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Quartex Pascal, status

September 14, 2020 Leave a comment Go to comments

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/

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  1. September 14, 2020 at 11:22 pm

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