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Visual Basic (VB)

Visual Basic (VB) is an event-driven programming language and environment from Microsoft that provides a graphical user interface (GUI) which allows programmers to modify code by simply dragging and dropping objects and defining their behavior and appearance. VB is derived from the BASIC programming language and is considered to be event-driven and object-oriented.

VB is intended to be easy to learn and fast to write code with; as a result, it is sometimes called a rapid application development (RAD) system and is used to prototype an application that will later be written in a more difficult but efficient language.

The last version of VB, Visual Basic 6, was released in 1998, but has since been replaced by VB .NET, Visual Basic for applications (VBA) and Visual Stuido .NET. VBA and Visual Studio are the two frameworks most commonly used today.

Visual Basic features and characteristics

VB is a GUI-based development tool that offers a faster RAD than most other programming languages. VB also features syntax that is more straightforward than other languages, a visual environment that is easy to understand and high database connectivity.  

Visual Basic was designed to be a complete programming language that contained ordinary features, such as string processing and computation. The visual environment is characterized by a drag-and-drop feature which allows programmers to build a user interface that is easy to use, even for developers with minimum experience.

While these features of VB are advantageous, there are others that can have a negative effect. The VB programming environment requires a large amount of memory, both for the initial installation and to run efficiently afterwards. The graphical features of the programming tool take up a large amount of space and require a significant amount of memory.

Furthermore, Visual Basic is not useful when developing programs that require a lot of processing time, like games, and the use of VB is restricted to Microsoft operating systems (OS).

Finally, with C languages, programmers can feasibly locate and use the defined values for variable data in a computer program at declaration time. This initialization practice is something that isn't easily done with VB.

How Visual Basic is used

The structure of VB is designed to allow programmers to use the environment to write executable files (exe files). Also, using VB, developers can create programs that can be utilized as a front end to databases. VB tools can help programmers develop applications or complete software while still allowing them to modify and revise their work accordingly.

The most popular type of Visual Basic in use today is VBA. VBA is a version of Visual Basic that can be used to program Microsoft Office apps, such as Excel and PowerPoint. However, it can only be used to modify existing apps; VBA cannot be used to create new apps.

Typical users engage VBA to make repeated, everyday tasks less monotonous through the use of macros. Macros automate almost any activity -- such as performing word and data processing or generating custom charts and tables. For example, a typical user might write a macro that allows them to create and fill a spreadsheet with a single click. Computer professionals use VBA and macros in more complicated ways. Programmers will often write macros that can replicate large portions of code or define specific languages.

Businesses and organizations can use VBA to customize Excel for their unique purposes, such as pulling certain statistics or information from a spreadsheet. Businesses and organizations can also use VBA externally, or in non-Microsoft applications, by applying a technology called a component object model (COM) interface that enables commands to communicate across computer boundaries. This allows VBA to be used on an enterprise-specific application.

Benefits of Visual Basic

The BASIC programming language, which VB is derived from, is simple and easy to work with, especially when writing exe files.

However, VB becomes extremely beneficial when used with Microsoft's COM interface. The COM components can be written in various languages and then integrated using VB. Additionally, VB provides not only a programming language, but an integrated development environment (IDE) that has been written and optimized to best support RAD. This allows programmers to easily build GUIs and connect them to functions within the application.

Furthermore, the Visual Basic IDE provides views of the management of the program structure that are easy to understand.

Overall, VB enables the rapid development of Windows based applications while also assisting in the access of databases by using ActiveX data objects (ADO) while allowing programmers to use ActiveX control and various objects.

History of Visual Basic

Visual Basic was first introduced in 1991; it is considered the third generation of event-driven programming languages. Various Windows programs were developed throughout the 1990s using VB.

VB continued to evolve throughout the 1990s until Visual Basic 6 was released in 1998, which was replaced by VB .NET. However, Visual Basic for Applications, which is most commonly used today to automate Microsoft Office tasks, is highly compatible with the classic VB 6.

This was last updated in July 2019

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