Review of WingSpan
Shawn M. Gordon
Are you tired of V/Plus and all of it’s incarnations, i.e., View, DEL, HI-LI? You just don’t like the way it looks or works? Are you envious of all those HP Vendors that are doing psuedo-windowing on reguler HP terminals, and want to get in the action? Or are you concerned with developing applications and interfaces that are portable across MPE, DOS and UNIX? Well if any of these situations are true then this review is for you.
WingSpan is a pseudo-windowing screen handeling suite of products from Software Research Northwest. It allows you to build interfaces based on the X/Open curses standard. They take the curses standard a few better by giving you tools to develop the interface as well as some really neat utilities for pop-up context sensitive hyper-text help. There are portions that do not conform to curses and so limit your ability to be portable, so if portability is your main concern, then stay away from those features. Luckily for me I have done some work with curses under UNIX so I was already familiar with most of the concepts.
I was almost sorry that I decided to do this review due to the sheer size of the product. WingSpan comes with two manuals that are each about four inches thick. There is no way that I can cover what the entire product does, but I will go over the basics of using the WingSpan Intrinsic Library (WIL) and how to use the utilities for generating screens and code.
I had a copy of both the PC version and the HP 3000 version that I tried out. The PC version currently only supports the Borland C compilier, support for Microsoft should be out shortly. On the HP I used COBOL 85 on a series 37 running MPE V platform 1P.
Writing code isn’t hard to do, it just can be tedious, designing a user interface can very hard however. So the hardest thing to do in WingSpan is to decide on the screen layout and flow. If you are not used to working with Windows in a programming environment (very few people on the HP are), then WingSpan is going to take a little getting use to. You can make a WingSpan interface that looks and works exactly like a V/Plus screen, but what’s the point in doing that?
III. Usability (also installation)
I was actually very surprised at the performance that I got out of WingSpan. I have written a psuedo-windowing interface and I understand the work and overhead that goes into it, and I was truly amazed at how quickly the windows responded. The impact on the CPU isn’t to bad either which mean they are doing an intelligent job of buffering up the screens and displaying them. You shouldn’t run into any problems in this area.