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Watcom C/C++ v10.6- by Brian L. Juergensmeyer

Watcom C/C++ v10.6 is Powersoft's latest entry into the compiler wars, and, while it is obviously a competent compiler, the OS/2 functionality of the compiler seems to be just tacked on as an afterthought.

When I purchased Watcom C/C++10.5, I was informed by Powersoft that, upon registration of my version 10.5 product, I would receive the free upgrade to10.6 when it became available. While it was made plain that the 10.5 to 10.6 upgrade was primarily Windows 95-oriented, I was hoping against hope that they would throw the OS/2 crowd a bone with an updated SOM kit, or maybe even Direct-To-SOM capability, or Open32 (DAX or DAPIE) capability, or... The list of what they could have put in goes on and on. In fact they did not update any piece of the OS/2 portion of the compiler from version 10.5 to 10.6 that I was able to find.

The Nitty Gritty

What is in Watcom C/C++ v10.6? The compiler features an IDE (GIF, 11.6K) capable of compiling 16 bit and/or 32 bit OS/2 command line or Presentation Manager programs. You can also compile OS/2 .DLL's, OS/2 virtual device drivers, .HLP and .INF files.

Watcom C/C++ v10.6 also includes an ability unique among C/C++ compilers currently available: The ability to compile just about any type of binary file for just about any operating system available for the Intel x86 chip today. The following operating systems are supported:

If you need, or even think that you need, the ability to compile for different operating systems, and are willing to put up with some minor inconveniences, you should probably consider this compiler. The compiler produces good, tight code and has been used as the benchmark compiler for a major industry magazine for some time.

What is not in Watcom C/C++ v10.6?

Lots of things. Adequate SOM support comes immediately to mind. The SOM compiler with Watcom C/C++ v10.6 is dated December 1992, which, I think, speaks for itself. Running SYSLEVEL after installation of Watcom C/C++ v10.6 and after the optional installation of the Programmers' Toolkit shows the syslevel of the Toolkit is 2.0.

As I noted above, Direct-To-SOM is also missing, along with Open32 support and OpenDoc support. While I have not checked their web site recently, I have not, as a registered licensee, received any notification of any upcoming inclusion of any of these items in a future version of Watcom's compiler. But, given the age of their currently included Programmer's toolkit, I'm not holding my breath for an upgrade of the OS/2 components any time in the near future.

On a far less serious note, there are some minor quirks and flaws in the development environment in OS/2 that really give one the feeling that OS/2 support was tacked on at the last minute. For instance, programmers editors are included for the DOS, Win3.x, Win95, and WinNT environments. In OS/2 there is a character mode editor that was meant to be a VI emulator and actually falls halfway between DOS's EDIT and VI, with the annoyances of both, but the good points of neither. If you want to use a PM editor, Watcom does not include one. They only have a .DLL that calls EPM.

They also did not reprogram all of the accelerator tables from the Windows source code for the Windowed Debugger. You are supposed to be able to use F10 to step through lines in the debugger, but since OS/2 uses F10 to activate the pull-down menus, you have to use the mouse to hit the step through button on the tool bar.

The bottom line

If you are going to do cross-platform development, save yourself a LOT of cash and get Watcom C/C++ v10.6, as the inconveniences are minor when faced with the cost of buying extra compilers for different operating systems. However, if you are only going to be programming for OS/2, you should probably look elsewhere.
 * Watcom C/C++ v10.6
by Watcom (now owned by Powersoft)
MSRP: US$350
Brian L. Juergensmeyer is a college senior majoring in microbiology, who does OS/2 consulting work in the Manhattan, KS area. He is annoying the VA hospital in Topeka, Kansas (where he actually works) by trying to get their IS manager to convert from NT/WfW 3.11 to Warp Connect/Warp Server.

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