NSB/App Studio FAQ

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What kind of dev tool is this?

App Studio is a complete development environment for mobile devices. It can be programmed in JavaScript or BASIC. The BASIC language implements a large subset of Microsoft's Visual Basic, with extensions to create a complete development environment. App Studio BASIC is a full, modern implementation of BASIC, with proper subroutines, variant data types and no line numbers. Applications you create are freely distributable and are write-once, run anywhere. Lots of sample code is included. A 155+ page Handbook is included in pdf form. The environment features a Visual Designer, which allows you to graphically lay out your control and set their properties. You can then hook code into the controls and add other code as needed. When your code is complete, use one key run run it locally, deploy it to a website or convert it to a native app using PhoneGap. If you have worked with Microsoft's Visual Studio, you'll find it easy to come up to speed with.

What devices do the apps it create run on?

App Studio apps run on:

  • iPhone (any model) with iOS 3.0 or later
  • iPod Touch (any model) with iOS 3.0 or later
  • iPad (any model)
  • Android 2.1 (or later) devices.
  • BlackBerry OS 6 (or later) devices
  • HP Web OS devices
  • Windows Phone devices (limited)

Development can be done on any computer running Windows 8, 7, Vista or XP. Using Parallels or VMWare, it runs well on Mac OS. Virtualbox WIN/XP and Ubuntu Wine also work.

What technologies is it built on?

App Studio makes use of JavaScript, HTML5, CSS and WebKit. These are all under the covers, however: there is no need to learn these technologies to use the product. Your BASIC code is translated to JavaScript, which is then executed by the same browser engine used by Safari, Chrome or whatever internet browser the device uses. Similarly, screen objects are internally implemented in HTML, taking advantage of HTML5 and WebKit technologies. Recent work by Google and Apple have given dramatic speed improvements to JavaScript: it is now faster than many purely compiled languages.

How big is the runtime?

Tiny - less than 125k. Of course, this number will increase if you use various libraries and frameworks. Why isn't App Studio just like Visual Basic or NS Basic/CE? It's actually a lot like Visual Basic and NS Basic/CE. Both use the same core language definition: all the statements and functions are identical. The differences lie in the operating system and environment. For example, the screen controls on an iPhone have a very different look and feel to their counterparts on the desktop. Controls which are designed to be touch operated will work differently from keyboard and mouse style controls.

How fast is it?

App Studio executes up to 700,000 loops/second on the current generation of devices. That's pretty quick for devices in this class, fast enough for most anything but perhaps the very heaviest number crunching.

How can I test my programs?

During development, App Studio runs your program in your default browser: Chrome and Safari work best. They both have good debugging facilities. The program looks and feels much like it will on a real device. Of course, you should also test on actual devices.

Can I do file I/O?

Yes. For simple files, there is a local store which lets you save and retrieve string data. It is persistant, meaning the data will still be there next time you start the program. Most devices allow up to 5 megs per app. SQLite is supported for more sophisticated applications. It's an easy to use database that gives good performance. One thing you cannot do is access the files and information of other apps. Modern mobile operating systems "sandbox" the apps so they cannot interfere with each other.

Can I access a database on my server, such as MySQL, Access, Oracle, etc.?

The only database that runs locally on mobile devices is SQLite. If you want to get information from a server database to your device, you have a couple of choices:

  • Import the data into an SQLite database and include it with your project.
  • Have a listener program on a port on your server. Use AJAX calls from your app to the listener program. The listener program can then access the database on the server and return the requested information.

What can't I do?

For things like Bluetooth, camera, microphone, serial comms, you'll need to use PhoneGap. PhoneGap lets you run your App Studio app as a native application. It has plug ins which let you use native API functions.

=== What about hardware specific features? Some, but not all, hardware features are available. The GPS and Accelerometer data certainly is, but it is not possible to vibrate the phone. Once again, PhoneGap comes to the rescue.

What's on the roadmap?

App Studio has a lot of potential for new features. Here are some of the ones we are working on - please note that this list can change at any time as we reasses how practical and important each item is. Design Screen: Move objects with arrow keys IDE: Localization in other languages

How is it supported?

NS BASIC provides support by email and on a very active web board. We post bug fix updates to our ftp site on a regular basis. Check the web board and our blog for the latest announcements.

What documentation is included?

We provide a 155+ page pdf handbook with App Studio. Short summaries of most functions are in on line help. There are also tech notes and tutorials.

Can I distribute my applications?

Yes. You may distribute your apps, with no further royalties or costs. App Studio apps can be distributed without going through Apple's iTunes store or Google's Marketplace. This is great news: setting up an app in the iTunes store can be more challenging than writing an app in App Studio. Instead, apps are distributed over the web. Apps can be sold by controlling who is allowed to access the app.

But I want to distribute my app through the App Store!

If you want to distribute through the App Store, you can wrap the project in PhoneGap. Create iOS App Store apps using PhoneGap Getting started with PhoneGap videos PhoneGap itself is free - you will need to pay Apple $99/year to belong.

Do I need a Mac to distribute through the App Store?

To do the final submission of an app compile as native to Apple's App Store, you need a Mac. The program used to upload apps, "Application Loader.app" is a Mac only application. You can buy a used Mac Mini for this - they are not expensive. You do not need a Mac to distribute your app as a web app, outside the App Store.

How can I protect my code?

We incorporate obfuscation into the Deploy step: this makes it difficult for people to look at your code. Of course, any executable can be reverse engineered with a bit of effort. Where can I buy it? What does it cost? ===

App Studio is available at an introductory price of $99.95 USD directly from NS BASIC Corporation's website (regularly $149.95). You may download the software and start using it immediately after your order.

What is your upgrade policy?

Point upgrades are free. We reserve the right to charge for major new versions - that gives us an incentive to make something really special. I want to run it at the office, on my laptop and at home. How many licenses do I need? One, so long as you are the only one using it. The license is to a single developer. (If you have a single location with many programmers, consider an Enterprise License: unlimited programmers at one location for a single price.)

Who is NS BASIC Corporation?

NS BASIC was formed in 1993 to create applications for developers using hand held computers. The initial product, NS BASIC for the Newton, started shipping in 1994 and has consistently been one of the top selling packages on the Newton platform. The product has been continuously updated since its first release. In late 1997, NS BASIC released its next product, NewtCard, a product inspired by Apple's HyperCard application. NewtCard has probably garnered more "Best of" awards than any application produced for hand held computers. NS Basic/Newton and NewtCard are two of the three software products to garner a "First Class Award" from Mobile Computing. NS Basic/CE was first released in 1998. It has been continuously been enhanced and improved since that date. Apart from the free eMbedded tools from Microsoft, it is the most widely used dev tool for Windows CE. NS Basic/Palm was released in 2000 and has become the most popular non-C development tool for those devices. Over the years, NS BASIC Corporation has developed a large body of special expertise in creating development environments for hand sized computers. Combining effective user interfaces for small, pen based screens with efficient use of resources built into the ROM, NS BASIC's applications are surprisingly powerful, small, and easy to use. You can contact NS BASIC Corporation by email at info@nsbasic.com, phone at 1 888 NSBASIC (416 264-5999) or fax at 416 264-5888.

So what does the "NS" stand for, anyhow?

Nice & Smart.