pt), as opposed to traditional pixel (px) closes the circle; it makes it possible to implement visual components that can scale it’s content to fit the container. This in turn simplifies writing software that renders well on both Desktop, Mobile and browser.

The new AST explorer is 40% finished. This allows you to examine the AST model down to expression level, helping you pinpoint where refactoring can be done.

The changes has been too many to list here, but I have pretty much implemented all the event delegate objects (more to come), tweaked creation speed even further – and added additional polyfill files that ensures that your code works on every browser (a polyfill is a fallback system, so if a browser lacks a feature – the polyfill is used instead).

Application models

Under Quartex Pascal the TApplication object plays an important role, much more than you are used to under Delphi or Lazarus. It is TApplication that is responsible for maintaining your layout – and ultimately how forms are shown.

  • If you are writing a mobile application you obviously want your forms to slide into view, just like native applications do on iPhone and Android.
  • If you are writing a client-server website solution, you might prefer that forms covers the full width of the browser, with variable height – with the user switching forms by clicking on a toolbar, menu option or link.
  • Perhaps you would like the forms to the stacked vertically, so that each form comes into view as the user scrolls downwards – perhaps with some fancy effect, or a static background behind the forms.
  • And last but not least, you might prefer that your web application looks and behaves like a Windows desktop application. With multiple windows that can be moved around, a normal menu system on top of each window – or on top of the browser.

The only way to consolidate these diverse and even conflicting layout models, is to implement several TApplication classes; each one representing the layout model you want to work with. So when your create a project, you pick the layout model you want – and the correct TApplication is chosen and generated for your project.

Actual menus

The RTL have seen a few new widgets added, but the most interesting one is without a doubt the Menu widget. This is a widget that mimics how a normal menu works in a real program.

Creating a menu might not sound interesting, but it’s actually a small challenge under HTML. Not the coding itself, but dealing with menu presentation without visual artifacts. Whenever you click a menu that has a sub-menu attached, the new menu is created from code dynamically. It’s positioned at the end of it’s invoker (to the right of the parent menu item) and should only show up when all it’s child elements have been created.

This was very tricky to get right under a competing system, because the way elements was created was, well, wrong. You want to avoid reflows at all cost during the constructor – otherwise there will be visual artifacts and flickering. But that is not an issue under QTX. And the speed is insane. Even with 100 recursive items on a menu container, it’s virtually instantaneous.

Un-styled menu bar. Extremely fast and adaptable.

If you are wondering why this makes any difference, you have to remember Quartex Media Desktop. This is not a simple toy with an onClick event, but can be bound into the process tree of the media desktop. The new code is barely 500 lines of code, the older version was over 3000 lines of code.

The goal for the IDE is that you can create a full desktop as a project. Not just programs that should run on the desktop (and its Ragnarok message protocol interface) – but the actual desktop system, which also covers several node.js system services.

The reason this is cool is because this enables you to deliver full scale, desktop level software purely through the browser. Such a desktop would be suitable for a school, a tutoring company, as an intranet – or for teams that need to share files, chat in realtime — and do their software development via the same web interface.

So it’s “a little bit” bigger than some mock desktop.

Come join the fun!

Want to support the project? All financial backers that donates $100+ get their name in the product, access to the full IDE source-code on completion, and access to the Quartex Media Desktop system (which is a complete web desktop with a clustered back-end,  compiled to JavaScript and running on node.js. Portable, platform and chipset independent, and very powerful).

A smaller sum monthly is also welcome. The project would not exist without members backing it with $100, $200 etc every month. This both motivates and helps me allocate hours for continuous work.

When the IDE is finished you will also have access to the IDE source-code through special dispensation. Backers have rights since they have helped create the project.

Your help matters! It pays for components, hours and above all, tools and motivation. In return, you get full access to everything and a perpetual license. No backers will ever pay a cent for any future version of Quartex Pascal. Note: PM me after donating so I can get you added to the admin group! Click here to visit paypal: https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/quartexNOR

All donations are welcome, both large and small. But donations over $100, especially reoccurring, is what drives this project forward.

Remember to send me a message on Facebook so I can add you to the Admin group: https://www.facebook.com/quartexnor/