Evolution of an ID System – Part 2

The primary reasons for overhauling the underlying technologies of the ID System were the limitations of Superbase’s form and dialog designers. Superbase’s form designer curbed the flair of card designs, in order to provide creative freedom an alternative printing system was required. Similarly Superbase’s dialog designer was cumbersome to use when compared to alternative development environments.

1997 – 2001 – Delphi / Interbase / PageMaker:

Adobe PageMaker was highly regarded for its desktop publishing facilities, and the office already utilised it in other areas, so it was an exciting prospect to have PageMaker provide the underlying design and printing functionality.

As I had been using Delphi since version 1 it was an easy choice for the development environment. For its day Delphi was streets ahead of the competition. Delphi 3 was coupled with Interbase to provide the underlying database layer

The system now ran on Windows 95 or Windows 98, and continued to utilise Ulead MediaStudio for the image capture. The Windows Macro Recorder was initially used to assist application interactions; however this method was replaced with Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) calls.

During part of this period a fellow student, Mitch Hulme joined our team, and between us we developed alternating versions of the ID System. Comically we would work independently and on multiple occasions would produce a completely new iteration of the ID System. The screen shot below is from one of the incarnations of the ID System that Mitch developed.


The Good:

Creative freedom provided by Adobe PageMaker meant we could now produce any printed design we wanted.

Delphi’s Rapid Application Development environment meant that incremental changes (read bug fixes) could easily be applied to the system allowing updates to be rolled out very quickly.

The Bad:

Automation of PageMaker was helped using Tag Files, the Tag files contained static style information for each text box in addition to the actual data that needed to be printed. Changes to forms required updating the static details of the tag files which was quite cumbersome, especially when the form designer needed to make incremental changes and testing each one.

Ulead MediaStudio was still utilised for capturing images.

The Ugly:

Windows Macro Recorder (which did not ship with Windows 95, and had to be copied from Windows 3.11) was considerably unreliable. Dynamic Data Exchange helped reliability in some areas, but also had its own issues.

With two developers working independently offering solutions for the same problem we would often duplicate our work efforts, or iterate a new version that would overwrite the other developers solution.


About Anthony Dowling

Founder Sjones Limited, focusing on developing ID and Security Card Solutions. Long time Delphi Developer. @AntDowling
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