Tiburón: Why Unicode IS important

There is a hot discussion brewing in public about importance of the Unicode support in upcoming version of Delphi (Tiburón). There are people who do not see it as something to spend time on in current Delphi situation and some who disagree with that.

Did you notice that word “Tiburón” is in Unicode?

Let’s come back in time December 2002 – Delphi VCL Controls for Win32 should support unicode – 4.89 rating, 359 votes. One of first from the dozens of QC reports asking to add Unicode into Delphi. Do not tell me it is not important for many people.

Is it too little too late? Could as well be, but it is better to finally have it and enjoy a feature which is now mandatory for any major development platform.

Keep in mind that Delphi (itself) was already “unicoded” storing string resources and source code as Unicode for some few versions. Full VCL/RTL conversion had never received much of the attention from upper management allowing Dev team actually work on the feature. Everything was about ALM those days. This time around it is different. Today Unicode one of the features which are critical for Delphi survival.

Yes, for many years we have learned how to deal with no support for Unicode in Delphi, but it is way around things, and not a solution. How many times was I asked – “why Delphi, being a modern language, still does not support Unicode?”. Well, I have had no reasonable answer.

Let look at the feature in question. Would it be important for US or even EU markets?

Yes, if you write an application which is used outside of your company’s building.
No, if you are running a home-only applications.

Let’s not go into discussion of dancing around the issue instead of solving the problem. Delphi applications do not exist by themselves, there are plenty of 3rd party API, data, code you need to interact and if they are in Unicode and your code cannot be native to the data, then you will encounter many things which you otherwise would not see in your “home” environment. Windows NT, XP, Vista has Unicode support. Being a programmer means one has to follow the main stream, not go against it. Otherwise you look as a white crow.

Now let’s come back to Tiburón. As a component vendor and Delphi programmer for many years, I would worry about such drastic change and impact it might have. But after having “converted” my code to have Unicode support by simply opening my projects in a new Delphi and recompiling gives me an assurance that work is done well by the CodeGear team.

Yes, let’s not idealize the situation, some modifications could be required, especially when Windows API functions are used. But even in this case, you most likely would get informed about the problem on the time of the compile, since you would be asked to adjust a few places in your code to use your string resources as Wide or ANSI strings specifically. Otherwise, your code would just run.

Did it worth the time and resources and is it a major thing for the release? YES. Remember it is a lot of work to make sure that everything is converted properly and working considering that there is a lot of dependencies between VCL code and underlying Windows API.

PS. And do not forget that Tiburón is not only about Unicode. Read all information about it as CG team is talking about new features.

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    From being a junior developer all the way to Development Manager position, I was always interested in new technologies. Passionate speaker, IT junky, developer, architect, team lead, and development manager - many hats, one goal - making software better and closer to people’s needs. For the most part I am using my blog as a scratch pad, writing small articles on things which I came across, was asked about more then once, and which would otherwise require additional research again and again.

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