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MS debuts Visual Basic

Microsoft finally spills the beans on its Visual Basic 5.0 toolset, disclosing the final feature set and a ship date for its flagship development tool.

Microsoft (MSFT) finally spilled the beans on its Visual Basic 5.0 toolset today, disclosing the final feature set and a ship date for its flagship development tool which builds client-server and intranet applications.

Visual Basic 5.0 Professional Edition, which will hit store shelves by mid-March, includes a long-anticipated code compiler, which drastically improves application performance, according to Microsoft. Company officials cite studies which show applications built with VB 5.0 run up to 20 times faster than those constructed with the previous version of the tool. The compiler will most directly benefit large Visual Basic applications, said officials.

"If you have 100,000 lines of code in your application, you're going to see a big improvement in performance [with VB 5.0]," said Jon Roskill, a Visual Basic product manager at Microsoft.

VB 5.0 allows developers to generate compiled applications, using technology borrowed from the company's C++ compiler, as well as VB's traditional interpreted applications. Roskill said developers may choose to deploy interpreted code, which requires a run-time component, to keep applications small enough to be distributed electronically. One example would be an application intended for distribution across the Internet.

Also new in VB 5.0 is the ability to generate ActiveX controls that can run within the company's Internet Explorer Web browser or be used in other applications.

Other features of VB 5.0 include the ability to launch Visual Basic applications as Active documents so that they can be loaded onto Web servers. VB 5.0 will also include support for the DCOM cross-platform technology and Microsoft Transaction Server so developers can build cross-platform transactional applications.

Originally expected to debut last December, Microsoft delayed VB 5.0's shipment in order to synchronize elements of its tool family in anticipation of Visual Studio, an upcoming development tool bundle which includes VB 5.0, as well as Microsoft's Visual C++, Visual FoxPro, and Visual J++ tools. Visual Studio is also set to ship next month, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft has not disclosed pricing for VB 5.0. Company officials said today that the tool will be available in three versions: Visual Basic 5.0 Leaning Edition, a bare-bones desktop package aimed at beginning developers; Visual Basic 5.0 Professional Edition, detailed today; and Visual Basic 5.0 Enterprise Edition, which will include code reuse and management tools.

The company today posted to its Web site additional information on planned VB 5.0 enhancements.