Pen Computing Issue #5

June/July 1995

Windows Software Review

PenRight! for Windows

Taking cross platform development a step forward

The marketplace for PDAs, pen based computers and mobile computing platforms is being defined by the people who write application software for the industry. Development tools attract developers to any particular platform, great tools attract great developers. PenRight! for Windows is just such a great tool.

And why is that?
PenRight! for Windows has succeeded in reaching quite a few goals that greatly ease the burden people or companies needing to implement systems on mobile platforms will face. As orchestrated by Philip Shoemaker, PenRight! Corporation's architect of the PenRight! for Windows product, PenRight! for Windows provides support for almost all MSDOS based, MSDOS DPMI, and MSWindows based pen enabled platforms with fast running code consuming less RAM.
If you look carefully into users' needs, as software developers who want to stay in business do, these efficiencies defeat the universal problems with mobile computing platforms: slow execution of code and short battery life. Slow executable speed was the major complaint about first generation PDAs such as the Casio Z-7000/Tandy Zoomer. PenRight! Pro and now PenRight! for Windows have come along to rescue this highly underrated platform, and the rest of the MSDOS and MSWindows stable of mobile platforms. A big requirement was to be able to incorporate new technologies and peripherals such as fax capability and recognition technology improvements. A suite of PenRight! applications including a calculator and an address book with built-in fax capability is available as a separate bundle from Casio.
As with the previous generations of PenRight Corporation's software development kits, the PenRight! for Windows tool allows the programmer to not worry about what the target platform of an application is. By providing an absolutely consistent look and feel for everything from the Zoomer to the Pentium, PenRight levels the playing field, bringing pen enabled application development into the hands of anyone who has written some C language code, the lingua franca of today's desktop computers. PenRight! allows mobile computing platform developers to leverage this huge pool of programming talent onto mobile computing platforms.

A Legacy Improved
PenRight! for Windows is the successor to the well accepted PenRight! Pro Software Development Kit. PenRight! Pro is designed for use on MSDOS based platforms, which includes PDAs running GEOS, such as the Casio Z-7000/Tandy Zoomer. PenRight! Pro provides a consistent environment across many different devices, and that helps application developers like me from having to learn the ins and outs of every different type of hardware platform a user may wish to run my application on.
Well over a thousand vertical applications on a large variety of platforms have been created using PenRight Pro! Many of the developers of these applications were looking at porting their apps over to the fast growing community of Windows based pen computers. So the move to MSWindows is a no-brainer for the aggressive PenRight Corporation. PenRight Corporation has essentially added a vast new marketplace for its development tools, Microsoft Windows.
By producing applications for the two most popular computer operating systems in the world, PenRight! for Windows has placed itself squarely in the major leagues for pen enabled application development.

The Big Story
"Because of PenRight!'s unique design we're able to eliminate our customers' risk of having to choose between building applications for Windows or DOS. Now with the click of a button they can have both." said David Marino, president of PenRight! Corporation.
The best part of this is that PenRight! for Windows will move an application's source code over from PenRight! Pro DOS to MSWindows or, demanded by quite a few shops, DOS DPMI platforms. Further, PenRight! Pro will produce source code for both Windows platforms, and non Windows platforms from the same work files. This is a life saver. Sad to say, some mobile platforms are gone, such as Compaq's pen based Concerto laptop. Software specific to any platform is a white elephant before it is even completed! Companies that have software developed for a specific PDA or mobile computer are at risk of customers switching to newer, cheaper platforms as the PC wars move down to the handheld arena.
The project created or imported into PenRight! for Windows can run on all the platforms currently supported by PenRight! Pro, while also producing code for Microsoft Windows. This allows companies to invest in a single source code base, while deploying systems on a multitude of platforms. That's the kind of leverage that today's change or die world demands of software developers.
PenRight! for Windows cross platform capability is a big bonus for software developers. It means a scientific calculator I wrote for the Tandy Zoomer will now run under Microsoft Windows, with almost no further effort on my part beyond clicking a button in the PenRight! for Windows application. That's a big gift to a small software developer who cannot afford to hire an army to staff a department for every device and hardware platform out there.

Does it have support for you know what?
PenRight! for Windows is Palm Computing's Graffiti enabled. If the platform is supported by Palm Computing, then PenRight! will be Graffiti enabled on that platform. The programmer or the user can optionally choose a previous generation recognizer built into PenRight! platform runtimes. Unfortunately, Palm Computing is not currently shipping a recognizer for MS Windows (though, ahem, it exists). But, PenRight! for Windows is already enabled to use Graffiti when it does become available to Windows. Applications I have built with PenRight! on my development PC without Graffiti work flawlessly on my Tandy Zoomer with Graffiti.
Along with the trademark Graffiti single character cell data entry window, PenRight allows text to be entered anywhere on the screen and still recognized by the Graffiti recognizer. Another small departure from the Graffiti standard is a horizontal line drawn from right to left across any number of characters will erase all the characters under the line.
Another nice touch is provided by PenRight!'s Susan Sico who is responsible for the incorporation of the Graffiti recognizer engine into PenRight!. Her sample code gives users a facility for "macros", or simple shortcuts, for long words or phrases. For example "Enter Your Social Security Number" could be encoded in, say, 3 characters, "SS?". As is to be expected, PenRight! runtimes all come with popup keyboard support for hunt and peck character entry.
A Visual Pen Computing Toolkit
PenRight! Corporation has always been a big believer in the benefit of visual tools. That means it is easier to draw a form on a screen than it is to write the code to do the same thing. PenRight! for Window's Integrated Graphical Environment lets you write programs for a pen computer the same way that Microsoft's Visual C++ or Visual Basic allow programmers to write programs for Windows. To a professional programmer, that means you write code where it's easier to do so, and you draw forms where that's easier.{ Here's the spot to insert the main graphic of all the tools }
The Integrated Graphical Environment runs as an MDI, or Multiple Document Interface, application, allowing for simultaneous editing of multiple projects and multiple views of the same project. A Project Window supports a graphical tree of everything in the developer's application. This includes databases, forms, and code. This is a sort of schematic view of the application, where every form, or screen, gets its own icon. Starting from an icon called Start, you draw lines by dragging the mouse to connect one form with another. For example, a button labeled "Help" on a form could be connected to a form designated to display help text.
Double-clicking the mouse over practically anything in the Integrated Graphical Environment launches a Code Editor window. This window contains all the code written by the programmer, or by PenRight! for Windows itself. The Code Editor sections code up into specific Events and Functions. An Event can be a ButtonPress or ListScroll, or any event PenRight! Pro has a built-in understanding of. A Function can be anything the programmer wishes to create, such as a function to compute the square of a number, or look up a name in a database, or anything else. Programmers experienced with object oriented programming's notion of a browser window will appreciate this window immediately over a plain vanilla text window such as the NotePad program that comes as an accessory in MS Windows.
Associated with every form, button, text field or other visual object in the project is a Hierarchical Property Sheet. This is a particularly useful idea. Associated with any drawn object comes a bevy of information that is often hard to get a single view of. A simple line of text, such as, "Enter your first name:", contains the following properties: ID, left, top, height, width, text, color, font, font size, font style, and pattern. Each type of visual object has its own properties, and some properties-such as the font, font size and font style-form their own subgroup. The Hierarchical Property Sheet, activated by means of a popup menu when the user presses the right mouse button, provides a very smooth editing environment for this disparate information.
PenRight! Corporation is targeting the commercial vertical market application developer who needs to do mobile data collection. So a database suite of services has always been part of the PenRight programming tools. So it is with PenRight! for Windows. The user merely clicks on the toolbar's Create Database icon, and a database icon is added to the project. Double clicking on this icon brings up a database schema manager window. This window controls the layout of a database table needed by the application. The database files are laid out in the PC world's ubiquitous dBASE file format, understood by practically all database manager software.

Help Me!
PenRight! for Windows contains an on-line help facility that provides the entire API (Application Programming Interface) reference. This is very handy when a programmer is focused on the screen, and does not wish to break his or her concentration for a long hunt for a misplaced manual. PenRight! for Windows also sports the currently popular toolbar that allows users to click on individual icons for specific actions such as "Open Project", "Help" or "Undo".

Future Plans and Add Ons
PenRight! Corporation has just announced a bundling arrangement with Casio, manufacturer of the Casio Z-7000 and Tandy Zoomer, that includes the PenRight runtimes, and a small suite of applications that are very useful to have as accessories to an application. These are PenRight runtimes, a phone book application with built in fax, a program launcher window, a calculator and the Graffiti recognition engine.
While Chris Temple of the marketing department at PenRight Corporation keeps to himself on this, PenRight! for Windows has its eye on moving its code onto other, unnamed platforms in the near future. My own, non confirmed speculation is that OS/2 would be easy, and that, followed by the Apple Newton would be a pen based grand slam!
The new PenRight!for Windows SDK will be released in May. List price is $595. Upgrade price for developers currently using PenRight!Pro v3.6 is $349.

PenRight! Corporation Corporation can be reached at (510) 249-6900.

Bob Besaha works at Strong Software, Inc. His work has been published in PDA Developers and other publications. Mr. Besaha can be reached at