KOL - codo-economy object library for Delphi

Copyright (C) By Vladimir Kladov.

The purpose of given article is to convince a reader (I hopes, this text will fall into the hands of programmer), got accustomed to big sizes of modern programs (on, no, applications, programs were not yet so large) that their are unscrupulously cheaten. The cheat is following: when confirm that program for Windows (for example), if it can do something useful, at all can not be less... well, will say, about 300 kilobytes. But if this much "clever" program, containing much much useful possibilities, good interface, fine interacting with the user, supports different formats of data, modern client-server technology, it can not be less than 500 megs. The unimaginable rubbish. We are defraud!

Indeed, object programming allows to create very economical on the size a code. Moreover, very efficient. Examples? Java. It is an object-oriented programming. And Java applets much low on its sizes, but as much useful they can do! However, speech will go not on the Java. Delphi is the subject of the article.

Oddly to say, but Delphi is renderred as the instrument, which made it possible to create a KOL library - Key Objects Library (Key Object Library), which allows to produce very compact executables. This can seem strange therefore, because programs, made using Delphi, usually are not so small. Minimum start size of the executable, representing a single empty window, which can be moved on the screen and closed, and can do nothing more, forms near 300 kilobytes of size. Moreover, with every issue of each next Delphi generation such start size is increased on several tenths of innocent kilobytes.

The KOL library allows to make not less powerful applications, than standard Delphi library - VCL (Visual Component Library). And herewith obtain a reducing the sizes of programs in 5-15 times! For instance, executable DirComp available for download on the KOL Web-Page, occupies without the compression near 65 kilobyteses. Similar executable written using a standard Delphi library, occupied 750 kilobyteses. Difference is impressing, not truth?

KOL is not only object-oriented, as well it is visual library. Programs and their graphic interface can be designed actually in the same way, as in VCL visual ambience. KOL is followed with MCK library (Mirror Classes Kit), which contains of VCL-components, installing on the palette by the usual way. The single difference in that mirror components of library MCK exist only on stage of development (design time), participating in generations "real" code compatible with requirements of library KOL. In operation (run time) this code is executed, and those, which was added by developer himself. In the run-time code there are no references to VCL components, only to KOL objects, compact and efficient.

What is the secret of of code compactness? Answer is not a single, but it is possible to select the main reasons. In first, let us note Delphi compiler ability to exclude unclaimed code while linking the executable. Procedures and variables, which are not referred from other code (which is already contributed in the code area list), are rejected and in the further assembly are not considered. Regrettably, this ability of Delphi compiler (named "smart linking") is limited a lot. In particular, virtual methods of used classes and objects can not be withdraw from the process of compiling and assemblies of the executable. Accordingly, variables and procedures (methods), which are referenced from such virtual methods, also can be not rejected.

While planning the KOL, this circumstances were taken into account. The author abandoned hard following to object-oriented programming canons. In particular, in KOL one and same object type can be used for encapsulations several objects similar to each other. For instance, TControl type is not base for the visual objects like in VCL. TControl object type in the KOL library without some inheritance can execute a role of different visual objects (buttons, labels, edits, etc.) - depending on what global function was used to create each object (for instance, NewPanel, NewButton and etc.)

Such method of combining of several objects in one object type brings some mess, as far as alongside with methods and properties general for all objects, there are exist methods and properties distinctive only for certain object kinds. As far as type (class) is the same, there is exist a probability of wrong using a methods, not proper for the given kind of the object. The important reason to go this way, was a necessity to avoid a large number of virtual methods.

Of course, if virtual methods were successfully skipped by the compiler in cases, when they not needed (and potentially such possibility exists), structure of objects could be clearer. However, even and in this case VCL did not allow programs to become much more compact. And problem here already in what way VCL developers designed their library so that many objects are created and many actions are produced even before those become really necessary, and either stay just stored in code section without executing, or perform absolutely unnecessary work. For instance, if a visual object is created, it initializy font, canvas for drawing, drag-and-dock managers, ensemble of many other objects - on any event: but suddenly are necessary! Certainly, program may need any of those capabilities, such as changing object's font. Program can be designed for using a popular interface using drag-and-dock. It can, but after all not obliged, yes?

In contrasted to VCL, KOL library works with unnecessary actions and objects vastly more neatly. They (actions) are executed and (objects) are initialized only when they are taked for the first time. Clearing of resources and memory allocated in the destructor is not a problem: the single and the same (virtual) method Free beautifully copes with the task. Strictly, this is the main reason why program, made using KOL library, are so small in size.

In the KOL library several different ways are used to implement such postponed decision, depending on natures of code unnecessary to include to the final code. It is more important not to enumerate these ways, which, generally speaking, are simply ingenious using the generally accepted programmer's acceptance, but it is much more important to explain and understand an essence of their action.

Well known that source text of a program is compiled to executable code in result of functioning several programs: pre-compiler, compiler, picker. Note that when we are telling about Delphi, there are no sense to separate these steps, since all of these are executed by the same program. So, dialect "compiler", shall imply all these stages together. As far as Delphi compiler comes to a conclusion, to include or not to include a code of a procedure or function to the program, it should explain, how this process can be controlled from a library code depending on whether it is requested by the developer of the project or not.

All these can be explained with a following simple example. Let our visual object (button, to the example) is kept Font property (font). Unlike VCL, shall not create a correspondent object in the constructor of our object (button, master of the font). Instead, create it first in a method, which executes reading of the Font property (method GetFont), in case when it not yet created. If there are no reading of the Font property in the executable at all (i.e. developer need not change a font of their own visual objects, and all such ones use standard font), compiler does not find any reference to GetFont method, and accordingly, does not include a code of this method to the program. Since this, no references will be discovered nor on the constructor of object of font, nor on other procedures, which otherwise are used and have got in the executable module.

This example explains only one of the many used ways. But the idea of all such ways is the same, as it was already said above: to postpone a decision if to include an additional code until it does not requested by the project developer. The opinion of the author is, that this way is totally branches off with modern programming practice. The KOL gives an example, which in particular proved an absurdity of the situation, when about 90% code in modern programs are slag, rubbish, which do not work or idle, and only in vain consumes resources of a processor, operative memory, occupies a place on hard disk, spend a time at the transmission of hudreds of superfluous kilobytes on network and through internet, and spends your time and your many. And not for nothing but sometimes in response to the question, "how to reduce a size of a program", we get following answer: "Why to reduce? Than more volume, that will more pay". (Variants: "solid", customers more respect). Not nonsense?

If someone from Delphi-programmers read this and interested in, welcome to the KOL/MCK Web-Page, download these libraries (all absolutely free, with source codes), and try. Be sure: you will not regret!

1-Sep-2001 (translated to English 5-Apr-2002, published in English 23-Sep-2002)

KOL/MCK Web-Page : http://kol.thaddy.co.uk
bonanzas @ online.sinor.ru