Visual Foxpro– I need a drink!

Posted on August 24th, 2011

This week I had a project for a client that involved writing code in Visual Foxpro. For those unfamiliar, this is a language/development platform that goes back multiple decades, and is based on DBase– a ‘data basic’ type of language… I started my professional career using VFP, and wrote a lot of code. I went beyond what most VFP developers ever do with it, by using extensive graphics for touchscreens, creating and maintaining complex web services, etc. Contrary to public opinion, the development platform is very capable…

Regardless, it’s also a major pain to work with. The IDE crashes constantly, the ‘compiler’ can’t catch even the simplest of mistakes, etc… I dread the projects that require me to work directly with VFP(more than tweaking a few lines of code, anyways)… It’s frustrating and slow to get anything done. Speed and efficiency is picked up if you develop with it daily, but if you take a hiatus for a while to develop in a contemporary language(such as C#), coming back to it will just be very frustrating…

While VFP is a pain for me to work with as a developer, I have to respect the fact that a lot of solid programs are written in VFP. Programs that have been around multiple decades, and still work on modern hardware without tweaking. Many businesses run on software written in VFP, even if they don’t know it. The question for many of the companies with these products is when/if to convert to a modern development environment such as C#/.NET… While every business has to weigh the pros and cons of this, I personally see the Windows operating system support for VFP waning, and it may not run very well 5-10 years from now… Personally, I’m curious about the .NET Compiler for Visual Foxpro, which lets you compile VFP code to run on the .NET development platform. This might ease the pain for some software companies looking to make a transition. For the others, they’ll likely have to work into their schedules time to port their VFP code to .NET.