Despite its longevity, having first been released in 1986, the Clarion data-oriented programming language and development environment is alive and well, supporting an ongoing need for desktop applications.

This is according to Matthys Marais, CEO of Incasu, who recently attended the latest installation of the Clarion International Developers Conference in Florida, USA.

Marais says: “The conference highlighted that Clarion is still growing. Every attempt is being made to keep the product updated with the latest enhancements in Microsoft Windows, a daunting task seeing that Microsoft Windows is constantly being modernised.”

A prominent theme that emerged was that Clarion gives developers the ability to mix desktop applications with web functionality. “This gives them an edge and allows them to address real-world problems with ease,” he says.

Marais says: “This raises the question of whether there is still a need to develop desktop applications and the functionality Clarion is renowned for.”

He believes all indications are that desktop applications will be part of our daily lives for a long time to come, but that their advantages are limited. “We need to be aware of how to leverage it to get the best results for our money,” he says.

Marais cites examples such as Microsoft 365, which is available for installation on new desktops using Microsoft Windows. “Although the cloud version is fully functional, users prefer to use the desktop version, mostly because of speed and internet-less requirements,” he says.

“Gamers tend to have a hybrid approach, but the benefits of having a locally installed application to make use of hardware acceleration for video and disk access make a locally installed game more practical to use. Media production and engineering applications similarly make use of local resources to get the best out of their hardware.”

Marais adds: “There are applications that make use of the advanced features of the OS, like local storage, faster processing time, better security and integration with hardware peripherals. This is where applications for accounting, point-of-sale and scientific processing (MATLAB springs to mind) are making full use of the features directly available to them.”

There are very real scenarios where a desktop application provides huge benefits and should be the preferred platform to develop for, he says.

“Performance is an important reason for using a desktop application. When selecting a personal computer, most of the attention goes into the processing power of the machine, combined with the amount of RAM and storage space available. All of this is done to ensure that desktop applications have enough resources available to perform adequately. If everything was cloud based, we would have been happy with a much scaled down computer with enough RAM for the browser to work efficiently. But we continue to need more resources because of the increased requirements by the desktop applications that we use,” he says.

“Although the internet is a universal requirement for business and personal use, we do encounter situations where even a network connection is a luxury. Desktop applications generally don’t require an internet connection to operate and can provide most of its functionality before having a need to connect to some online service. The term ‘hybrid application’ has become preferable, both for desktop and mobile applications, where the user can perform activities with the application and later connect to a service to synchronise data.”

Marais also notes: “Security is another aspect that is better on the desktop, where there should be services installed to monitor and regulate data traffic and activities on the desktop. Desktop applications can integrate easily with peripheral hardware available through the OS interfaces. This is where applications like point-of-sale and high-volume data capturing benefit most.”

However, he believes that a host of desktop applications still commercially available would benefit from being converted to web-based versions. “For most of them, the benefits have been outweighed by the long list of benefits for a web-based version. But possibly because of limited market demand and a lack of resources, they are lagging in being converted and might see end-of-life soon,” he says.

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