A User's Review of Liberty BASIC Workshop
LBW Authored and Published by Alyce Watson
This Review by David Drake
Program name: Liberty BASIC Workshop for LB3 version 3.1
Review date: February 21, 2003
Available at: http://alyce.hytext.com/workshop.htm
Download size: 3.2MB
User's Rating: 1,000,000,000 Stars
Since the introduction of Liberty BASIC there has been a need a comprehensive development environment specific to the language. The editor included with LB has certainly improved with age, and the version that ships with LB3 is the best yet. Experienced users will admit, however, that it lacks panache.
Alyce Watson's IDE, Liberty BASIC Workshop (LBW), definitely has panache.
LBW is a professional IDE specifically for Liberty BASIC programmers. It is available at Alyce's Restaurant http://alyce.hytext.com/workshop.htm. The 3.2MB shareware download is fully functional for 15 uses. To continue to use it, registration costs US$20. If you want to save some dough, buy the Bundle of Tools, which includes Liberty BASIC Workshop, Mastering Liberty BASIC 3, and Game Workshop for US$30.
NOTICE: This review is only for Liberty BASIC Workshop of LB3. Alyce also has an older version that is just for LB2.
How Liberty BASIC Workshop Resembles the LB Editor
- Syntax coloring capabilities
- Auto-indenting option
- Hot-key compiling (F5 to compile and run, F6 to make a TKN, F7 to compile in DEBUG mode, and so on)
- Quick access to the LB help file
- Load and save BAS files
- Standard editing features: find, replace, cut, paste, and copy
- Ability to insert files
- Ability to jump to branch labels
The similarities end there. Look out, world...
Outstandingly Amazing Great Features
LBW has several really BIG features that LB users, seasoned and novice, will quickly come to appreciate.
- Icon Workshop: Yes, LB ships with a built-in icon editor, but not like this one! It is a loaded application by itself. The best feature allows the user to load a bitmap of any size, then window aroud the area to use as an icon. The icon is automatically scaled to fit, then you can edit it even more in icon mode! When you paint, it simply fills in the monocolored area up to the next transition. Simple and powerful, Icon Workshop with LBW is like getting two great applications for the price of one.
- Syntax Helper: Not sure about how to use an LB keyword? Type in the command, highlight it and press F4. An example of correct usage will appear in a small box below the cursor. How cool is that?
- Syntax Viewer: Most users will rush to the LB help file to look up the proper usage of a command. With LBW's Syntax Viewer, select a command from the dropdown list, copy the syntax example to the clipboard and paste it into your application. Easy as pie w h angle1 angle2!
- Packaging Wizard can package your little LB creation with just a few mouse clicks. It will place your resource files, the LB runtime engine and all needed DLL/SLL files into a directory. LBW will even zip the group of files into a single compressed file! Getting your software out into the world has never been easier.
- Toolbar Maker creates a REAL Windows toolbar for your LB applications. This is amazingly useful and easy! Alyce even provides the icons for your buttons. These toolbars make LB applications look absolutely professional.
- The API Wrapper and Printer API Wrapper are summaries of over 52K of Windows Application Program Interface calls formatted JUST FOR LIBERTY BASIC. No more guessing about those dadgum flags and switches. Alyce makes it easy by giving us the libraries ready-to-use.
- Bitmap File Preview Tool that allows you to create a LOADBMP list to insert into your program. This saves lots of time, especially for game mavens.
- The Media Preview Tool gives the user the power to preview MIDI or AVI files. But wait! There’s more! Do you like the file? LBW will then copy to the clipboard code to play that media file in your program! Want to add MIDI music or animation to your game or application? With this previewer, it couldn't be easier.
- Code Key Preview Tool show the user the ASCII values for all 256 text characters and the virtual key codes for function, arrow and other keys. I love this one!
- Multiple Document Interface: LBW can contain many programs in separate windows. Switch back and forth using the Window menu, or tile or cascade them to make cutting and pasting between programs easy.
The GUI Builder
No one is more dedicated to Freeform than yours truly. However, the GUI builder in LBW definitely deserves a close look. When the user clicks the NEW GUI button, a window properies dialog appears (below). In this dialog, one may choose from most of LB's supported window and control properties (much like Freeform). This builder also allows the user to include a real statusbar, tooltips and a timer loop.
One small shortcoming of the GUI builder is that it supports only the following window types: window, window_nf, dialog, dialog_modal, graphics_nsb, and graphics_nf_nsb. This omits several graphics-type windows, several dialog-type windows and the window_popup type. This minor shortcoming won't limit you, though: The supported types account for 95% of the windows you are likely to need.
Adding controls to the window is a snap. Simply click the icon of the control to add (Freeform users will find the icons very familiar) and it pops into the GUI. A properties window for that control appears.
The user may drag or dynamically resize any controls. One great advantage of controls in LBW's GUI builder is that they are REAL WINDOWS CONTROLS. In other words, when you add a button, the object that appears in the GUI window is a true, active button. This is great because the controls you create will appear as they should for your unique operating system and system color settings. One can even arrow or tab through the controls. No more guessing!
On the down side, one feature that the GUI builder lacks is the ability to copy a control.
Adding menus is also easy. The menu editor closely resembles Freeform's.
Forms may be saved and reloaded. The compiled code that the builder generates is clean and compact, with just enough built-in commenting to make it easy to understand. While not as comprehensive as Freeform 3, this GUI Builder is adequate for most window creation needs.
Oh, for those who simply MUST use Freeform, they may still activate it by selecting FREEFORM from the TOOLS menu. ;-)
Other Tools Right at Your Fingertips
The following applications can be activated directly from the menu:
- File Explorer
- Default paint program
- Default text editor
- Default word processor
- Default wave file player
- Default calculator
These construction tools are available through the menu:
- Array Maker makes making arrays effortless.
- Menu Maker pops menu code into place quickly, or you can use the included GUI builder.
- Message Box Maker allows you to make thos "official" Windows dialog boxes (you know, the ones that say "Abort-Retry-Ignore" and so forth).
- Snippet Library is a place to store your most useful bits of code.
- Mask Maker can convert a single bitmap or a whole folder of bitmaps into masked bitmaps! This is a must-have for game builders.
- AVI Maker pieces together a series of your bitmaps into an AVI file.
Several useful preview tools are included with Liberty BASIC Workshop:
- WAV File Preview Tool (single-click playing of WAVs in a folder)
- The RGB Color Preview Tool lets you dynamically vary red, green and blue values and see the result.
- The Color Dialog Previewer opens up a standard Windows color dialog window so that the user can select from amond a pallette of colors.
- Color Name Preview Tool shows the actual color for each standard Liberty BASIC color name.
- Font Dialog Preview Tool opens a standard Windows font dialog so that the user can browse fonts available on the computer.
Little Features Mean So Much
- LBW highlights the syntax to make it easier to read and debug. The user may change these colors to suit his needs.
- Need to jump to a specific line number? Select "Go To Line" from the EDIT menu and jump right there.
- The user may set the editor font to suit individual tastes.
- LBW includes a "hot button" to which the user may assign any application he wishes.
- Define a optional help file that can be activated under the HELP menu. Mine is configured to bring up Mastering Liberty BASIC 3, Alyce's excellent LB reference book and tutorial.
- Drag and drop basic files from your File Explorer into LBW for easy editing.
Try Liberty BASIC Workshop once and you'll put away the LB editor. US$20 is nothing short of a steal for something this useful and powerful.