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dBase rises from the near-dead

Borland plans to ship an upgrade to the venerable database development tool early next year.

Yes, dBase is still alive. Borland International (BORL) plans to ship an upgrade to the venerable database development tool early next year, CNET has learned.

Visual dBase 6.0 is a full 32-bit version of the tool for Windows 95 and NT that will include a full object development model, support for ActiveX controls, new reporting tools, better access to back-end databases, and new controls designed to speed up development.

After spending close to $500 million in 1991 for dBase, Borland stumbled in its attempts to ship a next-generation version of the software, allowing competitors like Microsoft and Computer Associates to gain a toehold in the desktop database market. The company's dBase for Windows was finally released late in 1994.

By mid-1996, it appeared that Borland's migration to 32-bit platforms like Windows 95 and NT would be a boon to the company as developers upgraded their toolsets for the new operating systems. However, large losses from poor product sales in July not only spurred the resignation of CEO Gary Wetsel, who had been on the job 18 months, but once again led analysts to suggest that Borland's transition to Internet and client-server applications was not going well, and that it should even consider killing or selling off dBase and a similar desktop database, Paradox.

Moreover, dBase still has not been able to win back developers who have been lured away to other development tools like Visual Basic and PowerBuilder.

Even though Borland is expending development resources readying the upgrade, sources close to the company said there are no plans for a significant marketing campaign. Borland will support the tool, but will not actively push it to developers. Instead, it will actively market its Delphi, IntraBuilder, and upcoming Latte Java-based development tools.

dBase 6.0 will include a host of new classes, which are pre-written code segments that can be included in dBase applications to speed up development. Borland will replace dBase's much-maligned Crystal Reports reporting tool with a new Report Class that includes a forms-driven interface.

Other new classes include a Data Grid Class for data queries; a Toolbar Class to add bitmapped toolbar buttons to applications; a Container Class, which allows push buttons and other controls to be grouped together to create new classes; a Notebook Class to add Windows 95-style notebook tabs to applications; and List and Outline Classes for allowing expandable outline views of data.

The revamped dBase also supports new data types, including Long, Double, Autoincrement, and TimeStamp data types to ease communications with other software and to perform replication. Also new is support for JPEG graphics files.

Borland will also remove so-called legacy commands from the dBase language, which date back to version 2.0.

dBase 6.0 is expected to enter beta testing later this year, and will debut early next year. Sources also said the much-anticipated Latte will enter beta testing before November, possibly as early as late October, and will ship by year's end. Borland officials declined to comment on dBase 6.0 or Latte's ship date.

Rival Microsoft is also planning to ship a new version of its Visual FoxPro dBase-compatible development tool in October.