Microsoft Visual Basic, latest and greatest incarnation of old BASIC language, gives you a complete Windows application development system in one package. Visual Basic (or VB, as we often call it) lets you write, edit, and test Windows applications. In addition, VB includes tools you can use to write and compile help files, ActiveX controls, and even Internet applications. Visual Basic is itself a Windows application. You load and execute VB system just as you do other Windows programs. You will use this running VB program to create other programs. VB is just a tool, albeit an extremely powerful tool, that programmers (people who write programs) use to write, test, and run Windows applications. Although programmers often use terms program and application interchangeably, term application seems to fit best when you're describing a Windows program because a Windows program typically consists of several files. These files work together in form of a project. The project generates final program that user loads and runs from Windows by double-clicking an icon or by starting application with Windows Start menu. The role of programming tools has evolved over past 45 years along with computer hardware. A programming language today, such as Visual Basic, differs greatly from programming languages of just a few years ago. The visual nature of Windows operating system requires more advanced tools than were available a few years ago. Before windowed environments, a programming language was a simple text-based tool with which you wrote programs. Today you need much more than just a language; you need a graphical development tool that can work inside Windows system and create applications that take advantage of all graphical, multimedia, online, and multiprocessed activities that Windows offers. Visual Basic is such a tool. More than a language, Visual Basic lets you generate applications that interact with every aspect of today's Windows operating systems. If you've taken a look at Visual Basic in past, you'll be amazed at today's Visual Basic system. VB now sports a true compiler that creates standalone runtime .EXE files that execute more quickly than previous VB programs. VB also includes several wizards that offer step-by-step dialog box questions that guide you through creation of applications. VB's development platform, a development environment called Developer Studio, now supports same features as advanced Visual C++ and Visual J++ compilers. Therefore, once you learn one of Microsoft's Visual programming products, you will have skills to use other language products without a long learning curve ahead of you.
Programming languages today are not what they used to be. The language itself has not gotten less important; rather, graphical interfaces to applications have gotten more important. A computer cannot understand any person's spoken language. A spoken language, such as Italian or English, is simply too general and ambiguous for computers to understand. Therefore, we must adapt to machine and learn a language that computer can understand. VB's programming language is fairly simple and uses common English words and phrases for most part. The language is not ambiguous, however. When you write a statement in Visual Basic language, statement never has multiple meanings within same context. You will use VB programming language to embed instructions within applications you create. All code you write (code is program's instructions) must work together to instruct computer. Code is glue that ties all graphics, text, and processes together within an application. Code tells a checkbook application, for example, how to be a checkbook application and not something else. The program code lets application know what to do given a wide variety of possible outcomes and user actions.
Visual Basics Three Editions
Visual Basic comes in three flavors: Standard Edition, Professional Edition, and Enterprise Edition. Although we primarily use Professional Edition, Standard Edition is called learning edition and provides least expensive approach to using Visual Basic. The Standard Edition gives you a complete development environment, programming language, and many of same tools other editions offer. If you use Standard Edition, you have a powerful programming tool. Some people develop only with Standard Edition and never need anything else. The Professional Edition offers a few more tools, including extra ActiveX add-in tools, better Internet programming support, a help file compiler, and improved database access tools. Most professional programmers use Professional Edition. The Enterprise Edition provides client/server programmer with extended tools for remote computing and application distribution. Microsoft enhanced VB's performance for Enterprise Edition users working in a networked, distributed environment. If you want to create your own ActiveX controls, you will need VB Custom Control Edition that comes with Professional and Enterprise Editions.
The VB Programming Process
When you want to use Visual Basic, you'll follow these basic steps: 1. Start Visual Basic. 2. Create a new application or load an existing application. When you create a new application, you might want to use Visual Basic's VB Application Wizard to write your program's initial shell, as you'll do in next hour. 3. Test your application with debugging tools Visual Basic supplies. The debugging tools help you locate and eliminate program errors (called bugs) that can appear despite your best efforts to keep them out. 4. Compile your program into a final application. 5. Quit Visual Basic. 6. Distribute application to your users. Rarely will you perform all these steps sequentially in one sitting. The six steps are not sequential steps, but stages that you go through and return to before completing your application. Starting Visual Basic You start Visual Basic from Windows Start menu. The Visual Basic development environment itself usually appears on a submenu called Microsoft Visual Basic, although yours might be called something different due to installation differences. You will see additional programs listed on Microsoft Visual Basic submenu, but when you select Visual Basic from submenu, Visual Basic loads and appears on your screen.