Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Tools of the real world

I should explain what it is I do with Delphi every day, which will maybe give a background as to why I've become what I consider a conservative developer. Conservative, that is, in terms of what software we use. The company I have worked for for the past 9 years develops three main products (payroll, HR and Time & Attendance, combined as a suite), written for Windows using Delphi.

Although we sell that product, maintain it and enhance it, we also write a lot of bespoke plug-ins and utilities to complement it, for the particular organisation that it is going into.

Given that very simple overview, I'll go on in coming posts to what third-party tools we are using, why we selected them, and maybe why we are still using them even though there might be a better or more up to date alternative.

I think the key point to make is that this is real life. This isn't the ideal world of (the fantastic) Coding Horror, these are real-world, business-oriented decisions that are made because we are under tremendous pressure to deliver, we have a 9 year old project and literally dozens of plug-ins and utilities that rely on consistency throughout.

It also doesn't help that this was only my second job which I started at the age of 23. It turns out I didn't know it all then like I thought I did, and God knows I don't know it all now. So there are some mistakes of youth that are still embedded in the product that occassionally we have to work around. The company have been very good in the past in allowing me an extra month or so to refactor some of the big ones out, even though the end result to the user is no change. Which in the long run is time well spent because future work can then be written a lot faster, neater and cleverer.

It may come as a shock now to learn that, as a base product, we are still using Delphi 6. I will come to why at another time, but it may explain why we're using some of the third-party component sets that we are. I will go through each of these individually over the coming posts, exalting them, damning them or just saying why on earth we're using that one instead of another one. They are:
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