When I was at SWFox 2013 (as a FoxPro developer) I was curious enough about this Xbase++ thing to attended one of their xBase++ sessions. If you didn’t know, the Xbase++ and SWFox conference merged in 2010. Conference attendance of the combined groups was about 145 for the 2013 conference. Overall the xBase++ platform and community seems like a very interesting and thriving one to me. The folks I talked to were just as passionate about their platform as us FoxPro folks are. It sure looks promising for them to continue on for many more years.
Way back in 2010, Alaska Software announced their next version, Xbase++ 3.0, code-named “PolarFox”, is coming out in a year or so. “Polar” coming from the company name, Alaska Software, and “Fox” from the targeted audience for 3.0 as FoxPro developers. Yes, that’s a long time down the road, but in my opinion, they are definitely capable to pull this off. I guess they are not in a big hurry, as I suspect they know they have one chance to get this right in order to draw in some FoxPro people. The lead developer and a partner of Alaska Software, Steffen F. Pirsig, did one of the sessions. I can tell you that he is one *very* smart, low-level knowledge guy. He knows what he is doing developing languages/platforms from what I can tell.
So, what is PolarFox?
According to their PDF, it’s the “next generation Visual FoxPro development platform.” Xbase++ has a modern IDE, it’s a compiled platform, and the files are all ASCII, so no more FoxPro binary files like SCX/VCX/FRX, which means it will work better with version control platforms like Git and Mercurial. They are claiming that PolarFox will have many FoxPro features and a high degree of compatibility with Visual FoxPro 9. They are hoping it will be an attractive platform for FoxPro developers to consider.
Here is the description of his Introducing Xbase++ 3.0 session from the 2013 SWFox.Net web site:
PolarFox is the codename of a project at Alaska Software that is not just the next-generation Visual FoxPro. In fact, PolarFox is Xbase++ 3.0 with a clear focus on user interface and visual design capabilities coupled with features such as int64, decimals and Unicode-support. Also covered is the ability of Polarfox to migrate and extend existing Visual FoxPro 9 applications while still being 100% compatible to any existing Xbase++ 1.x/2.x based application.
They have a PDF that explains a lot more about what a FoxPro-to-PolarFox conversion looks like: http://www.visualfoxpro.com.br/i/u/2108877/f/polarfox-firstlook.pdf
From the PDF link above, you will see that they listed the Pros and Cons of shooting for 100% compatibility with FoxPro, noting that in doing so “The Xbase++ language (would) become ambiguous and more complex than required”. So they are NOT shooting for 100% compatibility, rather, they claim that “(some) VFP specific commands are added to the Xbase++ language” and that “Proprietary VFP functions conflicting with existing Xbase++ runtime functions are isolated in a VFP namespace”. So, even though there is a very high degree of compatibility between Xbase++ 3.0 and Visual FoxPro 9, you cannot just run your VFP code directly in PolarFox. Rather, they will be providing a migration tool to import your VFP project into the PolarFox world which will automatically handle any syntax changes required for the Xbase++ 3.0/PolarFox world.
I don’t know exactly what that experience is going to be like, but I will likely give it a test run if they make a trial version available when it’s released.
I was curious enough after the first session to attend *two* more Xbase++ sessions. In the end, I see their 16-year corporate history and existing community as two real pluses compared to *any* of the other Fox replacements that I have casually studied so far. And the IDE has many of the newer features that are present in modern IDEs that we do not have in VisualFoxPro.
Honestly, I doubt I will ever work in Xbase++ 3.0, but I would say it looks like a very interesting and promising platform to me.
There is not much news on their website about PolarFox yet, but here is their web site: http://www.alaska-software.com/ in case you want to keep your eyes on them, or even reach out to them to express interest in PolarFox.