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Visual Basic

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Visual Basic (VB) is a programming language developed by Microsoft Corporation, descendant of the BASIC programming language. It was first introduced by Microsoft in 1991 with the intention of making programing easier by having a visual basis for designing the user interface, and to some extent, the code.

It is an event driven programming language centered around a very powerful forms engine that enables rapid development of graphical user interface (GUI) applications and a complex database object library (ADO). It is used primarily for business applications such as database front ends, and its derivative VBScript is the default language for Active Server Pages.

Visual Basic is very friendly to the novice programmer. Its syntax tries to resemble the English language, it doesn't require the use of pointer arithmetic, and it has a vast library of utility objects to do everything from printing a Microsoft Word document to printing barcodes or displaying a web page.

A skilled programmer can build a web browser in minutes using components provided with Visual Basic. This use of built-in visual components and programming aids was an important factor in the acceptance of Visual Basic by programmers, and the use of visual components spread both to other programming languages and to web editors.

Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is built into every product in the Microsoft Office family (Word, Excel, Access etc.), and also in several third-party products like Visio (now provided by Microsoft) and WordPerfect Office 2002. This makes Visual Basic the programming platform with the largest installed base in the world. This makes it an ideal tool for writing small applications for specific purposes. On the other hand, this fact made it possible that macro viruses written in VBA could spread out, even between the Apple Macintosh and the Microsoft Windows operating systems.

During the Internet boom, programmers were in great demand, and many new programmers entered the field. Friendliness toward novices was instrumental in Visual Basic becoming one of the most common languages in commercial use.

Visual Basic, however, is only available for Windows (a DOS version was marketed at one time). Writing programs in a platform-bound language surrenders portability.

Some products are available for other systems that can interpret a subset of the Visual Basic language or similarly target rapid application development. RealBasic, a product for the Macintosh, is such a product. It can produce programs for both Macintosh and Windows. For Linux, Gambas attempts to duplicate the ease of use and interface of Visual Basic. Neither product is source-code compatible with Visual Basic, but the similarity of their design environments allows Visual Basic expertise to be leveraged into these environments quickly. There is also the Gnome Basic[?] project, which aims to provide VBA functionality to Gnome and to GPL licensed applications in general.

As businesses move their operations onto computer networks and Internet, Microsoft has added World Wide Web support into all of their development tools, with limited success and limited acceptance. VB.NET takes a stride in this direction by making VB a supported language for Active Server Pages in addition to VBScript, and by providing support for web services, allowing remote functions to be called over the Internet as easily as functions on the local machine. VB.NET compiles the code to a bytecode which is run on a virtual machine.

Like all programming languages, Visual Basic has its disadvantages. Some complain that it creates bloated installations, is not fully object oriented, performs poorly at mathematical tasks, is unwieldy using out-of-process services, has an Ugly Syntax, poor documentation, and can crash for no specific reason. Some of these problems have been addressed in later versions of VB (specifically VB.Net). The language continues to receive hefty and continual criticism, although this is balanced by hefty and continual use.

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