Hard To Kill: What’s New in Visual FoxPro 10 by Whil Hentzen is a short 130-page book. Hentzen tries to debunk the myths around the “death” of Visual FoxPro and explains the current development eco-system for FoxPro developers.
For inexperienced developers or developers coming from other languages who haven’t been exposed to FoxPro before, it’s a handy reference and quickstart guide. However the business continuity section, which is applicable to any developer or owner of a software system, is the most useful and essential part of the book and is an oft-overlooked thing.
The book is a quick, easy read and reference guide. The first quarter of the book is devoted to debunking many of the myths that surround the “death” of FoxPro. There are several well-reasoned arguments that, for the most part, I agree with. FoxPro-based systems aren’t going away any time soon, but they are a source of risk for certain businesses and as Hentzen points out, staying with a FoxPro system is not possible or not the best outcome for the business in all cases.
Business continuity & system recovery
The latter portion of the book is dedicated to dealing with business continuity and recovery with several practical steps to take. Whilst it may not have been Hentzen’s intention, I think this is the most useful part of the book. Business continuity is a critical thing that is almost always overlooked — until it’s too late. It is not talked about openly, or often, enough in my experience. It’s not specific to FoxPro applications either. Any developer in any programming language should make sure that they have thought about it from the point of view of their clients. This is the section that I do think is worth highlighting and applauding Hentzen for. If existing FoxPro developers had taken the time to document the systems in more detail as outlined in the book their clients would be in a much better place.
Hentzen shows there’s no simple route when taking over maintenance of a FoxPro application and having a FoxPro expert on hand is a big timesaver. From our own experiences, I completely agree. Unlike the web technologies that we often migrate clients to, no two FoxPro systems that were built by different developers are alike. Each has their own structures and methodologies so detangling them is somewhat a unique process each time.
Any time a client enlists our help to take over maintenance of their FoxPro system we insist on starting with a specific engagement to uncover and detangle these issues so it is quite gratifying to have some independent written evidence to back us up.
Setup & configuration
Here at Foxsoft, we’re already experts in Visual FoxPro so unsurprisingly I didn’t get a huge amount of value out of these chapters as they talk about setting up and configuring Visual FoxPro for development. But if you’re a developer who have had a FoxPro application foisted upon them, you’d find it a useful and helpful guide to getting started in the right way.
Eco-system & community
Similarly, this section of the book is only going to be useful for the subset of developers tasked with maintaining a FoxPro application and haven’t already been immersed in our world. The list of books is useful and they’re still valid to a certain degree, but I imagine that if you don’t already have them on your shelf you’ll find them hard to get hold of. It’s also worth pointing out that in the list of FoxPro user groups there are only 6 that are still active, and they are based in North America. Unfortunately, this doesn’t provide great evidence of anything other than FoxPro’s decline in popularity.
I can’t finish this review without mentioning the cover. I have to admit, I’m not sure I understand what it’s trying to convey. But hey, it certainly stands out!
I confess I initially picked up the book because I was most intrigued about the myths to see if they jibe with our own experiences but in the end, it was the section on business continuity and estate-planning that impressed me most.