Products & Reviews
Thu Sep 14, 2006 - 11:47 AM EDT - By
Table of Contents
> Overview Getting Started Conclusion
Overview As I have mentioned in previous reviews, I'm not a developer, although I messed with BASIC years ago and tried to learn AREXX which had a huge role on Amiga computers, but sometimes I long to find that one certain app for my PalmOS Treos that just doesn't exist (or I just can't find). Maybe it's just a simple little program that would make my life easier, and I could either scour the internet for hours searching for it, but failing that, if I could code, I could just write it myself. If only there was a tool that made writing programs for my Treos easy enough that I didn't have to spend months or years taking classes, reading books and learning how to use it.
There are different PalmOS development platforms, some quite expensive. When I received some info about a new release for such a product - one that's been around for a years called CASL (pronounced "castle") it piqued my interest. CASL stands for Compact Application Solution Language and is a programming language that lets you create applications for the PalmOS, PocketPC/Windows Mobile 5 (with touch screens, like The Treo w models) or Windows.
You write your CASL program in a Windows IDE (Integrated Development Environment) and it includes a form designer, multi-platform application installer and database synchronization tools (Hotsync conduit for the PalmOS and Activesync support for PocketPC/Windows Mobile). The website claims that you can write your code once and run it on all three platforms.
For this review, I focused primarily on PalmOS (Treo 650 and 700p) and Windows for testing, since a "w" isn't currently in my stable of Treos.
CASL is owned and supported by two companies, WAGWARE Systems, Inc. and Brainyware, LLC. These companies joined forces over a year ago to acquire the CASL product from its previous owners. CASL 4.3 is a major improvement over earlier versions, primarily by maintaining compatibility with recent hardware available for PalmOS and PocketPC/Windows and improved synchronization tools. If you are a previous CASL user, you can find out what's new by viewing the What's new in CASL 4.3 presentation.
Start with an idea
To give this language a run-through, with my limited coding experience, I thought I'd try to make a very simple game cute, somewhat entertaining, exists in at least one programming text book and should be simple enough for me to recreate in CASL. What could it be, you ask? Why it's a guessing game, of course! (Did you guess?).
I created what I think is a nice little application that is just what I wanted. My CASL-created program picks a random number between 1 and 100. You enter your guess and the Treo responds that the number it's hiding is either higher or lower than the number entered. After six attempts, that's it GAME OVER. My little "GuessMe" game is freely available to all TreoCentral readers, you can download the source and .prc here.. You are free to download the code but no authorization is given to resell the program as your own. It is copyrighted freeware.
CASL includes an extensive list of features that will let you create freeware, shareware or full-blown, complex commercial applications for most any purpose. A short list of some of its features includes:
Hi-Res (320x320) support
Ability to communicate with Bluetooth serial devices
An Events Library for PalmOS for detecting the directional pad on the Treo, hard/soft power on/off and pen detection
Indexed Database files for random access and fast searches
A Grid object
Conduit for synchronization of the Desktop to PalmOS devices using Hotsync or to PocketPC/Windows Mobile devices using Activesync.
Network access using HTTP, TCP over Wi-Fi.
Ability to integrate with Symbol Barcode scanners
I spent a little over a week learning the syntax of the language, experimenting, reading over the manuals and sent a few emails and spent some time on the phone with CASL support to assist with this review. Remember, I'm no programmer, so I was going into this endeavor cold.
I started by reading the Introduction to CASL e-book and reviewing the Video Tutorials.
In my lurid three decade history of using computers, I'm primarily self-taught. But I learned early on that the best way to learn how to do something so it really sinks in (whether it's computers, plumbing, or fixing you car) is to sit down next to someone who knows how to do that thing and watch what they do and ask a lot of questions. I would like to have seen more CASL tutorials made available and the documentation include better sample code, but I found what I needed.
There is also an active on-line CASL Community where I lurked a few times and was impressed by how friendly and helpful everyone seemed.
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