If you thought Delphi was the only Object
Pascal programming system available, think again! Chrome
from RemObjects Software brings Object Pascal into Microsoft
Visual Studio. And that’s just for starters - as
bitwise discovered when we spoke to RemObjects’ Chief
Chrome In Brief
Chrome is an implementation
of the Object Pascal language, plus new extensions.
Chrome can be integrated into Microsoft’s
Visual Studio 2003 and 2005. All the Visual Studio
IDE features (including form design, editing
and debugging) can be used with Chrome. A Chrome
compiler is also available for Mono, which is
an open source system aimed at running programs
targeting the .NET and Java Frameworks on multiple
platforms such as Windows, Linux and OSX. Free
unrestricted commandline editions of Chrome for
.NET or Mono plus a time-limited Visual Studio
edition are available for download from the Chromesville
web site http://www.chromesville.com/
Before going any further, maybe you can explain
how Chrome got its name?
mh: That's an
interesting question. As you can imagine, picking a name
for Chrome was a lengthy process and many different names
were suggested at one time or another, from the simple "RemObjects
fancy acronyms that were beyond explanation.
When we started out with the project a year and a half
ago, the codename we picked was "Adrenochrome",
in homage to the same-titled song by The Sisters of Mercy.
During the course of the alpha and beta phase, many of
us (and many of the beta testers) had grown fond of the
name and it was actually suggested to keep it for the
final product - an idea that was rejected mostly for
marketing reasons - we felt the name was to long and
not something easily remembered by potential customers.
In the end, we decided to keep the second half - Chrome - both because it reminded us of the original codename
for the project but also due to the connotations of something
luxurious and shiny that the name invokes.
Given the fact that Borland's Delphi 2005
already supports Object Pascal for .NET, why did you
decide to create an alternative product?
mh: This has got
to be the single one most asked question about Chrome.
As you know, we at RemObjects software come from a
Delphi background; I personally have been using Delphi
for over 10 years now, starting with its very first release
(and I had been using Turbo Pascal and Borland Pascal
About two or three years ago, we started investigating
the possibility of expanding our product range of developer
libraries to cover the Microsoft .NET Framework, and
naturally Delphi for .NET was one of the first things
we looked at for this job.
Unfortunately, we were disappointed with what we were
seeing. It seemed that Borland had developed Delphi for
.NET with one main goal in mind: to hide the transition
from Win32 to .NET from the developers.
What sounds like a good idea on first sight had backfired
tremendously: .NET as a platform is radically different
from Win32 on many levels, and in most cases it requires
a different development approach than one would use for
classic Win32 development. Delphi for .NET had, in our
opinion, failed to realize this platform difference and
introduced many Delphi-isms and Win32-isms that felt
out of place and awkward in the .NET world.
What's more, the .NET platform is all about language
interoperability, something that is even more important
for us as a component vendor than it is for the average
application developer. Delphi for .NET introduced many
quirks that make it difficult (if not impossible) for
us to use it to develop third party component libraries
that would feel natural to C#, Visual Basic.NET or even
Cobol.NET developers - something that was obviously very
important for us.
To cut a long story short, the decision was easily
made for us to start using C# for our .NET projects instead
of Delphi, because C# was the only language that allowed
us to fully embrace the .NET framework.
And C# was a great language to use, no doubt about
it, but we soon realized that we missed our beloved Pascal
syntax. The thought was born: what if there was a language
that gave us Pascal syntax, but at the same time was
designed from the ground up to work with the .NET Framework
and the Common Language Runtime? The rest, as the saying
goes, is history….
What are the benefits of developing using
Microsoft's Visual Studio rather than a dedicated development
environment such as Delphi?
mh: First of all,
Visual Studio is just as "dedicated" a
development environment as Delphi is. At this time, both
Visual Studio and the Borland Developer Studio are multi-purpose
IDEs hosting a variety of languages. So I suppose this
question boils down to: why use Visual Studio rather
then developing our own IDE?
Let me answer this in two
For one thing, Visual Studio is a great IDE that was
designed from the ground up to be very extensible - even
Microsoft's own languages are nothing but extensions
to the IDE core, just as the Chrome integration is -
and with the upcoming Visual Studio 2005 it is getting
even better. Microsoft is pouring enormous resources
into improving and expanding Visual Studio; in my opinion
To even think about competing with Visual Studio by
implementing our own IDE is ridiculous - the amount of
resources needed would be unimaginable, and to what purpose?
It's not the basic skeleton of the IDE that matters,
it's the internals that fill the IDE with life that count
- and we have full control over that with Visual Studio.
Basically, integrating with Visual Studio instead of
writing our own IDE allowed us to concentrate on these
essentials: creating a great compiler and related tools,
without having to worry about the basic plumbing of
the IDE skeleton.
Secondly, I want to stress that Chrome is not tied
to Visual Studio. First and foremost, Chrome is a compiler.
We are releasing a version which integrates this compiler
with Visual Studio as a first class citizen next to C#
and VB. But this is just the first step, not the final
destination. In the future, Chrome will integrate with
other development IDEs (among them SharpDevelop/MonoDevelop)
So I personally do not think of Chrome as an "add-in
for Visual Studio". Chrome is a product on its own,
and - among other options - we're happening to be leveraging
Visual Studio to allow our customers to use it inside
this state-of-the-art IDE.
|"It is my opinion that maintaining
a common set of code for Win32 and .NET is a myth..."
How compatible is Chrome with the Delphi version
of Object Pascal? Are there any significant incompatibilities?
mh: The answer
to this is a very decisive "depends".
Chrome is certainly compatible enough with Delphi that
it is possible to write code that will compile in both
Delphi and Chrome. The question is: is this really desirable?
As mentioned before, .NET and Win32 are really vastly
different platforms, and moving from Win32 to .NET requires
a certain amount of adjustment in the way we approach
development tasks - we cannot simply expect to take any
given piece of Win32 code and be able to "just compile
it" for NET.
Porting an application to .NET involves more then just
recompiling the code; it involves rethinking the design
decisions made for the original Win32 code and considering
how they apply (or don't apply) to the new platform at
hand. This is not specific to .NET, the same applies
to porting your applications to, say, Java, Linux or
For example, .NET uses a garbage collector, while Delphi
Win32 code uses an explicitly managed heap. As a result,
any non-trivial Win32 code will be full of try..finally sections that take care of freeing objects, while 90%
of all .NET code will not care about freeing objects at
all. Removing this extra code on the Win32 side
is not an option, and keeping it around for .NET would
add a tremendous unnecessary overhead to your applications
(fuelling the ".NET code is slow" myth).
It is my opinion that maintaining a common set of code
for Win32 and .NET is a myth for all but the most generic
business-logic type of code. The differences between
the platforms are just too stark to make this feasible.
That said, for those that are interested in porting
Delphi Win32 code to Chrome, there is an open source
project called ShineOn (http://shineon.berlios.de)
that is focusing on providing a compatibility layer for
compiling applications that use the Delphi RTL with Chrome.
The focus is not to achieve 100% code compatibility with
Delphi code, but to ease the migration of code that heavily
relies on Delphi RTL functions and classes (such as the
System and SysUtils unit, TStringLists, etc).
You've introduced a few new language features.
Can you give a brief summary of the most important of
these and explain their benefits to developers.
mh: We basically
have three kinds of language enhancements in Chrome.
On the one hand, we have some major new features that
enable you to do things previously impossible or requiring
unreasonably larger amount of code; among those are things
Contracts, asynchronous methods, and of course
Then we have a quite comprehensive list of small language
tweaks, things that aren't really rocket-science or radical
new language concepts, but which will allow you to write
code more efficiently and more clearly; for example Chrome
provides the ability do declare for loop
variables inline, initialize fields right inside the
class declaration, declare inline property readers, or
the "for each matching" extension to for loops
that allows you to easily process a particular subset
of a larger collection.
Finally, we have changes and extensions to the language
that basically are second nature to the .NET platform,
such as events and delegates, virtual properties, "for
in" loops, finalizers, so called "unsafe" code
and proper no-compromise namespace support
Borland has gone to some lengths to ease the
migration path from Win32 to .NET using a .NET version
of its VCL class library. Is there any easy migration
path from Win32 Delphi to Chrome?
mh: Chrome's main
goal from the get-go was to provide a new language that
cleanly integrates into the .NET world - without compatibility
baggage weighing it down. So wherever we had to make
a decision to compromise the cleanliness of the language
vs. compromising Delphi compatibility, we usually sided
in favour of the language.
But we do provide a couple of compatibility switches
and features that will ease porting of Win32 (or .NET)
Delphi code. Also, as I mentioned before, there's the
ShineOn project that's working on providing an Open Source
compatibility library for the Delphi RTL.
I think that it's safe to say that porting a substantial
project to Chrome will involve a certain amount
of work and adjustment (in other words, it usually won't
be a matter of copy/pasting the code and compiling it),
but should be a straightforward and easy enough process
- and hopefully well worth it, given the benefits of
the Chrome language.
|"Mono is the first real chance
this industry is seeing for real and usable cross-platform
software development for Windows and Linux"
You've created a version of Chrome to run
under Mono. How different are the .NET and Mono releases?
mh: There is no
difference at all. We do provide a separate "for
Mono" version for download,
but the only difference is that it's a tar.gz file instead
of a Windows based installer, and that the sample projects
are - where needed - adjusted to use Linux style path
strings. This version is more of a benefit for Linux
users who don't have a Windows system - there's not really
any technical difference. The exact same Chrome compiler
binary works on both systems; you can literally copy
the Chrome.exe (and the couple of related dlls) from
your Windows box to your Linux box and run it there.
If you think about it, this is a really great accomplishment
from the Mono team. We do a lot of testing under Mono,
on both Windows and Linux, of course, but as far as I
recall there wasn't a single incident where we had to
make significant changes to the compiler to make it run
under Mono - it just worked.
It is probably worth mentioning at this point that,
no matter what platform the compiler is running under,
it will allow you to link against either .NET or Mono.
So, for example, even with the compiler running under
.NET (say, inside the Visual Studio IDE), you can point
it to the Mono .dlls and link your application against
Mono - or the Compact Framework, or Portable.NET (http://www.dotgnu.org),
for that matter.
In your opinion, how important is the Mono
platform? Isn't there the risk that it will always be
trailing behind the lead set by Microsoft as new versions
of .NET are released?
mh: I think the
Mono project (http://www.mono-project.com)
has great potential, and we at RemObjects are very committed
to fully supporting Mono, not just with Chrome but also
with our other .NET products such as RemObjects SDK.
In my opinion, Mono is the first real chance this industry
is seeing for real and usable cross-platform software
development for Windows and Linux (as well as, eventually,
MacOS, BSD and the other platforms targeted by Mono).
As mentioned above, Mono has done a really awesome job
at providing an implementation of the CLR that is compatible
to Microsoft's - I think the fact that a piece of software
as complex as the Chrome compiler itself works without
hitches and without any major portability considerations
necessary from our side already speaks volumes. The way
things are looking right now, Mono has a real chance
at succeeding, where other attempts (such as Kylix, or
even Java) have failed.
The big test for Mono will of course be the Windows
Forms implementation, which at this time still needs
a lot of work, and which will, of course, be the deciding
factor for whether Mono will become interesting for the
average developer of GUI applications.
But in reality, the big desktop push for Linux that
many anticipated hasn't really happened, and Linux is
still mainly a server operating system. And for server
and command line applications, Mono is a very usable
reality - now.
|"The purpose of Chrome is
to provide language innovations that are not
happening on the Delphi front"
What is the future of Chrome? As you've already
introduced language features that are not found in Delphi,
this seems to imply that you have decided to sacrifice
compatibility with Delphi. Does this mean that you will,
from now on, be in direct competition with Borland?
mh: As I said
before, compatibility with Delphi is definitely not our
top concern; we want to concentrate on innovating and
extending the Chrome language beyond what it is now,
by adding more features in the future. Right now, work
is already going on for the next version of the compiler,
which will introduce more .NET 2.0 features to the language,
as well as some other exciting language features we can't
really talk about, yet.
By focusing too much on Delphi compatibility, we would
slow down this innovation, and we'd also cut off our
own market - if Chrome was the same as Delphi, why would
anybody bother using Chrome? That'd be senseless. No,
the purpose of Chrome is to provide language innovations
that are not, at this time, happening on the Delphi front
- I think we've been very successful in achieving this
for Chrome 1.0, and we have a lot of more cool stuff
up our sleeves...
Of course, I'd be very happy for Delphi users if some
of the enhancements we introduced to Pascal with Chrome
might inspire the Delphi R&D team and would make
it into future Delphi versions.
As to whether we are in competition with Borland...
Chrome is a Object Pascal language for .NET, so is Delphi.
I'll leave the rest as an exercise for the reader!
Many people would say that Pascal has become
something of a niche language these days. If I were presently
using some other language such as VB or C#, why should
I consider using Object Pascal instead?
mh: Well, that's
a tricky question. By their very nature, Pascal, C# and
even VB.NET are very similar languages where the basic
OOP concepts are concerned, so the main deciding factor
is, and probably will always be, the syntax. A developer
from a C/C++/C# background who dislikes Pascal's verbose
syntax will have a hard time warming up to Chrome, just
as developers from a Pascal background usually don't
want the "curly braces" of C-style
So if you're a die-hard C# "I need my curly braces" user,
chances are you're not going to be happy with Chrome.
That said, I think we do provide a number of features
that make it attractive for C# users to consider Chrome:
For one thing, the Pascal language with its separation
into interface and implementation sections can be a lot
more readable then C#, especially what larger classes
are concerned. Its language constructs are also more
intuitive than the often-cryptic C-style syntaxes, making
code easier to read and understand.
Also, we provide a number of productivity features
that allow you to accomplish certain tasks with much
less code than in C# (or other .NET languages), such
as the before-mentioned Class Contracts, "for each
matching" or asynchronous methods. Chrome also offers
a lot of options for so called "unsafe" code,
that go beyond what can be done in C# - making it interesting
for developers that are otherwise considering moving
Finally, a big feature that no other .NET language
provides, as far as I am aware of, is Chrome's cross-linking
capability. This allows you to link your applications
against other platforms than the ones you're running
on. One example mentioned earlier was linking against
Mono; another interesting possibility is to link against
.NET 2.0 from the Visual Studio .NET 2003 IDE - allowing
you to use make use of new features such as generics
(including full IntelliSense support for them), without
having to upgrade to the Beta IDE of Visual Studio 2005.
As a long term Delphi developer, I need to
know at least one really good reason for using Chrome
instead of Delphi 2005. Can you give me one....?
mh: I hope that
the above answers have given a lot more then just one good
reason to choose Chrome…
Three of my personal favourites are:
(a) Proper namespaces
(c) the Visual Studio IDE.
||marc hoffman was
born in 1975 in Dortmund, Germany; in 1992 he spent
a year in Nelson, Wisconsin and finally moved to
Berlin in 2003. marc has been writing software since
he got his first Commodore C64 in the late 1980s,
and has been a user of Delphi since day one. In 1996
marc founded elitedevelopments
software, a company that creates developer tools
and platforms for web hosting; in 2002 he co-founded
Software with Alessandro Federici and
co-wrote their first product, RemObjects SDK fo Delphi.
Since early 2004 marc has been the Chief Architect
for RemObjects' line of .NET products, and project
manager for Chrome; marc's blog is at: