The Professional Developer's
Guide and Reference

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January 28, 2002
A book review by Bob Swart from Dr Bob's Kylix Kicks.

When I received this book, I was impressed by the fact that it contained 943 pages on Kylix - without covering any database or internet development. Now that I finished the book, I'm even more impressed. Not by what's not in the book, but by what's actually covered in the book.

Somehow, the book reminds me of the years I spent at the University of Amsterdam (back in 1983), and first learned to work with UNIX and Minix. I'm not sure why. Maybe the fonts, maybe the quality. But one thing is for sure, like the cover said: this is not a Delphi book 'ported' to Kylix. This is a true Kylix/Linux Development book, and as such, I'm sure every Delphi developer can learn something from it.

The book consists of four sections, and a number of appendices. The first section contains about 250 pages about Object Pascal. But before we start the first section, there's chapter 0: Hello Kylix, in which the author explains why Kylix is great, and what this book will offer (and what not - so you'll know right away). It also explains where to download the sample code, and then continues with a first hands-on getting started tour in Kylix.

The first real section of the book consists of four chapters (252 pages) and is about Object Pascal. From data types and datastructures to program syntax and structure. As a Delphi developer, it was the 'least interesting' section of the book to read, although I would still recommend browsing through the pages, since there are numerous tips or footnotes that are worthwhile to read (as the back cover says: "even long-time Delphi programmers will find some surprising details here", such as the part on libraries and dynamic linking). In fact, it reminded me of the excellent Pascal textbooks I read during my study (mentioned before), and I can recommended it to anyone who wants to learn Object Pascal.

The second section of the book extends the 'simple' Object Pascal languages and moves on to Kylix - the RAD Development environment on Linux. In five chapters, we'll learn how to use Kylix (the IDE, designing, debugging), and the components that can be used with Kylix. When I say components, the author has split them in a few different chapters. First, we get the Visual Objects (VisualCLX components on top of Qt), followed by a chapter about Foundation Objects (the non-visual components and support classes such as collections and streams, as well as threads), and finally library routines (only the most important ones, like Strings, Dates, Maths, etc.), and component building in Kylix. Although - like I mentioned before - this is not a Kylix 'port' of a Delphi book, the author does place 'cautions' and notes in the chapter to highlight some of the differences between Delphi and Kylix that are important to Delphi developers. The repeated reminder in the border that keeps telling us that "Kylix is not Delphi" grows a bit tiresome after a while, but the notes themselves are good points.

The third section of the book is about Linux - for Windows developers, and using Kylix. It covers Linux and Linux programming from a Windows programmer's perspective, explaining the differences, and showing what to do (and how to do it differently) under Linux. Subsections include files, memory, processes, regular expressions and scripts (this brought back some fond memories when I first used UNIX almost two decades ago). The final chapter in this section introduces X and Qt (we've seen Qt before in the previous section). It's only a short chapter, which is good, since I consider this only background information (to give an architectural overview of X and Qt). VisualCLX is build on top of Qt (and X) and in theory you should seldom have to sink down to the API level.

The fourth section of the book is about entire projects, and contains two chapters: one about a visual find utility (imitating Windows' Find Files), and a chapter on Mandelbrot 4 (I wasn't too interested in this, but the results look very nice).

Fortunately, the book wasn't finished after this last chapter, since we still have a number of interesting appendices. Covering topics such as "Kylix for Visual Basic programmers" (there may be more than you think), "Kylix for Delphi programmers" (a bit late if you read the entire book already, but it gives a short summary of the most important changes and gotchas, including references to chapters that cover these in more detail). So Delphi developers may want to start reading the book with Appendix II. Other appendices cover topics like Optimization and a BASM quick reference, although these two are too short to be of real use I'm afraid. Appendix V on Deployment is a whole lot better, especially since this is indeed an ever returning Kylix developer's FAQ. Well written, and helpful for deployment on systems that don't have Kylix installed.

Apart from the regular text, the book contains numerous little "notes" that contain tips, background information or just useful techniques worthy to highlight. The index seems complete, but could use a smaller font to get a better overview. Syntax highlighting is used in source code listings, which I always consider to be very helpful. Unfortunately, on a few places it was missing or inconsistent (just as I sometimes didn't agree with the source code indentation and layout, but these are personal feelings of course).

Back in the beginning of the book, in Chapter 0, the author explains that he wants to write a 'classic' book. The book that a bookstore would carry if it had only one Kylix book. I'm not sure if this book is the classic Kylix book (not without database or internet coverage), but it sure is a great book to learn Kylix as well as Linux - for everybody!

And when it comes to the missing sections (on database and internet): I can also recommend Delphi/Kylix Database Development by Eric Harmon, as well as the Kylix Developer's Guide (for which I wrote the web development chapters).