Everytime a new Delphi version arrives, a library vendor releases a new version or you are going to change to a newer version of some open source library it is quite likely you are getting into some hassles while integrating these changes or new version into your preferred Delphi IDE(s). Although there are vendors that actually do a good job here there are cases when there is some room for improvement. Here I am going to list some things that bothered me in the past and ways to make it easier for the developer to adapt those libraries to a newer Delphi version (without waiting for the vendor).
Disclaimer: These guide lines are resembling my personal preferences that match my own needs. Your personal needs may be better suited in other ways.
The Package Names and unit names must be distinct, so don’t use a generic name like DbComponents. It is quite likely that another one has the same bright idea. If possible, use a specific prefix for the package as well as for the unit names. Ideally all units of this library should be grouped together when listed alphabetically.
The Delphi version is not part of the package name nor is the package version. Use the LIBSUFFIX for the Delphi version and stick with the Delphi convention for libraries (XE=150, XE2=160, … XE8=220). In case of a new version of Delphi, you only copy the exsting packages and adjust the LIBSUFFIX. Make sure to set the LIBSUFFIX in the base configuration so it can be inherited.
Two packages of different versions cannot be loaded simultanously anyway, so leave the package version to its version info. If you put the package version into the package name, people will have to adjust these names on different places (projects, setups) to make use of the new version.
The units together with the DFMs are located in the source subfolder, while the packages reside in the packages subfolder. The packages folder again contains one subfolder for each supported Delphi version. The package naming is consistent between all Delphi version.
The unit output is set for all packages to avoid dcu files in the source folder. The target folders for each target and build configuration is a subfolder of the package folder. This can easily be achieved with $(Platform)\$(Config) in the base configuration settings.
The target folders for bpl and dcp are empty so the files automatically go to the right place where they can be found by the IDE.
Switching between different versions of one library inside the IDE is a little bit tricky and may be part of another blog post in the future.
Provide a project group ordered by dependency and relevance to open all packages at once. Set all packages to Release configuration and Win32 target on delivery. So for the developer to install the packages it is just:
- open the project group
- compile all
- install each design time package
- close all
If you want to provide an easy way to compile for different targets and build configurations use a Build Group. That will change the above step compile all to compile build group.
At least for designtime packages give a decent Description! Best put it into the base configuration (see LIBSUFFIX above). Otherwise the IDE will only show the file path of the package in the list of designtime packages.
Avoid packages declared as design and runtime! Use either designtime or runtime. I am still waiting for a case where such a combination is really necessary.
Keep the requires clause as small as possible. There is no need to repeat the required list from a runtime package inside a designtime package that already requires that runtime package.
It is most likely that readers will have different opinions on some points mentioned in this article. Feel free to express yourself in the comments.
4 thoughts on “Delphi Library Guidelines”
I completely agree with you. Your setup is far more than a personal preference, is the only way to avoid “package hell” if you use more than one version of Delphi and want to keep packages source code for all of them in a central place. LIBSUFFIX was added in Delphi 6, and if you still really to manage older version those should be the exception, not viceversa.
Just, if you wish to spend a little more time, add debug dcus also (in their own folder), and anyway, don’t set default dcus compile setting for debugging.
Also, setting file version number correctly is important if you deploy BPLs, because installer will usually check them for executable files to handle replacement of already existing ones.
I believe this something Embarcadero should set as a Delphi standard policy, to avoid the answer I got from a security library vendor, who, when I suggested to review its packages setup and deployment to ease updating from one version of Delphi to another, and from one version of its library to another, “gently” sent me to hell telling me I didn’t know what I was talking about… just its is one of the few libraries that requires many manual changes to switch.
Personally, I don’t like the version numbers on packages (XE=150, XE2=160, … XE8=220) and prefer to have the LIBSUFFIX of XE, XE2, … XE8 – For me, it is a lot easier to figure out which version the package is for.
I fully agree too, but I want to extent a certan important point for me …
To try to get managemnt into this mess, I try to use the folder structure mainly.
The $(Platform)\$(Config) is really the key for me, since IDE ceates all necessary folders automatically and logically.
Unfortunately IDE is not so consequent to do this on all reasonable places,
like DCU, BPL, Library Search path, etc.
So for new project I adjust the missing settings by hand (maybe one day I check howto change this setting globally once).
Then all packages / configurations resides friendly in different folders, and a simple clean.bat can get rid of garbage, if neded.
I forget to mention one more thing:
I completely changed my development environment to VmWare, so I don’T have
XE6, 7, 8 on one machine.
Since the path variable hell was not mentioned here, I had massive problems in the past.
So since I unse one machine, one version it works all fine for me, and automatically I
don’t have to care for package version no. so much.
I can only recommend this.
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