COBOL programming tools from NORCOM
GUI ScreenIO Frequently Asked Questions
Is GUI ScreenIO Internet-enabled?
Yes, and the GUI ScreenIO Client/Server Layer allows you to run most GUI ScreenIO applications over a network, unchanged.
How does GUI ScreenIO compare in usability to other COBOL GUI tools?
GUI ScreenIO is the easiest to use - by far. Try it and see for yourself. Be sure to look at what it takes to use some of the more powerful Windows features, such as listboxes, comboboxes, and listview controls, too. These are a snap with GUI ScreenIO, but can be a real pain if you use most other products. Take a good look and compare us.
When we set out to design GUI ScreenIO, we resolved to make ease of use as important as the features. It took a great deal of work to make a complex Windows application simple to program, but we did.
One of the nice things about GUI ScreenIO is that simplicity, which was designed from the ground up. Older products (including our own legacy ScreenIO) are saddled with older (1980's) character-mode interface designs that are often clumsy or not applicable to the Windows environment.
We designed GUI ScreenIO from scratch specifically to avoid dragging obsolete stuff into it. As a result, GUI ScreenIO's programming interface and behavior is 100 percent consistent.
Are you actively enhancing GUI ScreenIO?
Indeed we are. We've been in the COBOL user interface business since late 1985, and actively added features to our character mode ScreenIO through 1995, when we commenced design/development of GUI ScreenIO.
How much do I need to know about Windows programming to use GUI ScreenIO?
Nothing, although it helps if you have used other Windows applications long enough to be familiar with how "standard" Windows applications should work so that your application looks and feels like other Windows applications.
What COBOL compilers does GUI ScreenIO work with?
GUI ScreenIO works with all of the popular 32-bit COBOL compilers, including AcuCOBOL, CA-Realia COBOL, Fujitsu COBOL, IBM Visual Age COBOL, mbp COBOL, RM-COBOL, and Micro Focus COBOL. It should work with any 32-bit COBOL that will run on any version of Windows.
Unlike other third-party products, all compilers are supported using the same GUI ScreenIO runtime. All you need to do is to compile one small COBOL program (which we provide) using YOUR compiler, and you can use GUI ScreenIO. If you switch compilers, just recompile the interface program, and you're in business.
Do I need a Windows SDK (Software Developers Kit) to use GUI ScreenIO?
No, everything you need is included with our product.
How easy it it to program for Windows with GUI ScreenIO?
One of the more interesting challenges of the development effort was to make GUI ScreenIO as feature-rich as possible while simplifying the programming interface. The fact that GUI ScreenIO, a true Windows interface, is easier to use than its DOS ScreenIO ancestor shows that we succeeded.
Much of the simplicity of GUI ScreenIO's programming interface is due to our COBOL application programming background; we really understand what COBOL programmers want in a GUI tool.
Much of the interface design is directed toward eliminating the need for external copybooks (you don't need any) or knowing obscure data values (you don't need to know any) in order to use all of GUI ScreenIO's features. We did this by generating 88-level items to provide the values you need, which eliminates the clutter of unneeded values and makes your panels self-documenting to a large extent. It works great!
It's remarkably easy to use GUI ScreenIO. Unbelievably easy, in fact. It's like nothing you've ever seen in a true Windows programming tool... You don't even realize you're working with Windows; it's that easy.
Are upgrades planned for GUI ScreenIO?
We are hard at work adding even more features to GUI ScreenIO. We're determined to make, and keep, GUI ScreenIO the best COBOL GUI tool on the market.
We're also exceptionally receptive to enhancement suggestions. Got a good idea you'd like to see in the product? Tell us about it. If we think it'll enhance GUI ScreenIO, it will be incorporated sooner than you think... We've inserted many enhancements the same day they were suggested!
How stable and bug-free is GUI ScreenIO?
Like all of our software products, GUI ScreenIO is extremely solid. It was designed completely from the ground up, beginning in 1997, and was extensively beta tested for a year prior to its release in early 2000.
Because the panel editor itself was developed using GUI ScreenIO, we had already done a great deal of testing in-house before the product was shown to anyone outside of Norcom.
What kind of support will I get for GUI ScreenIO?
We provide outstanding support. We typically respond to email questions within an hour or so, and generally try to handle bug reports or enhancement requests within a couple of days although it's not unusual to receive a simple fix or enhancement the same day!
If you contact us for technical support, you'll be dealing with a member of the GUI ScreenIO programming team.
How much better can you get?
How Windows-compliant is GUI ScreenIO?
The GUI ScreenIO runtime calls Windows APIs for all Windows functions, so it is by definition, perfectly compliant.
Will GUI ScreenIO work with any other operating systems?
That depends. We decided that we preferred to optimize GUI ScreenIO for Windows rather than compromise functionality to service other platforms. It's been tested with Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT 4, Windows 2000, Windows Me, Windows XP and Windows Vista. Server versions as well as workstation version of these platforms are supported as well as 32bit or 64bit versions.
However, the server side of the GUI ScreenIO Client/Server Layer could be ported fairly easily to any platform that supports COBOL and TCP/IP. Contact us if you're interested in pursuing this avenue.
How much work is it to convert from my old DOS ScreenIO to GUI ScreenIO?
It's actually quite easy. GUI ScreenIO includes a conversion utility that converts your COBOL source code as well as the panels. One user has converted a 1,200 panel/500 program application without unreasonable effort. We worked with a number of users to make the conversion as general as possible.
Most developers do end up tweaking the look and feel of their converted application, however, because the Windows user interface is generally quite a bit different than the old character-mode interface, plus most developers want to take advantage of the additional functionality offered by GUI ScreenIO.
The programming interface to GUI ScreenIO is similar to that of legacy ScreenIO, except that it's simpler. As a result, conversion is usually quite easy.
I understand that GUI ScreenIO is written in COBOL. Shouldn't this kind of tool be written in C?
Yes, we wrote GUI ScreenIO in COBOL. All Windows tools consist primarily of calls to the Window API, and once you know how to program a Windows low-level application (like a screen manager), it really doesn't make much difference which language you use.
As a practical matter, you might consider asking a C programmer what they think of COBOL. The answer (usually negative) may give you some insight about how much C programmers really understand COBOL, and therefore how well they tailor the programming interface to COBOL.
Because we've been cutting COBOL code for over 30 years, we have an exceptional understanding of what a COBOL application programmer needs, and how to simplify the programming interface.
Compare the GUI ScreenIO programming interface to other tools and see which is easiest to use. We guarantee you'll find GUI ScreenIO is far easier to use. In particular, look at what it takes to program some of the more complex controls like listboxes, comboboxes, and listview controls. GUI ScreenIO makes these easy to use. Not so with the others... No hype here, just fact.
Is the fact that GUI ScreenIO is implemented in CA-Realia COBOL going to cause problems with other COBOL compilers?
No. The GUI ScreenIO runtime DLL is actually implemented as a regular Windows DLL, just as any other callable DLL written in C or any other language would be implemented. The actual implementation of the runtime is transparent, as it should be.
It's been alleged that CA-Realia COBOL is not intended for use with PC applications. This is simply not true. CA-Realia COBOL works great for these applications. There was once an unfortunate statement in the CA-Realia manual that was intended to discourage technical support calls from earlier users of CA-Realia COBOL who were trying to program applications using the Windows API. As you might expect, CA-Realia took the position that they were not in the business of supporting this kind of thing; their target is COBOL applications, not low-level Windows programming.
We can provide a CA-Realia contact if you wish to verify this.
Does GUI ScreenIO allow me to create a panel on-the-fly?
GUI ScreenIO does not allow you to define a panel on-the-fly, but it does allow you to stack controls on top of one another, and to selectively make them invisible or visible, so you can tailor the appearance and your panels to pretty much the same extent.
Incidentally, although it sounds great to be able to define a panel dynamically, you should examine how easy it is to actually do it with other products. You'll probably decide it is not worth the hassle. Take a careful look at what's involved before you place much value on this feature.
Does GUI ScreenIO support ActiveX controls?
No, not yet; primarily because ActiveX controls are not terribly useful for most mainstream COBOL applications. We think it makes more sense to implement other, more useful, features first.
An interesting note here is that at least one competing product which does support ActiveX controls (as an extra-cost option), requires them in order to implement several features that are directly implemented in GUI ScreenIO.
So, if you use this product and wish to use, say, listview or treeview controls in your application, you need to purchase the optional ActiveX support modules, as well as an appropriate ActiveX control from a different vendor, and then program to the ActiveX control's interface(!).
GUI ScreenIO, on the other hand, provides these extremely useful controls directly - you don't need to purchase any options or third-party add-ons to use it to the fullest.
Which do you think is the better approach?
How long has Norcom been around?
Norcom was established in 1982 and has been a leader in COBOL user interface tools since 1985. We have an exceptional grasp of the needs of the COBOL developer community, and expect to be in the business of providing COBOL programming tools for the foreseeable future.
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