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Dipping Back Into Delphi with List & Label 22

I haven’t done a lot of programming for the last couple of years, and I miss it. Interstate moves and oxygen starvation will do that to you. I’ve converted some of my old Delphi apps to Lazarus, which in truth wasn’t hard and probably can’t be called programming with a straight face. And I have a project that I need to get back to, even if it has to be written in Delphi 7, which is the most recent version that I have. (Turbo Delphi doesn’t count.) I no longer had a publishing company after Delphi 7 appeared, so post-2002 I dropped off their reviewers list. And $1,400 is a little steep for hobby programming–much less $4700 on the high end.

For some years I’ve been poking at the concept of a personal medical database. I’m old now (how did that happen??!?) and I take pills and get bloodwork and monitor various things to make sure none of my component parts are rusting out. I have Word documents full of notes, and scribbles on paper calendars, all of which really need to be pulled together into one searchable and reportable database. Some doctors won’t believe that my blood pressure does not respond to sodium. I have proof. I’ll bet, furthermore, that it will be a lot more convincing if it’s placed in their hands as a professional-looking report.

All of what I’ve done so far has been in Lazarus, and most of that has been small proof-of-concept lashups, none of them newer than 2012. However, a marvelous report generator product has crossed my desk, and I want to give it a shot with my medbase app. The product is List & Label 22, from Combit, a small firm in southern Germany. It has God’s own kitchen sink of features, many of them related to Web programming, which I simply don’t do. However, it has all conventional reporting options I’ve ever heard of well-covered, and it supports all versions of Delphi back to D6. (It supports Visual Studio and many other dev platforms as well.)

It doesn’t support Lazarus, alas. So I’ll be trying it out in D7.

The big win (for me at least) is that L&L 22 provides a report designer in VCL component format that drops on a form and becomes part of your application. This allows end users to design their own reports. Given that my end user is me, I don’t have to worry about end users doing gonzo things. I’ve always liked my software to exist as One Big Chunk (DLL hell, and all that) so this is right up my alley.

I don’t yet know precisely what reports I’ll want, and it may be the case that I won’t know until I actually need one for a specific purpose, like laying out my data indicating that salt is irrelevant to my blood pressure. Having a report designer right there in the app means that I can design the report that I need when I need it, and not try to anticipate every damn thing I’ll ever want while I’m building the program itself.

I should make it very clear here that I don’t dislike modern Delphi. I still love it, but it’s gotten enormously expensive, and the Starter Edition does not include database programming features. My other reason for using Lazarus is that I still intend to write intro-to-programming books using Pascal as the teaching language. Expecting students to pay even $250 for the Delphi Starter Edition is asking a lot, and worse, I intend to teach database work as well as conventional programming.

I’ll have more to say about List & Label as I learn it. Ditto the medical database itself, which is now a set of tables full of test data and a couple of conceptual UIs. Stay tuned.


  1. TRX says:


    I *loved* Delphi. But Borland’s tiered pricing system was insane, and I couldn’t talk my employer to paying for a fancier version. And then they started offering upgrades to owners of Microsoft products at a substantially cheaper price than they wanted from those of us who had been faithful customers since 1987…

    I pointed my middle finger toward California and never bought another Borland product or upgrade. And, judging by their performance later, I wasn’t the only one.

    Lazarus is a-verra-nahss, and the FreePascal compiler it’s based on freakin’ rocks.

    Borland was responsible for much of Pascal’s rise in the PC world… and as far as I’m concerned, responsible for its fall.

  2. Orvan Taurus says:

    Way back when, I recall watching a talk/speech by some doctor (long forgot his name, alas) on C-band satellite. He had some then-astonishing things to say. One was that margarine was problematic and butter was if not harmless, at least far better. The other that I recall was, “If sodium affects your blood pressure, go find out what’s wrong with your thyroid.”

  3. Ben Buckwalter says:

    I’m currently on the Delphi subscription plan, at around $560.00 a year, this includes Android and IOS and the Fire Monkey suite as well. Traditional Delphi for Windows only is around $300.00 a year and on the subscription, I automatically get the latest Delphi product.

    I have been using Delphi since Delphi 1 came out and Turbo Pascal before that.

    The current Delphi Berlin is rock solid, Embarcadero has become prompt in fixing bugs. It still builds my old projects going back to Delphi 7 and earlier. The current compiler is very fast. After Delphi 7 there were some pretty buggy, versions shipped.

    I use Visual Studio for some projects, but my preference is still Delphi. I can design and code up a product in Delphi far faster then any other ide or programming environment.

    I’m a self employed programmer and hardware engineer. I love programming in Delphi, for a client, or for myself.

    I can relate to the high price to buy a copy of Delphi, and if I were just starting out I would probably use Visual Studio Community, it’s free, and supports a variety of languages. I would also check out Lazarus, as it looks like a good alternative for many applications.

    For now I love Delphi, and the code the compiler generates runs very fast, comparable to the code a good C compiler generates. I have written very fast audio processing routines in Delphi, and there were no performance problems.

    Jeff, I have been following your blogs, career, reading some of your books, since the days of Turbo Pascal. I value your opinions on many things related to computers and programming, as well as others on a variety of subjects, and when a new blog appears, it’s the highlight of my day. I drop everything to read it.

    1. One of my readers told me that the $280 Delphi Starter Edition was now free, and I may get it, though if it times out after some period of time I won’t. The problem I have with the Starter Edition is simply that it doesn’t have all the database components, and I’m working on a database app.

      I’ve been using Lazarus for five or six years now, and v1.6 is solid. Better yet, it runs on the Raspberry Pi, where Delphi doesn’t and probably never will.

      Many thanks for the vote of confidence! I’ve moved a lot of my minor news-y stuff to Facebook, but I’ve been at Contra since 1998 and have no intention of stopping now.

  4. Larry Keyes says:

    Just catching up on 7 months of Contra. Checked out your Facebook page, but it is TMI. 🙂 I hope you stick with Contra.

    Regarding your med database, you might take a look at FileMaker. Years ago I did a FileMaker database for the Burlington VT code enforcement office which required transferring photos of every property in the city from those giant CD ROMS (as big as an LP) to a hard drive. For some reason they had a Mac tower as a file server, and so FileMaker 4 filled the bill…it was the one cross-platform database that worked on both Macs and PC’s *and* it could deal with “media”, i.e. photographs with its container data type. Anyway, FM is now up to version 16. Works on Windows, Macs and iOS devices and has a terrific web-based client that also works on Android. They have a cloud version which is hosted on AWS, and relatively inexpensive desktop licenses which make it useful for all kinds of ad-hoc database work, either on Mac or Windows and via ODBC and REST APIs will talk to anything on any platform.

    Too bad about Pascal… I would have loved to continue working with it, but it got too expensive.

    1. Well, Pascal is now free…and the free version is mighty damned potent. Obviously I’m talking about FreePascal, and especially its editor/GUI builder Lazarus. They’re about to release version 1.8. Unless I’m screwing around in Python (which I hate; significant whitespace? WTF?) because some project requires it, I’m working in FreePascal via Lazarus. Not all tools available for Delphi are available for it (which was the reason for this entry) but a hell of a lot of components are. I’ve asked Combit to consider supporting Lazarus, and we’ll see what they end up doing.

      FileMaker is a damned fine product, granting that I haven’t seen a current version since 2004. But it’s not programming as I learned it.

      I’ve tinkered with the database schema for my health app, and that’s as far as it’s gotten. I may have to build my own calendar interface, which is surprising considering how many office apps require scheduling to a calendar. There should be a dozen calendar components by now. I’ve got novels to write in the meantime, but I’m keeping my ears peeled for useful components and new versions of Lazarus.

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