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GBIC >> VB >> Reviews
Software Reviews
While there are thousands of software applications available, I only need and use a few to get my job done. On this page I will share with you my pick of tools which I personally use regularly within my own VB applications or to help maintain my VB website. If you would like to submit a product to me for evaluation, please use the following submittal guidelines.

DOS Edit Offline Explorer Xenu Link Sleuth
Formula One WS_FTP Crystal Reports
MetaDraw2 V3Space 3D Building Blox


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Submit a Product for Review

Product vendors have two options for getting their products listed at this site - list the product in the online vendor/product database, or list a review of the product on this page.

If you would like your company's product to be listed in my online, searchable database (which now have over 600 product listed) then just send me an email with the following information. This is a free service.

  • Company Name
  • Company URL
  • Product(s)

For each product, include the following:

  • Name
  • Price
  • Description (a couple of short paragraphs)

I will be happy to place a listing for each individual product that your company offers, but in general I do not include "suites". Products must be tools that VB programmers can use - not general purpose computing tools.

If you want me to place a review of the product on this page then send the product to the following address. Please remembers that I only place reviews here for products that I personally use.

Gary Beene's Visual Basic Information Center
Gary L. Beene
11936 Jamestown Road
Dallas, TX 75230

Remember that unless I find the tool to be one that I expect to use in my own projects, no review will be posted. To that end, you might want to email me with your intent to ship the product so that I can let you know whether I am likely to consider its use.

As is typical for product reviews, any item submitted must be fully functional. Also, reviews will only be performed on products for which a royalty-free license is provided - limited to my individual use in applications which I may release as freeware or shareware.


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DOS Edit

Yes, this is the free DOS window editor that comes with Windows. I'm mentioning it here because it's the tool I use to create all of my web pages. Those of you who have read my Advice pages know that I advocate typing and memorization as basic skills that a VB program must put to good use. If you haven't learned it yet, there are really a limited number of HTML tag codes that you have to know to write your own web pages. I've spent the time to learn those, and now it's way too simple to make my own pages to try and keep up with a commercial editor. I will say that I do my page updates regularly, but at most a few pages a day. If I were doing a commercial site then I might want one of the more expensive site maintenance programs which automate a variety of tasks, but given my circumstances (and, I believe, those of most web masters), DOS Edit is all I need.

There is no URL, just open a DOS window and type "Edit"


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Xenu Link Sleuth

As a VB programmer, one of the things I'm called on to do is to create websites. In my tutorials I've provided information on how to generate CGI scripts and how to work with dynamic HTML page generation. Once I have the web pages generated and placed online, Xenu Link Sleuth is the tool I've chosen to use for monitoring the accuracy of all the links I've placed in my web pages. It's free, incredibly fast, and very small (only 412KB) Don't expect too much in the way of graphics, or a help file (the program is simple enough to figure it out as you go). It does have the ability to export the results as text of HTML files. The HTML version includes helpful sorts of the results, including broken links ordered by link and broken links ordered by page.

Xenu Link Sleuth


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Offline Explorer

As a web surfer I often come upon pages or complete websites that I want to capture for offline viewing on my PC. This allows me access to the information when I'm on travel and also allows me the opportunity to merge and index information from anywhere on the web. Offline Exlorer provides two key capture options. First, it integrates into the Microsoft Internet Explorer and with a right mouse click you can download just the current page. Second, you can also download a complete website. In the case of a complete website download, the are several options to control how the download is handled (file types, size, depth, etc.).

MetaProduct Software Corporation


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WS_FTP

Once I've created my web pages or CGI script on my PC I use WS_FTP to transfer the files from my PC to the web server. I'll freely admit that WS_FTP has features that I never use. But for the simple act of transfering files WS_FTP provides a simple, intuitive interface. I've used it for years and it is one of the most reliable programs I've every used. There might be a manual or a help file, but I've never used them - the program is that easy to use. There is a freeware and commercial version. Either are fine, but I bought the Pro version for the feature of retaining file date/times during a transfer.

Ipswitch


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Formula One

While you can get usually get the job done with the various spreadsheets that come from Microsoft, it's no surprise that improved spreadsheets top the list of 3rd party vendor sales. Formula One, from Tidestone, tops the list. It's blazingly fast, exposes hundreds of properties and methods, and best of all it imports/exports Excel spreadsheets.

Tidestone


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Crystal Reports

No small number of questions I get revolve around how to make printed reports look good. If you want to print information from a database and want to use the absolute minimum time generating reports, then Crystal Reports from Seagate is the easy answer. As most of you know, CR ships with VB, but Microsoft has done a poor job of exposing CR to the VB community. In VB6, Microsoft even included a competing report generator. Don't fall for the hype - just go with CR while Microsoft words to get it right a few generations from now.

Seagate


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MetaDraw2

Microsoft did a better job supporting text-based features, but fell short of providing the graphics capabilities that many folks want. Metadraw2, by Bennet-tec, has provided an excellent drawng tool which can meet most 2D drawing needs. It not only provides basic shapes/features, but provides an excellent set of properties/methods which greatly simplify creation of a drawing tool. Best of all the native format of MetaDraw2 is WMF files - a very compact file format which can be read by virtually all major graphics products.

Bennet-tec


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V3Space

Despite my good words about Metadraw2 (see above), it has no 3D capabilities. VB programmers have two basic options - use a 3D graphics library (based on OpenGL or DirectX) or find an OCX which shields them from those details. The V3Space OCX from TGS is one of the best solutions I've seen so far. It is basically a VRML viewer (actually, it reads DXF, Open Inventor, and VRML 97 files). Generate the VRML files within your VB program (such as I do in my WinPlace program) and feed it into V3Space and you have instant 3D graphics.

Since I purchased V3Space, TGS has changed their product line somewhat. Check out their various developer toolkits to see which of the offerings would fit your development needs.

TGS


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3D Building Blox

As much as I like VRML (it uses a text file format and the web is full of information on generating VRML files), it has one major problem - difficulty in creating custom shapes. While there is a handful of good, programmable 3D engines available to developers, the 3D solid modeling market appears to be dominated by the ACIS standard from the Spatial Corporation.

3D Building Blox was one of their early offerings, but is no longer offered as a stand alone OCX. You'll have to buy their ACIS developer's kit to get the capabilities I've described.

Spatial Corporation