If its important that you know something about the technologies we work with every day, then this page will provide you with the detail you need.
One important point about so called: Companies like Microsoft and Google and the myriad third party / open source toolkit suppliers move forward at a swift pace nowadays, frequently outpacing the development cycle or even the simple needs of the average business or government department. This can lead to a lot of painful discussions about whether to rebuild an otherwise perfectly working system simply because the current crop of graduates don't know anything about it. the fact remains that the average life of a commercial or government system is over 10 years, and only customer facing systems undergo more frequent change.
We still have the knowledge, development and test environments and licenses to work with a wide variety of older languages, toolkits, databases and softare. If you are getting the runaround from other consultants, give us a call.
The Microsoft stack remains our primary toolkit of choice. Our team uses a combination of Visual Studio 2013 and 2017 to build and maintain our existing systems. We can build and deploy with .NET Runtime from 2.0 onwards, including the latest .NET Core releases. We test first on Windows 7 and 10 systems using HD screens.
We use a variety of add-ins and toolkits to enhance the development experience as required, including Entity Framework, CodeSmith, and third party libraries from GrapeCity, ComponentOne, Infragistics, Active Reports, and XlsGen. If you require other toolkits let us know.
We also use a number of open Source toolkits when required. Once we have established your requirements and the type of application that will be produced, we start to look at the tools that offer the best fit to your needs.
If you need a Web Application we will probably start with an ASP.NET MVC framework, and customise the technology on the backend and front end according to your needs. The main decision point will be whether you are able to use commercial libraries, or if you prefer to use open source toolkits for the (browser) user interfaces.
Ok, its nothing special to say that we can build a database systems for you using SQL Server.
But we can offer expertise in all versions of SQL back to 2000 - so if you are still running or porting from a legacy system, we can work with it. We can also offer expertise in moving data to and from other data sources to SQL Server, moving data from server to server, including from a server on the internet to a local one and visa versa. We can automate operations for you, or leave them simply as scripts for your IT dept to run manually as required.
Do you have a lot of data in some old legacy format that you need to migrate into the new system? We can help, both in working out the how, what, where and when, but also ensuring that the migration works correctly, first time and provide complete feedback on what data can’t be migrated because it fails integrity tests in the new system.
Do you need to routinely move data between the old and new systems? We can work with that as well.
Is your data in an old proprietary format, or maybe an Access database protected using passwords you no longer have? We can assist. Similarly if the data is in locked XLS files or other formats.
Do you want your application to work as a standalone (single PC) system, but automatically scale to handle a shared server when required?
Do you need a secure solution that is protected from attacks, and optimised to scale efficiently? Talk to us.
The Access (JET) database engine has been downplayed a lot over the years, especially now as younger network admins don't understand the requirements for deploying systems built on the older COM architectures. But if you need to build a Windows application that has limited or no data sharing requirements, and don't want the expense of SQL Server, then it remains a good choice.
If the application has to be deployed commercially to the public, then its a still a good fit (as you do not want to try installing SQL Express on the average users PC, much less try to support it)
Of course, this Assumes your consultant has one of the older editions of Visual Basic or Visual Studio where the JET runtime licences were free and unlimited. And has the tools to create one-click commercial grade installation programs that can install JET seamlessly...
Angular, Bootstrap and jQuery have led the way in web based development for many years now. Some parts of the stack (like jQuery UI and Knockout) are now somewhat dated, but they remain powerful tools for building sophisticated user interfaces in modern-ish browsers.
There are also many commercial and government systems that require IE 8/9 support (pre-HTML5), and for these jQuery and jQuery UI (and Knockout) based toolkits are still very functional - but finding expertise in them can be hard.
The latest and greatest: Angular (version 6+ at last count), Boostrap 4.x, and Typescript (while a Microsoft technology, its been embraced by the open source community as a way of dealing with continued irregular Ecmascript support in browsers).
New Systems commissioned during 2018 and later will most likely use these technologies as a starting point. However there are some caveats:
Castle Software maintains commercial (runtime) licenses for several different development environments and if you need a system deployed to a public web host or cloud provider then these remain good options. If you need to deploy to an in-house server, you may need to purchase your own deployment licenses. If this can't be done, the simpler solution is to build using the older Angular 1.x and Boostrap 3.x frameworks.
Most reports built for databases tend to be boring things created using Crystal Reports or SQL Server Reporting Services. If your needs are straightforward we can do that, but if you want something fancy, if you need to reproduce an existing complex layout exactly, highlight data in an ad-hoc manner, or just have the report completely reformat itself on-the-fly based on the data and user requirements then we can build it.
The secret is a tool called ActiveReports from GrapeCity. With it we can bind to any data source, or build reports based on unstructured data in any format and from any source (so long as we can read the file). Print previews can be shown in a Windows app, use a Flash / Silverlight / HTML5 viewer in a browser, or exported to several different formats including PDF (and of course sent to your printer, in colour or B&W). Reports can even emulate Excel style page scaling where it all zooms down to fit onto a single page, or is split across any number of pages, or reformats itself so you can print on A4, then Letter, then A3 paper if required.
We aren’t limited to just plain rows and columns of data either. Pre-printed Forms, Charts and graphs, drawing flowcharts, mixing up symbols, images and graphics is all possible
Its also possible to use Microsoft Office as the reporting tool, even for a web system. Want your report to be printed out using Word, perhaps as a flow chart or data diagram in Visio, maybe a Powerpoint slide show, or a spreadsheet complete with formulae & charts?
Bottom line: If you can draw a layout on paper for us, we can write a report that reproduces it.
XML technology doesn't get much press nowadays, but it remains the most powerful way of transporting data between systems. Whether via WCF web services or just as files being copied from one system to another, it has the ability to encode extremely complex data and pass it between completely different architectures.
Why do you think Microsoft selected XML as the basis for the OpenXML file formats now used across the Office suite?
XML and related technologies such as XSLT, XSD are powerful methods for storing, verifying, copying, parsing and transforming data. If you need to pass data (pipeline) between two completely different systems it is still the data format of choice, and many industries/professions have standards governing these operations involving XML. XSLT transforms also allow you to export a single XML data file from your system, and parse it into any text based data format or layout.
Tell us what you currently do manually in Microsoft Office or Visio and we can help you automate it.
Writing templates, dedicated add-ins, and wizards for Office is a specialty of ours. We can produce and deploy these while retaining full security within your Office SOE (using code certificates) and support Office releases for the last 20 years.
The Access reporting engine is second to none, especially if you need your reports to be highly customised. Or would you like your Windows or Web Application application to output (report) data into Word, Excel, or Powerpoint?
Its possible to produce Word (DOCX)/Excel (XLSX) files without Office being present (say on a web server) using the OpenXML libraries. We can also produce output in the older file formats if required using third party toolkits.
If you have systems that need to produce highlighly graphical output, especially large format output that programs like Word or Excel might baulk at printing - writing a template in Visio is a powerful alternative solution.
Microsoft continues to work on the webforms architecture in .NET CORE, but it is largely a dated technology that is used on older web systems, and only rarely used for new developments
The main limitation was that to create a user experience of any real sophistication you had to employ a commercial (server) control library which locked you into a framework that could not be extended easily. It was possible to build large systems using WebForms - but the maturing of the MVC platform several years back meant that most development shifted away from Webforms.
We still maintain client systems built using webforms, and can offer the same service to you.
Visual Basic was a leader in Windows application development for years, starting with Version 3.0 in Windows 3.1. Castle Software Australia constructed several large commercial applications using VB over the years, and one remains in service even now.
We retain licenses and development toolkits (including several third party libraries) to maintain and enhance Visual Basic 6 applications. We can also assist with porting these legacy systems to new C# applictions (Windows or Web).
Note: Silverlight is a platform that will not be supported beyond 2022, and is really only practical using Internet Explorer, but it will work on IE 6 and up.
While discontinued, Silverlight remains the best options for systems that need a rich UI, but have to work on web platforms where HTML5 isn't available. We have extensive experience building Silverlight applications for business needs, including all aspects of the development from Server side data handling, WCF and web services, to MVVM best practices and rich reporting experiences.
if you have an existing Silverlight system that you want to convert to newer HTML 5 based technologies, talk to us.
While increasingly rare, is it imperative that your project supports an older SOE (Internet Explorer 6, 7, 8 or 9), but still leaves wiggle room to be improved later without a complete rewrite?
Have you got an existing web system that needs enhancing and support? We can provide services by staff who understand how the older HTML/CSS or ASP/VBScript designs worked, and won't accidentally break it. We have our own test environments for the older version of Internet Explorer to ensure that your changes work exactly as required on your SOE.
Its rare to come across a classic ASP system now, written using VBscript + ADO and typically using Access/JET databases behind the scenes, but if you do and have questions about it - ask us!
Clipper/dBase systems were considered top-of-the-class in their day in the late 80s and through the 90s. They remain hidden in old Point-of-Sale (POS) systems and other custom PC hardware that uses an 80*25 character text screen.
The dBase (.DBF) file format has all but vanished, so your most likely problem is simply reading the data in these old files, and perhaps trying to recreate the business logic elsewhere. Contact us - we can help.