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The Visual Basic Environment

Visual Basic (VB) was introduced as an environment in which users were achieving a great deal of reuse. But there are reasons for this, not necessarily those that we as SSR researchers can leverage. Our working group garnered a great deal of incite into the SSR problem from this environment example.

Visual Basic (VB) provides a nice architectural framework, and allows the everyday user to develop a straightforward mental model with a well-defined process for plugging together widgets. But there are a great number of architectural assumptions made in VB. If the user is willing to buy into these assumptions (primarily interface style and functionality), then a tremendous amount of speedup can be achieved in designing a very specific class of applications, namely small, single user applications with relatively uncomplicated backends that can be implemented in a basic variant fairly easily.

Users of VB essentially do design with reuse, since they are not given the proper tools to reasonably extend the widget set. In this way the questions in the VB and SSR communities are different. The SSR community is concerned (1) with issues integrating design with and for reuse, and (2) is concerned with the design of fairly large, multiple implementor, ``long time to completion'' projects.

VB provides the user with pre-designed VBXs, which are the vehicles for all of the interface widgets (buttons, sliders, etc.) in the toolbox. In addition, a wide variety of components are available both commercially and in the public domain. But from a design for reuse standpoint, it turns out to be incredibly hard to build such widgets. They come "shrink- wrapped" and are not intended to be modified by users.

Robert Biddle compared VB to the Tcl/Tk toolkit . Both of these environments are evidence that tremendous progress has been made since X in rapidly prototyping interfaces. Less progress has been made in tools to rapidly prototype fairly complex backends, which tend to be more domain dependent than the interface architecture.

In summary, in VB, users:

Other environments with VB-like qualities were briefly discussed:

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Larry Latour
Sun Sep 17 21:09:35 EDT 1995