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The State of PowerBuilder's DataWindow

...and the plans for its future

In the early 1990s, before Windows 98, before Windows 95, before Windows NT, even before Windows 3.1, the DataWindow was being hatched by a small team of developers in Massachusetts. By small, I mean a single developer, Kim Sheffield - the "Father of the DataWindow."

Kim's prior experience in the 1980s included leading an engineering team for Cullinet Software. Cullinet's principle product was a CODASYL compliant database called IDMS (Integrated Database Management System). Kim's product was IDMS-OLQ, a component of the IDMS-DB product that allowed ad hoc queries of the IDMS database.

After a not-so-friendly takeover of Cullinet by Computer Associates, Kim made his way to Powersoft with Dave Litwack, who was a VP of engineering at Cullinet. By the late '80s to early '90s the DataWindow was taking form.

Nothing like the DataWindow had ever existed before - it allowed RAD access for reporting and updating to any SQL database. As part of the PowerBuilder tool set, it helped Powersoft crush its competition in the PC applications development environment.

As of about version 2.0 of PowerBuilder, you created a DataWindow with the "New DataWindow" dialog (see Figure 1).

In the olden days, when personal computers were hand-cranked, we only had black and white pixels (I'm joking, of course). As you can see, SQL Select, Select with retrieval arguments, and stored procedures were supported as data sources and you could have any style of presentation as long as it was Tabular or Freeform.

There was already a fairly rich set of presentation options for database columns on the DataWindow (see Figure 2).

Note, however, that the DropDownDataWindow (DDDW) and EditMask styles were not yet supported.

Individual controls on the DataWindow could be customized as well. Figure 3 provides an example of a simple edit box.

If you had done any Windows programming in the early '90s with QuickC or TurboC, you would recognize this as a godsend.

DataWindow Enhancements from PowerBuilder Version 1.0
Even though the DataWindow was unique in the development tools market, it did not stand still. Powersoft and later Sybase engineers added enhancements at every release.

Version 2.0

  1. The grid style presentation.
  2. A customized SQL update capability that allowed users to tailor how the SQL update statements were generated. You could define what columns were updateable and what columns were used in the "where clause".
  3. Dynamic DataWindows, the ability to create DataWindows "on the fly" from a SQL Select statement.
Version 3.0
  1. The cross tabulation presentation style.
  2. The graph presentation style.
  3. The ability for multiple DataWindows to share a single result set, ShareData.
  4. The editmask edit style.
Version 4.0
  1. The composite presentation style, the ability for a DataWindow to contain other DataWindows.
  2. The nested DataWindow, the ability for a DataWindow to contain other DataWindows that are related to data values in the parent.
  3. Newspaper columns were supported.
  4. Sliding columns, upward and leftward were supported.
Version 5.0
  1. An OLE presentation style.
  2. The Rich Text presentation style.
Version 6.5
  1. Command button objects could be added to the DataWindow.
  2. The DataWindow could generate HTML syntax, presaging the Web DataWindow.
  3. GetFullState and SetFullState were added allowing a DataWindow's presentation and data to be sent to a remote location.
Version 7.0
  1. The Web DataWindow made its first appearance.
  2. Stored procedures were supported for update operations.
Version 8.0
  1. Client-side scripting was added to the Web DataWindow.
  2. DataWindows inside NVOs could be used inside EAServer.
Version 9.0
  1. The DataStore no longer required a Window handle (hWnd).
  2. The DataWindow supported XML as both an export and an import format.

    Version 10.0 of PocketBuilder was released in June 2003, adding the DataWindow to handheld devices.

Version 10.0
  1. XHTML was supported as a rendering style for the Web DataWindow.
  2. DataWindow.NET made its first appearance, taking the DataWindow outside the bounds of PowerBuilder for the first time.
Version 10.2 of PowerBuilder
  1. The InkEdit edit style was added with the InkPicture style for Tablet PC support.
  2. The Web DataWindow support for nested DataWindows was added.
  3. A DatePicker/Calendar control was added to the Web DataWindow
Version 1.5 of DataWindow.NET
  1. More DataWindow object properties have been mapped to native .NET style syntax.
  2. An ExpressionBasedProperties class exposes many of the DataWindow properties that are backed by an expression. This class makes manipulating the expression easier.

More Stories By David Avera

David Avera is a staff engineer at Sybase Inc.

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