Visual Basic for PalmOS, by Matthew Holmes, Patrick Burton & Roger Knoell, , ISBN 0-596-00200-9

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, send e-mail
Published by: O'Reilly & Associates, go to the web site
Requires: Windows 98 or higher, a PalmOS PDA
MSRP: $39.95

PalmOS Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) are terrifically popular. Hand-in-hand with this sort of popularity is the demand for Palm OS software. There are thousands of titles available now and the number is growing at a tremendous rate. Literally millions of PalmOS-based PDAs have been sold over the past six years, so it was only a matter of time before Visual Basic (arguably the most popular development platform) was given access to PalmOS.

By integrating into the Visual Basic environment, the AppForge Basic Compiler has dropped Palm development into the heart of the tool used most often by VB Programmers. In fact, Visual Basic in conjunction with AppForge seems to be one of the favorite development environments for the Palm OS.

This book provides a framework for application design, development and installation for the Palm handheld. The authors suggest that while the reader should have experience with the property-method-event model of VB programming, no familiarity with Palm products is assumed or required. I disagree because many of the examples assume (and the UI screenshots support) the need for at least a passing familiarity with PalmOS and its software. The book is advertised as being aimed primarily at corporate software developers, software architects, middleware developers and engineering managers. These people need to understand the strengths and limits of programming on the Palm and how to integrate Visual Basic language Palm applications into their corporate IT infrastructure or product offerings. The book teaches readers how to create a host of business applications including security, wireless and database connectivity programs.

Some of the book's topics include thorough coverage of Palm user interface and database programming techniques; Data Synchronization including how to build, test and install a conduit using Visual Basic and COM; Web Clipping applications and how to interface those applications to Microsoft's Active Server Page framework; extending the AppForge Palm application using shared libraries and ActiveX-like components.

The first part of the book covers the AppForge add-in. Part I also covers the basics of the Palm programming environment and provides download access tips for obtaining the necessary development tools.

The second part of the book delves into the use of VB programming to interface Palm OS with a variety of data systems. There's emphasis on proper design and debugging too. In addition, Part II explains conduit development, designing and coding SQL applications, and lots of printed examples using conduits to illustrate desktop data exchange.

Part III covers interprocess communication, building shared libraries and generally extending the power of VB. There are a couple of good examples of how to go about accessing other applications, something which the authors describe as "tricky". You'll also find plenty of debugging tools and tips.

Cons: Lots of printed examples but no CD-ROM - yeesh - too much transcription in other words. Not enough information about standard and wireless application security.

Pros: It's about time - this book has been needed (along with AppForge) for quite some time. It's well worth the money and hopefully will help kick off a surge of PalmOS development in VB. Very little introductory nonsense and hard-sell foreword fluff - a welcome relief since 99% of all readers will already be willing or forced converts. If you don't have the time to learn a new development environment and you're an application designer interested in PalmOS for private, corporate or network use, this book is a must read. Recommended.

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