Monday, August 13, 2007

Automating Development in FoxPro

Tod wrote a great post on 7/30 5 Ways to Automate Development in FoxPro

I don't use all of these approaches but I did want to touch on his Using Project Hooks and describe one of the ways we make use of this.

We have a fairly "remote" development team with developers in Canada, the US and aboard. We use SourceOffSite to manage our code base which offers its own challenges but one of the trickiest things we have to deal with is creating production builds with the latest versions.

If I build version 2.5.1 of an application and my co-worker has to build it the next day, we want to make sure that he builds version 2.5.2. Now, sure, you could always make sure you get the latest of the project metadata via SourceSafe but that's a bit of a hassle.

Instead, we maintain a table with all of the version numbers for the various apps (there are over 100). The table is stored as XML on our web server. In the BeforeBuild process, when building an application, we download the XML file and convert it to a cursor using XMLTOCURSOR().

We then verify that the application in question is in the table and update the version numbers, first updating the PROJECT version # (provided the table has a later version) and then assigning a new common version #. The file is then reconverted to XML and re-posted to the web server.

We've added a number of other checks into our project process as well (such as copying the EXE to the latest Builds folder, etc) but the end result is that we can have multiple developers working on multiple applications and never need to worry about the version numbers getting out of sync. All thanks to project hooks.

We also did a number of other useful items such as posting notes for the release each you did a rebuild (we had a check to say "Are you building a public release" for this) - while developers may not always provide the most "public-ready" comments about a build, they have helped provide the basis for release notes for every project.

Certainly, it might be nice for some development teams to have larger application life cycle management tools but the cost and implementation requirements for those tools is very often prohibitive. What's great about FoxPro for smaller shops is that it's easy to build all the little pieces you need!

1 comment:

Brian said...

I got some interesting feedback from Bill Drew of the Chicago Foxpro Users Group. It seems one of the members is using Fox Trails as a code generator. Instead of generating html, he has it creating Foxpro PRGs. If your interested, I can try and get some more information for you.