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CodeCharge Studio 4.3
by Yes Software

Review

Code Charge Studio has been around for a long time, and as you can probably guess from the word “studio” in the title, it’s not just another code generating Wizard but comes with it’s own wyswyg editor. When I first encountered this program nearly 10 years ago it was quite unique, now it has several competitors – so how does it compare?

Installation

Installation was fairly straight-forward other than having to install the dot net framework if you don’t already have it (unlikely to be an issue on most PCs but I tend to use a vanilla Virtual PC installation for reviewing purposes. It creates links to the program, uninstaller and help.

Interface

The program starts by asking you whether you want to continue your trial or purchase. It comes with a 20 day fully functional trial – which is shorter than some, but should be sufficient time to decide whether it is for you or not, and I prefer this approach to “free” software that has major limitations which prevent you from fully trying it out.

CodeCharge Studio Opening screen

CodeCharge Studio Opening screen

When you create a new project it asks you whether you want to create a blank project or use the Application Builder, and what language you want your code to be – options include ASP.NET C#/VB with or without the InMotion Framework, PHP 4/5, JSP, PERL, Cold Fusion, Classic ASP 3.0 and JDK Servlets. It also emphasises that you can change your target language at any time – so if you are thinking of building a vertical Web Application to sell to several clients this could prove to be very useful as you could offer it to them in their preferred language. But it should be noted that you only get multiple languages when you purchase the PRO version which is currently $279.95 per year or $499.95 per user for a perpetual license.

CodeCharge Studio - Select Language

CodeCharge Studio - Select Language

I opted for the “Application Builder” option since I want to see how this product performs as an automated code generator. It starts by confirming your chosen computer and human languages, location of your local web server and the URL to access it.

The next step, select/create a database connection shows once again just how flexible this program is – it has database drivers for MySQL, SQL Server, Oracle, PostgreSQL, Sybase, SQL Anywhere, SQLite, DB2, Informix, and mSQL. Much to my delight – for MySQL it gives you the choice of the classic MySQL driver, MySQLi or PDO – I always recommend to everyone to go with PDO since when used properly it is not only faster and more efficient (not always that big a deal in Web Applications unless you have a lot of users) but is more secure against injection attacks. So thumbs up to Yes Software for providing this option!

I wasn’t quite so delighted though that the program seems to insist on ODBC or OLEDB drivers to connect to the database which meant I had to spend 15 mins installing the MySQL ODBC driver and create a connection to my database. This was a common method of connecting to databases 10 years ago, but now most products seem to use native connection components. Also when I entered the details incorrectly I got into an error loop and I had to cancel the project and start again.

Step 3 gives various options such as whether you want popup date pickers for date fields, Image or normal buttons etc. Step 4 allows you to select a database table to authenticate users against It includes the option of a Level/Group field but there doesn’t seem to be any option to use MD5 or SHA1 encryption on your passwords.

Step 5 lets you select the Tables/Views you wish to include in your application. Step 6 Lets you tick which tables you wish to have a Grid/Search Page for, which are read-only/updatable, and if you setup authentication the minimum security level that can see that page. Click on the table to view/modify the fields that appear on the grid, data entry form etc.

CodeCharge Studio Field Selections

CodeCharge Studio Field Selections

The program prevents you from moving on until all tables that are updateable have a primary key (multi-field primary keys do not seem to be an option).

Step 7 allows you to select a basic menu layout and Step 8 lets you choose a visual style, using your first table as a preview page. If you don’t like the colour schemes on offer there is a built-in Style Builder that lets you create your own.

Here we are – step 9! It lists the pages that will be created, with a picture of a chequered flag reminiscent of Microsoft Access’s final step Wizard pages. I excitedly hit the “Finish” button and ….

CodeCharge Studio - Limitation Screen

CodeCharge Studio - Limitation Screen

“The builder is unable to create a project that contains more than 45 pages in CodeCharge Studio Trial Version”.

WHAT??? Ok, don’t get me wrong. I understand that developers and software publishers create software to make a living. Trial and restricted “free” software is all about letting the user try out the software with a view of turning them into a customer – nothing wrong with that. If you give out a fully functional trial version then someone who needs the software for a one-off project may just build it with the trial version and never buy the software which isn’t fair on the people who gave up their time to write the software.

So what’s my problem? Well surely the time to warn me of this limitation was at the point where I selected too many tables, not after I’ve wasted 20 minutes specifying options. It’s not as if Sakila has hundreds of tables. If I were a prospective customer I’d be ready to give up and move on to the next program in the pile…

But this is a review so I took a deep breath, went back and selected just 2 tables – Films and Languages then tried again!

CodeCharge Studio - IDE

CodeCharge Studio - IDE

The IDE screen has a familiar layout – Project Explorer TreeView at the left, Visual WYSWYG Editor Top Middle and the Toolbox and Properties at the Right.

The Visual editor has several modes – Design, HTML, Code, Preview and Live Page. This makes it quick and easy to swap between Visual Design and Hand Edited HTML and quickly view the results.

Without further delay, lets generate a Web Application!

CodeCharge Studio - Web Application

CodeCharge Studio - Web Application

The standard application pages look pleasing, with Search box at the top of the page, grid in the middle and Data Entry form at the bottom. Click on the ID of a record you want to edit and it will appear in the data grid at the bottom (but didn’t automatically scroll down).

One disappointment is that despite having Foreign Keys setup in the Sakila Database, it didn’t automatically detect lookups, and it appears that I need to manually go through each lookup field, right click on it and select “Change To”, select dropdown list and the table/view, and the fields to link/display. It would be nice if it could do this automatically (I didn’t test it with databases other than MySQL so it is possible it may do it in SQL Server for example).

There are builders for Grids, Records, Reports, Editable Grids, Calendars, Search Forms and Directories so a web designer for example could design the basic page, then plugin these features without having to write any code.

The WYSWYG editor is a welcome addition, however if you are used to something like Dreamweaver where it has a split mode where you can edit the HTML and immediately see the result in the visual editor then it may feel a little bit basic.

Code / Application Structure

For the basic generated PHP application above, it produced a folder with a JS (Javascript) folder, “Styles” which holds the images and css, and the main folder contained various files for each table (e.g. table_list.php, table_maint.php etc) and some standard function libraries.

The code is object oriented, though I didn’t see much in the way of comments/documentation which may make it difficult to hand code changes if you so wished. Quality of the code in general seems good.

Summary

Code Charge Studio should definitely be on your short-list if you are looking for code generator with a built-in WYSWYG editor where you can design a page and use “Builders” to add Database powered functionality without getting your hands dirty writing code.

It gives you lots of flexibility by supporting several popular web languages and databases and lets you switch between them (at least if you go for the PRO version).

It has lots of features and this review has just scratched the surface – but it does have a bit of a learning curve so be prepared to spend a bit of quality time with it to get the most out of it (and be quick as you only have 20 days after installation before your trial runs out!)

It says “from” $139.95, but this is only for a 1 year license of the Personal edition. The limitations compared with the PRO edition is that you only get to choose 1 target language, your projects can only have up to 100 pages (remember each table is more than 1 page) and it doesn’t support Stored Procedures, Web Reporting or VSS/CVS Source Control Integration.

If you require the PRO edition, it costs $279.95 per user per year, or $499.95 per user for a perpetual license. It sounds a lot, but if you use it regularly in your course of work then it could pay for itself via increased productivity.

Reviewed September 2011

Code Charge Studio Publisher's Website


If you have used this product and have any comments about this review (perhaps we missed a killer feature, or missed some major hole that only manifests itself after prolonged use) then please comment below.

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