Last update: 12/21/2014

Clarion?? What’s a Clarion? Aha! It’s a car stereo system, right? Well, I guess it can be, but the Clarion I am closest to is a fabulous 4GL programming language. Programming, as in computers. Yeah, that’s what I do, I write computer software (as well as other computer related activities...).

This section of my web site is devoted to some stuff I think is of interest to Clarion programmers and others who might be curious... For more information, visit the Clarion web site.

Misc. Clarion stuff...


Clarion vs. VB stories

These are stories and reports taken from the Clarion news groups over the past few years.

They are both fine languages. Clarion programmng requires a lot less
work on the part of the developer. The data centric design of Clarion
makes validations and data entry a breeze. Generating reports in
Clarion is also easier since VB can't print. (You have to use

VB programming is not RAD. Well it is sort of. It lets you drop
objects on screens. Since VB6 wasn't oop, there was no
inheritence and all possible events had to be coded at design
time; rather than run time. I write a lot of validation, editing code
in VB.

VB.Net is great. Inheritence, run time introspection (my word) and
defining events is great too. Allowing events to share the same code.
Still have to code lots for validation and editing. Still have to
handle getting the DB to the form. Datasets are the best thing
since sliced bread. Don't bother with datareaders.

VB.Net being built with the Internet in mind is great. Getting data
using XML and web services is great. Network problems are
a killer.

In a nutshell, if you need to develop a client server db application,
you will develop it 10 times faster in Clarion.

If I need to use Internet technologies, use VB. Net and ASP.Net

By the way, I accepted 2 bids... 1 using VB, and the other a Clarion
programmer. The Clarion programmer completed the project in about 2 days,
and it was perfect. The VB programmer took over a month, and its still


I am in the thick of both environments, and
while the .net languages are now very good, they still do not come within
miles of what Clarion does in terms of productivity. IMHO, all .net has
significantly improved upon is the language. Their "templates" suck. The
editor and ide is excellent, but the combination of the improvement in the
language and the ide/editor still do not elevate the productivity of
programmers even close to that of Clarion.

The issue here is that VB is no longer VB... For example if they use Visual
Basic 6, and then decide they want to move it to .NET that means that most
of their VB code is no longer valid. Microsoft changed the entire language
to coincide with .NET. The real question is "Do they really want to become
the 'pawns' of Microsoft?"

Also, with VB they would have to WRITE 99% of the code to make the
application work. With Clarion, the application generator writes (in my
experience over the last 7 years using Clarion for Windows) about 95% of the
code for you, leaving you with a lot less code to write. Another point for
you to bring up is testing. Using the Clarion templates to write the code,
all of the code has been pre-tested by tens of thousands of developers.
Everything someone would write in VB would have to be completely tested as
there are no pre-tested VB procedures. Yes, there are VB code generators,
the last one I looked at was about $5000 a seat. ( I think I still might
have a copy around here somewhere )

Clarion has been around since 1986 and as such, has been around longer than
nearly any other application development language on the PC. Most of the
Borland languages (which were very good) are gone, with the notable
exception of Delphi, dBase is dead, FoxPro is basically dead (for all
intents and purposes, I still believe Microsoft bought that product to kill
it). Clipper is no more, although the "clipperheads" would like to have you
think otherwise.

If they are looking for stability in a language, Clarion is the best bet...
As a matter of fact, if you had a Clarion DOS application built in 1989 you
could still use most of the code (for hand coded source) almost straight
across as the language itself has remained very compatible across versions
from 1989 to today.

In my experience seeing really is believing... Develop an application for
them and show them how fast it can be developed. Nothing fancy, and even
better yet, if possible, use their own data. They'll get the picture. The
bottom line is how much do they want to pay all of these VB programmers (who
are a dime a dozen) to produce something that will cost them about 3 times
as much to develop as a Clarion application.

If you would like a more in-depth description as to how Clarion can be
effectively compared to Visual Basic, go to the web site of my friend, Ben Brady, at and click on the "Why Clarion" link.


For the past 10 years or so, we as Clarion programmers have been irritated
by the question of,

"Yes, but how long is Clarion going to be around still? That's why I
will go with Visual Basic."

Well, now we have the clear answer to this question with a real life
scenario: Microsoft has dropped VB support and the result is is that all
those poor suckers who selected to go with VB have had to redevelop their
code - to .Net. And believe me - the change is significant. So the scenario
that all the Clarion bashers warned us about (Clarion diappearing and having
to redevelop in another environment) - has gone and happened to them

Now, gone is that argument from the Clarion Basher's armory. In fact - we
can use it now to bash OUR competition, since Clarion has also survived the
Not-Com/IT bust 2000,2001 - something that a buncha others did not.

We developed a Key Management Program for Medeco High Security Locks that is sold across the vertical market. They insisted that the development must be done in VB also, but after talking them into clarion, they don't regret it. In a conference call a couple of months ago, they addressed that out of all of the software that has been developed for them, ours has been the most stable of all, (with 0 crashes) and 100 percent is Clarion code.

STORY 1......  Over the past year I have been involved in the Microsoft Visual Basic and SQL Certified Training Courses (This involved 5 one week courses at a cost of $11,200 to my employer). Most of the training involving databases uses the pubs example SQL database that ships with MS/SQL.   We spent hours building pieces of the interface as part of the training experience.  During the last course I mentioned to the instructor that I could build a working prototype application from the pubs database in about 30 minutes (including compile time) using Clarion 5.5 Beta2. He scoffed.  So on lunch break (I had my laptop with me):  Step 1: Use the dictionary synchronizer to create the Clarion Dictionary from the SQL database Step 2: Use the Application wizard to create the application from the dictionary. Step 3: Compile and run the application.  Elapsed time 23 minutes. Step 4:  I won!  I should have bet him.  Then I said.....would you like a matching web application? Result.. the next day I gave him my evaluation copy of Clarion 5. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

STORY 2.....  My boss wanted a simple Clarion application for our Internal Telephone book ported to SQL and wanted me to use Visual Basic to do it.  After three days work I had the frame work only.   No code except the Close form and exit the application.  He asked how much longer it would take.  I said well there are 8 reports, seven update forms, and 12 browses..........About three weeks I said...but I'm just guessing.  That unacceptable he said to which I replied...Your right, it is!!   That's why I wanted to use would have taken me but a few hours to convert the existing application.  So he let me try it!  Two hours, 30 minutes later the application was running on the SQL server simply using the Topspeed ODBC driver to import the files, changing the driver in the dictionary, adding the full path and creating a global connect string for the SQL. I haven't used Visual Basic to do anything productive since!!!!!


I've had to work to overcome a strong anti-Clarion bias where I work, but I got
left two critical openings.
We had two old applications that were not Y2K compliant. The hot-gun VB guy
that they had hired quoted 6 months to replace them (completing the BETA for Dec
15th, 1999). I was asked if I could "patch" the old Clarion DOS applications
that were gonna check out on us, since being in beta 2 weeks before Y2K wasn't
where my boss really wanted to be..

I got hit by a rush that I can only describe as unloading an old WWII Hellcat in
a vertical power-dive with the R-2800 sucking hard on the water-injectors and
rolled a completed Clarion 5 ABC windows replacement out in 32 hours flat.

Got my boss's attention.

At the next IS staff meeting, we were greated by word that a major application
in Lotus Notes had just been identified as non-compliant for Y2K. Fliply, my
boss asked if I thought a week for building a replacement was enough. I had
never even seen the software that was in trouble but casually said I thought
that was adequate.

I delivered the replacement in 5 days.

I am fortunate in that I have a boss who wants to get work done and doesn't care
too terribly much about the details.
After I fixed those two problems, he kept an eye on what I was doing and saw the
volume of work flowing through my hands and started comparing my output to the
VB programmer's. Jay lasted about a year past that drubbing I gave him up
front and quit to work somewhere else; he couldn't handle constantly being asked
for actual software and being compared to how quickly I could throw together
database solutions.

Me and my trusty Clarion RAD suite have become the Department's firefighters. I
control better than 1/2 the department in some fashion nowadays and often when
there is data trouble somewhere, the question often asked is when can I address

Some of it is unquestionably personal skill, but part of being skilled is
knowing how to pick the proper tool for the job.
Doing database development and maintainence on a LAN or desktop, it is really
hard to top Clarion for speed and agility in the hands of someone who
understands and can exploit its strengths.

The lesson I learned was that it pays to watch carefully for weakpoints that you
can exploit with as violent a pace as you can sustain. It is the indirect
approach to warfare. Hit the enemy where he is weak. And once you are through
the initial defenses, move with as much speed and force as you can muster so he
can't contain your break-through. People have often been very startled at how
fast a Clarion RAD suite can pour out running code. Use that. Speed is an
allie. Get the enemy off-balance with a blur of motion and he is easier to
knock down and then completely out.

Guess I better stop before actual Testorone starts leaking out onto
the web :-)

EDI and release management software
We started the conversion to Windows using VB in 1996. When we
discovered two-year old uncorrected bugs in the ODBC driver for Access
which caused our software to GPF (and spent 2 weeks trying to find out
what WE did wrong), we dumped VB and three months of work. We have never
regretted it..



I was using access (a little) and VB for about a year - Clarion is MUCH
easier to learn and use. In less then a week I had surpassed everything I
had learned to do in VB.

The installation cd with its examples, tutorials, and manuals - and this
most invaluable newsgroup are ALL you need to get started in some fairly
advanced Clarion programming.

Don't hesitate - Get Clarion.!!!!! Awesome product.!!!

Andy Morgan

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RAD Race

RADventure B.V the Dutch distributor for Softvelocity products has won the
first prize in a RADrace organized by the publishers of Database magazine
and Software Release magazine in the Netherlands.

The race was held December 7 and 8, 2001, at the Advanced Development Center
of Cap Gemini in Utrecht , the Netherlands.

The jury consisted of well-known speakers and database authorities like Rick
van der Lans, Ron Toledo, Peter Hinssen and Jan Detremmerie. The race was
won using Clarion C55 Enterprise Edition patch E, and several templates and
tools developed by RADventure.

The race assignment was complex and extensive. It consisted of building a
complete system of drivers licence registration, including fine registration
(speeding tickets, drunk driving etc.) and a system for online access to
data by Police, European citizens and Justice officials.

Strategy was very important. The Clarion contestants Peter Rakke and Erik
Pepping (both from RADventure) decided ealry on to go for a complete working

The other teams were from suppliers like Magic, Borland (Delphi 6 and
J-builder) and Sybase.

Magic came in a distant second, disappinting the two young men that came in
from Israel to participate. The Clarion application had 3 times the number
of functions ready by the end of the two day competition. The Magic team
said 'we'll believe it when we see it'. So the Clarion team demonstrated
their fininished application for all the participants, and impressed the
pants off them !

Amazingly enough, the complete assignment was almost ready and included a
web based part, and all with only 300 lines of added code !!! (the rest, of
course, generated by templates).

The motto, as Erik Pepping said at the end of the race, was : If you have to
'code' at the RADrace, you've lost.

The RADventure Clarion development team took home an enormous trofee, a
bottle of champaigne, and this being Holland, a bouquet of flowers!

Once again it is proven that Clarion is out there , and among the best of
them !

If you are able to read Dutch, or just want to see the pictures see :

Erik Pepping
Managing Director
RADventure B.V.

The Neterlands
The star-race-team of RADventure, Erik Pepping and Peter Rakke, has
succeeded in winning the prestigious RADrace two years in a row, an
unprecedented event. They used Clarion 5.5 Enterprise Edition in
combination with RADventure tools.

The RADrace is an yearly event where teams of developers compete to
complete as much as possible of a real life business case application
within a very limited timeframe (2 businessdays). Part of the challenge
is the inevitable change-of-mind of the customer requirements at a very
late stage <g>
This years assignment was a European museum ticket and access program,
with a.o. a lot of business rules, email and a web access interface

Competitors were:
- Blue Polar using Blue Polar
- MagicHands (team A) using Magic (the product <g>)
- Edcubed using TET
- Avades using Visual Studio .Net
- Borland using Delphi
- Computer Associates using Advantage Gen
- Compuware using Uniface
- Magic Hands (team B) using Magic Edveloper
- Oracle using JDeveloper

For more information: (Dutch, more info next week)

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Why Clarion?

I must say I'm always a bit puzzled by clients who use the "clarion is
unknown" argument. Given that the average joe has heard of VB - maybe even
Dephi - Java at a real push, saying they don't know clarion is hardly
significant. They also don't know probably 95% of the tools available.

The one client who tried this on me made "elegant" ladies shoes. I retorted
that I'd never heard of him, but I'd heard of Nike. (politely of course). It
was a analogy he understood completely because comparing him to Nike was
patently ridiculous. That was the end of that discussion.

Some customers follow it through to "but where will I find another Clarion
developer"... The answer is - you might have to look harder, but they are
out there. And given that clarion offers the programmer a "stucture" I'd
venture that it's a lot easier to take over someone else's clarion project,
than it is to take over a VB, or C, or Java project.

For our commercial app we had one client who wanted the source code put into
escrow. "just in case". Now bear in mind he's spending maybe $1500 for the
complete "off the shelf" system (hardware and software). We pointed out that
the cost of the _environment_ (Clarion, 3rd party tools etc) which would
have to be placed in Escrow as well was about $10 000. ie he was paying 10
times the going rate (plus escrow fees), so as to protect his $1500
investment. Jeesh. With business practices like this I'll be around long
after he isn't. Lets say we had vanished 1 month after he'd got it all
going. So what? So it runs for a year or two. Then the best idea is to throw
it away and buy some other commercial off-the-shelf competitor.

I even had 1 potential customer (a large insurance company) declare a
product of ours was not considered because basically they had budgeted $200
000 for the project. Our off-the-shelf solution was going to cost $1000. Ok,
maybe it wouldn't have fitted their needs. But for $1000 why not just buy
the puppy and try? (They were spending 10 times that for each product they
were "evaluating"....) Why am I not surprised that the company is no longer

But I digress - I'm sure we all have a dozen stories along the same lines.
I figure you can't make people smart - but there are enough smart people out
there already. You just have to find them.....


The technique I used was the following:

We use the TopSpeed suite of languages which include: C, C++, PASCAL,
Modula2 and Clarion.
The normal questions which follow are:
Q. Who are TopSpeed.
A. They where founded by Neils Jensen (the founder of Borland) and
originally consisted of a breakaway group of Borland programmers.

Q. What is Modula2 and Clarion.
A. Modula2 is Objected Orientated Pascal and Clarion is a proprietary
Language for database work.

Then explain how they all shared the same backend compiler technology, which
allowed me to mix and match languages based on what was appropriate for the
job (I wouldn't give %s).

and that was that, most of the time all they really heard was c/c++, common
backend and Borland association.

As you know, I've just finished a Clarion application that is being used by the
IT standards industry world-wide. It's 6600+ function points, runs on MS/SQL,
has a robust backroom system, is supported by a web-interface, and a distributed
client-side import-export system for updating the central database.

This application was just audited by the heads of standards for such unknown
companies as Sun, Oracle, IBM, and Unisys. The preliminary findings were that
they could not believe how much software was delivered for so little money and
had so few errors.

I read an article years ago where the author mulled over the difference
between technophiles and lay users. he said (talking about the very early
windows attempts at video I think)

"The typical users response is "Why is it so bad?". While the technophiles
are amazed that it even works at all!"

NetRefresh is like this. Programmers think it's way cool. Users are less
excited because this is what they expected your program to do in the first
place. The fact that up to now it _doesn't_ do this has largely been either
covered over, or they simply haven't noticed.

It does highlight a difference in approach though. Programmers are
satisfied with a program as soon as the program _works_. That is after all
what we're being paid to do. Customers on the other hand _assume_ that it
works. That doesn't excite them. After all that's what they paid for. The
concept that it "might not work" is bizarre to them. After all if you bought
a car, and the dealer said "well this one has a few bugs, but will probably
go most of the time" you'd look at him strangely as well.

So the customer takes it for granted that it'll "work". All they're
interested in are "what does it _look_ like?" and "How easy is it to learn &
use". Same as the car. The fact we can go places in it is a given. The real
question we labour over is what color the car should be.

Thus when a programmer points out a feature that took 3 weeks of sweat to
get right, Like a leave calculation that has to work juggling 100 rules, the
customer yawns. However they swoon over the "cool wallpaper" that you fished
out of our CD collection at the last minute. Now you look at the customer

I have a sneaky suspicion that this is why Clarion gets such rave reviews
when put up against VB. Ok not all of it, but some of it. The point is that
with VB you go away, and get it _working_. It takes time. For most of that
time there's nothing to see. It's all "under the skin" stuff. 6 months
later the "programmers still had nothing to show..." With Clarion the
"visual" part comes out in a few minutes. So you have a prototype of the
invoicing system at the customer in no time. "There are a few things to
finish" to you mention to them (meaning you haven't coded the business logic
yet). But the customer sees a "working" app. Subconciously he assumes that
it already "works". Ok you're going to improve the look etc.

Drop in some 3rd party stuff and the entire framework of the app is done in
less than a day or two. Emailing reports, Logins, Multi-User Access, Context
sensitive help, hyperlinkable email lists, and so on take just minutes to
accomplish. And importantly these are all _visible_ to the customer. Wait a
week, drop in Makeover, and he thinks you're a miracle worker. This is real
Progress !! My word but you're a fast programmer.... (Note the program still
doesn't _work_ - he just hasn't discovered that yet. By the time he does
hopefully you have got it to work...

Then like a good clarion programmer you defer reports to the latest possible
moment. Remember the client doesn't know the report is missing until he
needs to print it. So with the 2 or 3 "daily" reports, you buy weeks of
programming time....

In my opinion it's a preferable cycle anyway. The customer gets good
feedback early in the project. They can tweak a bit here and there, start
capturing data, discover a couple of "wouldn't it be neat if..." and
generally feel like they're part of the project. In the end the project
might go on for 6 months, or much longer, but it never feels that long to
the customer...

enough rambling....


Check out and see why using anything but
Clarion is a waste time and money.

Seriously, when I first found it I was a very productive Foxpro
developer. A guy asked me to do a small job and I told him it would
take approximately 40 hours to do in Foxpro, without any reports. I had
been a dBase / Foxbase / Foxpro programmer since 1978, and custom
database structures prior to that in Basic and Z-80 Assembler so I
really knew my way around the xBase languages. He asked me if I could
do it in Clarion, I asked why. He told me it would produce royalty-free
executables. I told him I could do that with Clipper too. He told me to
try Clarion and let him know what I thought. I sat down at the machine
and went through the tutorial (this was back in the DOS days of 1989) it
took me about 20 minutes to go through the 'Getting Started' manual and
when I was through, I sat back in my chair and said "WOW"!.

I told him I would do the project in Clarion but he had to be
aware that it would be my first project in the language so not to expect
anything fancy. He said "We'll see.".

I took it home, loaded it on my computer and went through some
of the annotated examples to see how the language worked. I reminded me
a lot of DataFlex, that I had used in a project in 1984 (and I really
liked it). So I finally started in on his requested project. I did the
whole thing in 10 hours, WITH all of the reports that he wanted. I was
really impressed by then. Then, I had to write a benchmark program that
would test the aggregate throughput of dumb terminals (Wyse 60's) coming
through multi-port shared IRQ serial based controller cards. I decided
that I would write the whole thing in the "raw" Clarion language and not
use any of the code generation tools, in order to get a good feel of the
capabilities of the language. I would have normally written this sort of
thing in GW-Basic or in GW, with some assembler sub-routines. It took
me a couple of days to write it using only 3GL language statements and
that is when I truly fell in love with the language.

Why? Because it's so damned easy to write, that you can actually
come back 6 months later and understand what you did!

To date, I have found it to be the very best way to create
general business applications that require ongoing maintenance.

For example, Secure Address Book was completely generated by
wizards with the exception of approximately 5 embed points, in which I
have maybe had to use 40 lines of custom coding. Everything else is
accomplished through the use of specialized templates that provide
functions that do not normally come out of the box. Don't get me wrong,
there is tremendous functionality right out of the box, however, to do
some things you either have to write out the code (and test it) or buy a
special template that someone else has already written (or you can write
your own template for specialized functionality if you want to be able
to re-use the code in multiple applications) and tested.

To give you an example of how powerful it is, the main browse
procedure with all of the 'greenbar' effect, column sorting and locator
functionality is one browse extension template in a package known as
Handy Tools (by a company in Canada, I did not have to
use a single line of code to do any of that functionality. I simply
dropped the template code on the window, set a couple of parameters for
coloring the 'greenbar', toggled a checkbox in the listbox formatter to
turn on coloring and selected from a dropdown list, the various columns
that would not be available for sorting. That's it. The functionality
to do the icon to the system tray, run once and some other minor
functions was simply a couple of check boxes and entering the name of
the icon file. The biggest section of code that I actually had to write
to do some functionality is 20 lines of code.

The whole automatic file maintenance and auto updating required
only 1 line of code in one embed.

The password routine for the login window required a total of 6
lines of code.

The registration process and demo capability requires 2 small
global templates, you fill in 6 or 7 prompts and it's done.

So you can see the tool is incredibly productive.

The 'Enterprise' edition comes with all kinds of database
drivers and extra components for doing web based applications. The cost
is about $2500.00

Don't get me wrong, the product actually does have some warts,
but far, far fewer than most of the Microsoft development tools.

Anyway, I have run on... Not sure how long this battery is going
to last so I had better sign off for now. Hopefully the power company
can come out early tomorrow and fix the problem.

Have a great night!

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