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  1. #1

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    What tool to recommend?

    I'm working with VB6 project now. It is used on about 200 Windows desktops, the data is stored on the server. It was started 20 years ago, for now it is pretty big - it contains about 150 forms, modules, classes. It uses SQL Server database with 150 tables, 500 stored procedures. It also uses about 50 Crystal Reports.
    My company is going to replace it with something new.
    What tool would you recommend to select for rewriting - WPF/C#, WinForms/C#, Python, Java or any other tool?
    I will be replaced by the developer with knowledge of the selected tool, but for some short period of time I'm going to consult the company management and new programmer. I have some experience with VB6, very limited experience with VB.Net and C#, so, it will be easier for me to examine the canditate if my company will go with Microsoft tool, but if other tools have some big advantages maybe it will be better to go with none Microsoft tool.

    Thank you for any advice.

  2. #2
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    Re: What tool to recommend?

    This is a very hard question to answer.

    My first impression is that this thing is probably a disaster of poorly thrown together stuff and decades of patching and hacking. As a result, since you are contemplating a rewrite an awful lot could be accomplished by rewriting it in VB6. Few enough people are decent VB6 programmers today, let alone when it was brand new.

    That could even have huge benefits if you then do a second rewrite to port it to some other toolset.


    I don't see how Python could be a serious contender. That's a hot mess, most suitable for one-off throwaway scripts and not production software that is expected to have a long support life. Python doesn't even have GUI support, you have to choose from hundreds of graft-on widget kits with iffy visual designer support - and that way lies madness. Even bringing it up as possibility should almost be grounds for dismissal. Python is not a serious option.

    If you want to go .Net or Java that's on your head. About the only thing that recommends them is that it is easier to find cheap labor to work on the code. Of the two Java at least gets you actual portability though, not the wishing and dreaming and self-denial so prevalent among the .Net Fan Club. But if portability isn't an issue then it becomes a coin toss.

    If you're in a Windows shop .Net is the safe choice. You may well live to regret it, but you can't get fired for the ill-advised decision no matter how badly your rewrite project fails.

  3. #3
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    Re: What tool to recommend?

    There are certainly no easy answers. That's why many developers have asked over the years for a successor to VB6. Unfortunately Microsoft never answered this call.

    VB6 still runs on Windows 10, of course https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/vis...b6/vb6-support
    And the VB6 programming IDE installs and runs too http://nuke.vbcorner.net/

    Your project sound quite large, and will therefore be relatively expensive and time-consuming to re-write.

    Using SQL Server is good, I would advise that you decide if your existing database (updated to a current release if it is old) can be carried over (largely) unchanged. If so this would save a lot of work (and your replacement software could be phased in).

    Choosing a language to use is more difficult. First of all, are you intending this should be another Windows desktop application, or is it likely to use the web? or a cloud platform such as Azure?

    Assuming it is going to be a Windows desktop application, as dil says, Python isn't really suitable. In C# Winforms would be closest to your existing system, but Winforms is considered dated and out of fashion. Java and C#/WPF would be usable but anyone familiar with VB6 programming wouldn't consider them to be particularly 'productive' languages.

    As a priority you should ensure that your existing VB6 application will continue to function and be supported over what could be a fairly lengthy re-write.
    Last edited by VB6 Programming; Feb 19th, 2018 at 08:46 AM.

  4. #4

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    Re: What tool to recommend?

    Initially this program used MS Access as database. Later it was replaced with SQL server. Migration was done piece by piece. First step was to create empty tables one by one and link to Access table. Then data was moved table by table. Statements in VB were replaced with Stored procedures one by one.
    It was great way to update.
    I'm dreaming about similar tool to upgrade VB6 to something more contemporary.

  5. #5
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    Re: What tool to recommend?

    Quote Originally Posted by chapran View Post
    I'm dreaming about similar tool to upgrade VB6 to something more contemporary.
    And so has every other VB "Proper" Developer since about 2002 when .Net was foisted on us.

    If most of the application's work is being done by stored procedures then "just" replacing the front end with something newer sounds viable.
    If there's still a significant amount of code embedded in the front-end application, then you're looking at a sizeable Risk in the complete re-write involved.

    There is no automated upgrade path from VB "Proper" to any other Microsoft language. They tried to ship an "Upgrade Wizard" in early versions of Visual Studio .Net but it never really worked and produced code unlike anything that you'd write yourself; it was pretty worthless.
    They abandoned it completely around VS'2010.

    Regards, Phill W.

  6. #6
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    Re: What tool to recommend?

    Quote Originally Posted by chapran View Post
    Statements in VB were replaced with Stored procedures one by one.
    It was great way to update.
    I'm dreaming about similar tool to upgrade VB6 to something more contemporary.
    There is no technical reason your SQL Server and the stored procedures can't be used in your rewritten application. But you do need to decide if your database design is good enough to be used (for any language, including VB6) for the rewritten version. The fact that you have stored procedures is possibly an indication that you could use the database, saving some of the work required.

    Your new developer may have their own views on the database design, but unless there are any major reasons not to use it my approach would be to keep the database as it is and write your new application from scratch to use that database. Do upgrade to a current release of SQL Server (on VB6) if yours is out of date.

    There isn't really a tool to upgrade from VB6. Actually there used to be a VB6 to VB.Net tool (abandoned after VB2008) and there are still some commercial tools. But if your VB6 code is what dil described as "poorly thrown together stuff and decades of patching and hacking" then any conversion tool will just give you poorly written code in a different language. And even with good VB6 code other programming languages are so different that the resulting product is unlikely to be as good as your VB6 application.

    Whenever I have been involved with this type of issue I have always found re-writing from scratch to be better than using a conversion tool.

    I don't believe I have ever seen a rewritten application (whether using a conversion tool or re-written by hand) that was better than the original VB6 application.

    I realise this doesn't help with the question of what language to choose. Sadly there is no obvious choice.

    Edit: I see my post largely agrees with what Phill W. has said.
    Last edited by VB6 Programming; Feb 19th, 2018 at 10:49 AM.

  7. #7
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    Re: What tool to recommend?

    One thing that can weigh in favor of a given programming language and its toolset is the expertise already in-house.

    If you already have people that you can use who have strong C# skills that might be a reason to go that way. I wouldn't worry about WinForms. It is far more stable than WPF with is rapid rate of churn and more people know how to get good results with WinForms. C# has a high churn rate itself, so adding WPF on top of the pile too means an absurdly high life cycle cost.

    But even though it makes solid business sense to do so, few people ever get fired for recommending C#.

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    Then there is the issue of whether or not you ought to be looking at a web front end instead. Some people will do that for everything no matter how clunky everything gets. I wouldn't bother unless significant parts of the application must be exposed to the public or a large population of business partners.


    In the end though this isn't a good question to ask in a VB forum. Most of the people here have either consciously chosen to work in VB or else they have found work supporting existing VB code. Of course the alternative is to ask in a Python, Java, VB.Net, or C# forum. Each blind man will give you a radically different description of the same elephant.
    Last edited by dilettante; Feb 19th, 2018 at 11:14 AM.

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    Re: What tool to recommend?

    WPF churn? Really? Maybe ten years ago, but WPF is just as stable/dead as Winforms at this point. Of course you can try to keep chasing the latest XAML frameworks and backend .NET updates, but backwards compatibilty problems are are least ahead of what you get trying to run VB6 on the latest OS release.

  9. #9
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    Re: What tool to recommend?

    You've got a pretty big project on your hands, I recommend reading this article before committing to a full rewrite:

    https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2000/...ver-do-part-i/

    The complicating factor of course is that staying in VB6 means that you may have concerns about the longevity of the language, so maybe a rewrite is the way to go still.

    I guess one question is why does your company want to rewrite it? Is it to add new features and functionality? Is it just to make it look more modern? Is it to get the data on the web as opposed to locked to Windows desktops? Or perhaps they want it to be cross platform? Maybe they are just having trouble finding VB6 coders to continue maintaining it?

    If it's not the last reason that I mention, and if you have a lot of logic outside of your front end forms (and it sounds like you might since you mentioned having classes, modules, and stored procedures which are good indicators of a clean(ish) separation between the front end and back end stuff), then you might want to consider keeping all the backend stuff that currently "just works" in VB6 and only re-do the front end stuff for the web or using some other cross-platform library. Effectively you first modernize only the user-facing stuff, allowing for a "phased" approach similar to your previous migration to SQL server.

    After you've modernized the front end and built an api between it an your backed, you can turn your attention to the backend and extend it in VB6 or rewrite it in another language as you see fit.

    If this sounds intriguing, then have a look at my VbFcgi application server framework here: https://github.com/jpbro/VbFcgi and running discussions here: http://www.vbforums.com/showthread.p...FastCGI-Server. I think there are other options too with IIS, but you'll have to seek those out (I'm not familiar with the IIS approach).

  10. #10

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    Re: What tool to recommend?

    Quote Originally Posted by jpbro View Post
    I guess one question is why does your company want to rewrite it? Is it to add new features and functionality? Is it just to make it look more modern? Is it to get the data on the web as opposed to locked to Windows desktops? Or perhaps they want it to be cross platform? Maybe they are just having trouble finding VB6 coders to continue maintaining it?
    The management of the company is worrying that at one moment Microsoft produces a new Windows or just releases some update which will not allow to run 20+ year old application.
    No other serious reason. There are some minor wishes to see more contemparary, maybe more convenient interface. But so far no real complaints about robustness, speed or anything like that.

  11. #11
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    Re: What tool to recommend?

    I hope you asked in a few places, because asking this question in a VB6-specific subforum of a VB6 forum is like calling a Ford factory and asking them which truck is better: Ford or Dodge.

    It's not any specific fault of VB6 developers. If you wandered over to the .NET side of the forum you'd get lots of "use .NET" affirmative answers. And if you asked some Python guys they'd probably say to use Python.

    A rewrite is a good way to sink a ship, but an aging codebase is also usually a sinking ship if it hasn't been very lovingly maintained. Picking a new language is not a guarantee it will get better. I can write really good C# and VB .NET, but if you put me on a short schedule and gave me no budget I could churn out something worse than what you have already.

    A rewrite in a new language also requires an expert in both languages. You need someone that can understand the old code AND translate it into maintainable new code. You can't use Google Translate to translate novels, and the same rule applies to software. You can't learn a new language AND port old code to it at the same time. (It's a good way to learn the new language, but you'll want to throw away the first three or four attempts until you've mastered it.)

    Speaking objectively, I don't know what to recommend to you right now. Many people are frowning and uncertain that Windows clients based on "classic desktop" have much of a support story in the future. That's not just a problem for VB6 projects, many .NET projects can't easily port to What Will Be. MS wants to sell the story that future will be UWP. Other people are betting on HTML/JS frameworks like Electron or Cordova. Still others only care about targeting the web and write backends in a myriad of languages.

    The question will be easier to answer in about 5 years. For right now, I think instead of really providing an answer, here's some feedback:
    • Your best bet at the moment is likely to be "try to turn your bad VB6 code into good VB6 code." Bad code is hard to port to ANY language properly.
    • Since you depend on Crystal Reports, try to find people that have ported other applications and see what they did. What worked for them is likely to be your best bet.
    • And actually, since they're replacing you with whoever you hire, forget them. Pick the first candidate you don't feel guilty throwing to the wolves.
    This answer is wrong. You should be using TableAdapter and Dictionaries instead.

  12. #12
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    Re: What tool to recommend?

    I'd sign anything Sitten has written above - but like to expand on his last points:

    1) "Your best bet at the moment is likely to be "try to turn your bad VB6 code into good VB6 code." Bad code is hard to port to ANY language properly."

    Full Ack - a decent rewrite in the original language itself, can reduce your current code-base down to 25%-40% of its former code-volume.
    If you are at it, try to rewrite it using "better libs" (Dlls and OCXes), which support Unicode and are less dependent on the old MS-libs (Dlls and OCXes).

    2) "Since you depend on Crystal Reports, try to find people that have ported other applications and see what they did. "
    Finding "better libs" includes (IMO) Crystal-Reports - try to find tools which directly render reports to e.g. PDF (a common format which can be stored in a DB, transfered from a WebServer to a Browser etc.).

    3) (not mentioned by Sitten)
    Stick with your current DB (SQLServer should remain a "fix-point" with regards to "handling and persisting data")
    (there's now even a version, which runs on Linux - easy to import data into newer SQLServer-versions, no need to change anything, especially if it performs decently at the moment).

    4) my own recommendation with regards to a new language or platform...
    If you go with 1), there is a certain probability, that a new VB6-compiler will come out "whilst doing your rewrite" (in the next 2 years or so).
    You will have the least "porting-issues" in that scenario, when your "new libs" included the RC5 (as your new "extended VB6-runtime-lib").

    To prepare yourself for the case, that "no new VB6-compatible compiler will happen", you should start immediately as well,
    to *gradually* replace your new "rewritten VB6-parts" *also* with "Web-based forms" (choosing one of the larger JS-frameworks, which can then
    run either in a standalone Browser - or alternatively also in a VB6-Form which hosts an IE-Control).

    "Going Web-based" with your App, also allows to "keep at least the backend-code" (those classes of your App, which communicate directly with your DB) per VB6(-Dlls).
    So for this part of your "old App", you will always find a way, to place (and run) these "non-visual, VB6-based backend-parts" on a host-machine which still supports VB6-Dlls -
    also in 20 years (since most server-environments - no matter if they run "in the cloud" or "on a Root-Server of a normal Hosting-Provider", do run VM- or container-based anyways).

    So from my point of view, you should "invite" also experienced WebDevelopers who know their way around current JS-frameworks (Angular, HandleBars, OpenUI5, etc.) -
    and also have experience with "SQL and SQL-to-JSON-transformations" (which need to be added to your VB6-based Backend, to connect more seamlessly to the JS-framework-widgets).

    Just my $0.02 on the topic...

    Olaf

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    Re: What tool to recommend?

    VB6 is doing fine.

    So well in spite of their efforts to weight their statistics against it, Tiobe even grudingly has to admit it still lives and they've even decided to claim that SQL is a programming language to help try to drive it down.

    Zombie programming languages: Could Visual Basic be the next COBOL?

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    Re: What tool to recommend?

    Quote Originally Posted by Schmidt View Post


    ..... there is a certain probability, that a new VB6-compiler will come out "whilst doing your rewrite" (in the next 2 years or so).....

    Olaf
    Olaf,
    is there something going on that we don't know????
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    CEO @ WinPIS

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    Re: What tool to recommend?

    I dont think they will break the vb runtime or kill desktop apps outright. If they do you will always be able to run vb6 apps in a virtual machine like vmware or through a remote desktop type setup, wine or reactos may even further evolve, especially if MS completely killed off 32bit desktop apps in some weird bizzaro future

    if you switch to a web based scenario you open up the doors for data leaks and hacking

    porting code to new languages is a time consuming task. You risk data integrity and have to be meticulous in what gets changed when working with live legacy data. You will always introduce bugs and lots of older nice but not necessary features will probably be lost. That app sounds like it could take a year or three to port. Even refining a code base to clean it up has to be done carefully to make sure you understand all of the interactions between components. depending on how well written and documented it is this can range from moderate to nightmare.

    I dont think I would rewrite it in anticipation of MS committing harikari. While its not out of the realm of possibility, older OS's will continue to be supported for long enough from the announcement to do the port (or at worst alternative methods to run it as is)

    Anticipated loss of expertise of the current system due to retirement is a valid concern on porting now though too.

    If they did really really want to port it now C# or cross platform free pascal (google lazarus) would be the ones I would consider. If desktop apps go though C# is not really much safer than vb6 though.
    Last edited by dz32; Apr 10th, 2018 at 08:43 AM.

  16. #16
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    Re: What tool to recommend?

    As others have said, be aware that you've asked your question on a VB6 forum so the answers you're getting are quite partisan. That doesn't mean they're wrong but you'd be doing yourself a diss-service if this was the only place you asked.

    And again, as others have said, there are so many possibilities that it's almost impossible to give you a "right" recommendation. If your company's only motivation is to use something "contemporary" then I'd probably say .Net because it's the probably the closest thing to Classic VB you're likely to find which your company will consider "contemporary". Contemporary is a bit of a red herring, though, because there's nothing to say it will last any longer than Classic - particularly if you stick with desktop. And contemporary doesn't necessarily mean better either - although it does mean it'll be easier for your company to find a coder to take it on. Overall, as others have said, a healthy dose of re-engineering is likely to be more productive than a vanity rewrite.

    The one concrete recommendation I would make is to use SSRS for your reporting function. It's by no means best BI solution out there but it's free with SQL Server (and other BI platforms tend to cost a fortune). It's the de-facto sql server BI stack so it's got lots of supportive functionality built in but it's not tied to sql server and can use just about any data source so you have portability if you need it in the future. Most importantly, it's highly unlikely to disappear. MS haven't exactly given it a lot of love over the years, so you can expect occasional development frustration but it's light years ahead of Crystal Reports.
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  17. #17
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    Re: What tool to recommend?

    If your company is looking to re-write they should really be looking at Web and Mobile options regardless of what language they use.

    How the system is going to be used going forward, how users want to access it, and how it will be hosted are all important questions you should be asking.

    There seems little point or benefit to me in simply doing a windows desktop based re-write, it will be expensive and wont necessarily be any better than what you already have.
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  18. #18
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    Re: What tool to recommend?

    > "Most importantly, it's highly unlikely to disappear."

    With Our Friends in Redmond, there's absolutely no guarantee, though.

    Some things that have [been] "disappeared":

    • VB 6.
    • .Net Framework 2.* (4 years ahead of their own Product life time schedule).
    • [Sensible] Menus in Office applications (courtesy of Office 2007's "Ribbon").
    • Every .Net Framework version prior to 4.5.1.
    • Every version 2 and earlier Word document on the planet (Office 2003, Service Pack 3).


    OK, that last one was reversed inside a week and, yes, most of these things carry on working despite MS's efforts, but it's not a record that inspires confidence.

    Regards, Phill W.

  19. #19
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    Re: What tool to recommend?

    Yes, I just re-read your original post, and you say nothing about what platforms and OSs you will be looking at in the future. IMHO, that's the very FIRST question you should ask. And, if the answer is very clearly that, "you're going to stick with Windows for the foreseeable future", then I don't know why you're considering a re-write at all. If it's running on "200 Windows desktops", it must be a somewhat formidable application, so why rewrite? Just clean and improve what you've got. Again, IMHO, VB6 is an excellent language for Windows.

    However, if there are considerations for other platforms, that's an entirely different story. And it's a question you haven't made clear.

    Good Luck,
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    Any software I post in these forums written by me is provided “AS IS” without warranty of any kind, expressed or implied, and permission is hereby granted, free of charge and without restriction, to any person obtaining a copy. Please understand that I’ve been programming since the mid-1970s and still have some of that code. My contemporary VB6 project is approaching 1,000 modules. In addition, I have a “VB6 random code folder” that is overflowing. I’ve been at this long enough to truly not know with absolute certainty from whence every single line of my code has come, with much of it coming from programmers under my employ who signed intellectual property transfers. I have not deliberately attempted to remove any licenses and/or attributions from any software. If someone finds that I have inadvertently done so, I sincerely apologize, and, upon notice and reasonable proof, will re-attach those licenses and/or attributions. To all, peace and happiness.

  20. #20
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    Re: What tool to recommend?

    Be sure to read through this thread before betting too firmly:

    http://www.vbforums.com/showthread.p...from-Microsoft

    Pay close attention to what the people near the end are saying. It's very clear that across the industry few people are interested in Windows. That's not a good sign for whether Microsoft will continue to maintain it well.
    Last edited by Sitten Spynne; Apr 16th, 2018 at 10:19 AM.
    This answer is wrong. You should be using TableAdapter and Dictionaries instead.

  21. #21
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    Re: What tool to recommend?

    However, notice that dreammanor doesn't give any references in that thread. I could believe that Microsoft is focusing on other software, such as Office, their backend software, XBox and other things. I can also believe that Windows will just become part of their background (i.e., foundation). However, and maybe I'm all wet, but it's near impossible for me to believe that Microsoft will ever relegate Windows to the scrap pile. If that's truly a trend within Microsoft, I truly would like to see some references.

    Take Care,
    Elroy
    Any software I post in these forums written by me is provided “AS IS” without warranty of any kind, expressed or implied, and permission is hereby granted, free of charge and without restriction, to any person obtaining a copy. Please understand that I’ve been programming since the mid-1970s and still have some of that code. My contemporary VB6 project is approaching 1,000 modules. In addition, I have a “VB6 random code folder” that is overflowing. I’ve been at this long enough to truly not know with absolute certainty from whence every single line of my code has come, with much of it coming from programmers under my employ who signed intellectual property transfers. I have not deliberately attempted to remove any licenses and/or attributions from any software. If someone finds that I have inadvertently done so, I sincerely apologize, and, upon notice and reasonable proof, will re-attach those licenses and/or attributions. To all, peace and happiness.

  22. #22
    Junior Member Grant Swinger's Avatar
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    Re: What tool to recommend?

    Nobody else has mentioned this so I'll bring it up. Does the project have any third-party controls? Windows updates have a way of breaking them and all you'll get out Microsoft if that happens is ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. They're only supporting the runtime and built-in controls. Third-party stuff is the responsibility of vendor who made it. Most of them are long gone or not supporting old products.

    In my experience third-party control breakage has been the #1 reason for a rewrite. If you're not using any you have plenty of breathing space and don't need to rush into anything. If you are your program could break with the very next Windows update.

  23. #23

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    Re: What tool to recommend?

    Unfortunately there is a lot of third party controls like Sheridan.

  24. #24
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    Re: What tool to recommend?

    Quote Originally Posted by Phill.W View Post
    > "Most importantly, it's highly unlikely to disappear."

    With Our Friends in Redmond, there's absolutely no guarantee, though.

    Some things that have [been] "disappeared":

    • VB 6.
    • .Net Framework 2.* (4 years ahead of their own Product life time schedule).
    • [Sensible] Menus in Office applications (courtesy of Office 2007's "Ribbon").
    • Every .Net Framework version prior to 4.5.1.
    • Every version 2 and earlier Word document on the planet (Office 2003, Service Pack 3).


    OK, that last one was reversed inside a week and, yes, most of these things carry on working despite MS's efforts, but it's not a record that inspires confidence.

    Regards, Phill W.
    Thats such a loaded post,

    VB6 yes, but the others ???

    So MS decided to change the way they did menus, that is them trying to Improve there UI and has no bearing on developing a new system

    The .Net framework is designed to iterate to add new features, you can still target earlier version if a later version is installed on a machine as the Frameworks are cumulative

    And the last one you admit was reversed

    ... so they stopped developing VB6 and your annoyed about it but there is no need just to make stuff up !

    then I don't know why you're considering a re-write at all
    Your assuming its the posters decision and not his companies. Likely the company has decided to move forward with some new technology, really they should have put some thought into what and why first!
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  25. #25
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    Re: What tool to recommend?

    Your assuming its the posters decision and not his companies
    That's my read. It sounds like the company are really asking for a vanity rewrite... just because. If that's the case then it's probably a dumb decision but it is what it is. And VB.Net's probably the path of least resistance to make them feel warm and fuzzy - which is all he'd be doing.

    If there's more than that to their decision then they really need to communicate their concerns/vision to chapran. "We want something modern" really isn't enough of a spec for him to make a decision with.


    BTW, I think framework 2 did disappear didn't it? I'm not in a position to check but from memory I think it stopped appearing in the compatibility list some time back. Upgrading a code base from 2 to later frameworks was reasonably trivial, though, whereas classic to .Net was a total ball-ache so it's not surprising that us netters barely noticed.
    You can depend upon the Americans to do the right thing. But only after they have exhausted every other possibility - Winston Churchill

    Hadoop actually sounds more like the way they greet each other in Yorkshire - Inferrd

  26. #26
    Superbly Moderated NeedSomeAnswers's Avatar
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    Re: What tool to recommend?

    BTW, I think framework 2 did disappear didn't it? I'm not in a position to check but from memory I think it stopped appearing in the compatibility list some time back. Upgrading a code base from 2 to later frameworks was reasonably trivial, though, whereas classic to .Net was a total ball-ache so it's not surprising that us netters barely noticed.
    No Version 2 of the Framework is included cumulatively when you install 3.5, i can still target Framework 2.0 in VS.

    Framework 1 & 1.1 on the other hand are out of support and cant be run on newer O/S's
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  27. #27
    Super Moderator FunkyDexter's Avatar
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    Re: What tool to recommend?

    Framework 1 & 1.1 on the other hand are out of support and cant be run on newer O/S's
    Ah, that's probably what I'm thinking of.
    You can depend upon the Americans to do the right thing. But only after they have exhausted every other possibility - Winston Churchill

    Hadoop actually sounds more like the way they greet each other in Yorkshire - Inferrd

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