What is the state of Clarion and its ecosystem?

Hello! I’m an outsider looking in. A few years ago, I got my hands on my dad’s old copy of C5.5 Enterprise and I had the opportunity to play around with it. More recently, I’ve had the pleasure of maintaining an importer as part of my C# application to help users migrate away from a discontinued Clarion app, and my interest was renewed.

I’m curious as to how the tech stack behind Clarion apps and the development environment has changed since 5.5. The SoftVelocity website is very opaque. I’m finding references to Visual Studio project files, so perhaps it’s switched to using that as an IDE? It’s surprisingly difficult to find this kind of information.

I’m also curious as to how healthy the community is. The dead links and broken websites I keep finding aren’t instilling a lot of confidence, so I’m glad I found this forum.

Hi Blake, Is your dad Mark? Well Clarion is now at version 11 and some of the main differences between C55 and C11 are that we no longer use a cooperative threading model we have a real Windows threading model so that things can run concurrently instead of being traded in and out of memory. The IDE is now a 32 bit one. There has been a few additions to the list of databases supported.

The main newsgroup is at news.softvelocity.com you will need your dad registration number to log in. There are also several skype chatgroups available.

His name is Dean. He was active up until maybe 10 years ago. I suppose I could lurk around a bit if that’s still the main place to be.

Hi.
I would say the ecosystem is healthy. Check Clarionlive.com, it has heaps of info. The IDE is now based on SharpDevelop IDE which is VS like. Updates come outevery few years so it 's a;; good. :slight_smile:

I see a bunch of posts from Dean in the .chat news group from 2015. Hope he’s doing well.

I’m curious as to how the tech stack behind Clarion apps and the development environment has changed since 5.5.

Well 5.5 was released in 1998 I think, so 20 years down the road, and yeah things are a bit different now.
Clarion 6 introduced a new threading model, Clarion 7 a new IDE, Clarion 8,9, 10 and now 11 have all iterated on that with improvements and so on.

The IDE is based on an early version of #Develop - which in turn was a clone of an early Visual Studio, so there’s some overlap in terms of the way things work. (But the Clarion IDE and VS IDE have gone down quite different paths.)

The SoftVelocity website is very opaque.

That is an understatement. It gets a refresh every decade or so, but basically no contains no real meaty content.

I’m also curious as to how healthy the community is. The dead links and broken websites I keep finding aren’t instilling a lot of confidence, so I’m glad I found this forum.

Clarion has been around a LONG time, and lots of folk have come and gone, and built and abandoned web sites along the way. The community is certainly a lot smaller now that it was back in the 90’s - partly because there is more competition now, and partly because there has been zero effort from SV to market the product to new users. Also the development landscape has changed - these days programmers expect to get their tooling for free so selling a commercial development system is a tough sell.

Clarion always attracted two distinct groups - one that did contract programming, generating small custom apps for individual customers - and another that build commercial products that happened to be written in Clarion. The first group is largely defunct now (building custom apps is a tough gig) and so the folk that are left tend to have big mature systems.

Online the newsgroups are still alive, as is this site, clarionlive.com, nettalkcentral.com, capesoft.com and so on. Even icetips.com (one of the original sites) is still going. There are also numerous Skype chat groups which are active 24x7 (but you have to be invite into those because of spam so let someone know - here or elsewhere - if you are interested.)

Cheers
Bruce

Oh and the 6th ClarionLive conference (CIDC 2019) will happen this year in September, celebrating 10 years of ClarionLive. see www.cidc2019.com for details. Attendance in either Orlando or Online is always a highlight of the year.

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The lesson files don’t seem to have changed since C7, which is not encouraging for newbies like me. But the Clarion Live group is very vibrant and helpful. Also these forums!

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That’s one thing I noticed, that it seems like a very tight and isolated community. There’s a good paid component market but no open source to speak of. I gather that there was a big push to go towards open source many years ago, but that fell apart. Is that right? Are there any active or past community projects outside of SV to write some alternative tooling or at least a compiler?

I think it’s tight partly because people have been around a long time, partly because there’s never been an endless September, and partly because most of the places we hang out “real names” are used so that leads to a lot more general politeness (although some folk still like to troll from time to time.)

There’s some open-source (Mark has posted a bunch of stuff https://gist.github.com/MarkGoldberg), Randy Rogers posted his work (💫 Randy Rogers, Devuna - Code base available to the Clarion community), ClarionLive has a bunch of open source at https://www.clarionlive.com/Utilities.Htm) and there’s a fair bit of other stuff around as well.

That said Open Source in Clarion has the exact same issues of Open Source in any language - albeit at a much (much) smaller scale; there’s a lack of developers interested in contributing, maintenance takes time and work, and ultimately programmers have to balance “what they get paid for” versus “stuff they do for free”. If you look at the time folk like John, Arnold and Mike invest in ClarionLive and helping the community on a weekly basis, or the time Mark (all of them) spend on Skype answering questions and so on, then you can’t begrudge them not spending more of their time on free tools as well.

From my point of view we wanted to make sure our stuff is sustainable - that it gets documented, gets examples, gets updated (all things open source are weak at) - and that means it needs to generate revenue. At the same time almost all our products are shipped as source code that anyone can read (and we’ve been in a process to remove compiled DLL’s from the rest as much as is possible.)

Personally, for me (with the CapeSoft hat on now), I think it’s also valuable to have properly supported code, with all the benefits of being able to read, edit and contribute to it - which can be used (long term) in commercial applications, which is supported via direct financial contributions (aka purchases). It’s a model which seems to have served the community well up to now and seems to merge the best advantages of open-source with a long-term sustainable development path.

Frankly, the compiler is probably not the hard bit. The hard bit are the runtime libraries, including the file drivers. You’d need both for it to be useful. Ideally with the runtime libraries written in Clarion itself which would then make the whole lot very platform-portable.

Of course this would be a huge project to undertake - something which it seems the community simply does not have the resources to undertake. It’s a pity that this isn’t the case, but sometimes realities are just realities.

Cheers
Bruce

This has been very insightful. I think I’ve got all of my curiosities settled for now. Thank you!

I don’t have any financial incentive to try my hand at a Clarion compiler, even though it would be fun, but my TPS reader is open sourced at github.com/trinitek/tpsparser. That’s half a puzzle piece to the runtime library. :wink:

Hi Blake,

There is one Clarion compiler available - Clarion2Java

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