6 November 2013 — QSA ToolWorks, LLC today announced the release of Helix 6.2.1, bringing Helix Server, Helix Client and Helix Engine up to the same version as Helix RADE. Helix RADE and Helix Engine run in macOS 10.5 (Leopard)-10.9 (Mavericks). Helix Server and Helix Client are not yet Mavericks ready, but QSA says that issue will be addressed by the end of the year.
6.2.1 features performance, stability and new network management tools
While there are more than thirty new and improved features in Helix 6.2.1, far and away the most dramatic improvement comes in the area of network performance, especially in wide-area networks.
“Ever since we made our first forays into macOS Client/Server, we’ve had to contend with some level of user frustration over network performance,” says QSA’s Gil Numeroff. “Getting Helix to work properly in macOS has always been our first priority; all along we’ve assured our users that performance would not be forgotten, and it has steadily improved. But even with the progress we’ve already made, this release surpassed our own expectations.”
During the course of Helix 6.2.1 development, QSA’s engineers devoted a lot of energy investigating and addressing crash reports from prior versions, resulting in a more stable work environment.
“Another big step forward for Helix in version 6.2.1 is the inclusion of a ‘demo mode’ in all of our products that require registration,” said Numeroff. Now, anyone can go to the downloads page on our website, download any or all of our products and just launch them. A “Demo” button now appears on the Registration screen allowing you to try before you buy.
Other features include a complete rethinking of the process of opening or connecting to a served Helix collection. Logs and connection files are now managed transparently by Helix, eliminating the need for the end user to name, save or maintain them in any way. Recent collections are conveniently a single-click away when you launch a Helix application and new logging tools provide a user access audit trail, an important new feature long requested by our more security-conscious customers.
Integrated structure checking was introduced in June with RADE 6.2 and was an instant hit with users. “There has been so much misinformation over the years about when and how often to run the structure check,” said Matt Strange, director of product development. That function has now also been integrated into Helix Server and Helix Engine, streamlining the collection maintenance process. “Integrating the structure check into the overall product workflow really helps us when we need to help our customers,” he added.
Now that all the pieces of Helix 6.2 are finally in place, a Helix application can not only be structurally modified via the traditional method of working in Helix RADE but also with a new AppleScript-based method. Modifying a collection working in RADE requires that the collection be taken offline at some point. But the AppleScript method can be applied while the collection is open in Server or Engine, making it easy for a busy Helix shop to develop in parallel and then deploy modifications with minimal disruptions.
When the idea of making Helix AppleScriptable was first raised by our engineers, there was some internal resistance because we knew that integrating a procedural programming language might be perceived by users as counter to the nature of Helix. But many have already begun to embrace this new capability, which extends the value of Helix in ways previously unimaginable. “The new AppleScript capabilities finally enable professional developers to deliver field updates without requiring their end users to go through the tedious process of porting their data to the new version,” said Strange.
Completing the suite of macOS tools
Helix is an application development and deployment environment that was one of the original thirty software products created for the Macintosh platform prior to its debut in 1984. It is now comprised of five principal applications:
- Helix RADE: the Rapid Application Development Environment, which is used to create applications, called “collections.”
- Helix Engine: a stand-alone tool that allows Helix collections to be deployed as single-user applications.
- Helix Server: used to deploy a Helix collection to a workgroup in both local- and wide-area networks.
- Helix Client: used to connect to a collection hosted by a Helix Server.
- Helix Utility: used to assure the data integrity of a Helix collection.
With the release of Helix 6.2.1, Update Collection, Helix Maintenance Manager and the Helix Developer Utility have been discontinued; their functions have been or are planned to be integrated into other Helix tools.
Helix 6.2.1 release culminates an epic development cycle
Helix 6 debuted with the release of Helix Server in December 2005, shortly after what Numeroff likes to call “the Helix Recovery Team” formed QSA and rescued the product from certain demise. That product ran on a PowerPC Macs running macOS 10.4 (Tiger); Apple’s switch to Intel CPUs had not yet begun.
“We maintained support for Classic as long as we could. And we maintained support for the Power PC across the entire platform as long as we could,” said Numeroff, adding, “and now, eight years later, Helix Server, Helix Client, Helix Engine, Helix Utility and Helix RADE all run on Intel Macs, and we are keeping pace with what is current, no longer having to merely keep up.
Any collection that is already in version 6.0 or later will update transparently to 6.2. Collections in versions prior to 6.0 can also be updated; assistance from QSA may be necessary in rare cases.
Helix was created in 1983 by Jonathan Schneider, Larry Atkin, David Harmon and Daniel Cheifetz and originally produced by Odesta Corporation of Northbrook, Illinois in November of 1984. There are Helix users in virtually every country on earth who have been running the product in their businesses and homes almost continuously since 1984. There are very few products on any platform that can boast that kind of longevity through the number of major changes that have occurred in the computer industry since the Macintosh and PC platforms debuted in the 1980s. In spite of its tumultuous history, and the difficulty in pigeonholing the product into any single marketing category, relatively few Helix users abandon the product once they get a taste of how truly powerful and flexible it is.
“Two of those original guys are no longer with us,” Numeroff said, adding that what the Helix Recovery Team has done since dedicating itself to this effort has been “nothing short of heroic, and a fitting tribute to the memories of Jon and David.”