Delphi is a great way to write programs for Windows.
Having said that, I have to qualify it by saying that I don't understand the marketing policies at Borland/ Inprise/ Codegear. I find obtaining a copy of Delphi difficult... but fear not, there are answers!
If I were you, I would go to eBay, and buy a copy of an older version. For general familiarization with the product, Version 2 is quite sufficient. It is sufficient for more than mere familiarization. Most of my freeware and shareware was written with Delphi 2.
(By the way... you will probably find this page easier to read if your browser window is not spread across the full width of your screen.)
I have a copy of Version 4, and it still installs "the old fashioned way": As long as I have the right string of about 12 characters, I can install the program. I really dislike the "modern" way of protecting an author's rights which requires you to visit a website. Even if they don't require you to supply personal details which compromise your identity's security, you have no guarantee that the "activate my product" procedure will be available at some future date when you upgrade or rebuild your PC. I don't know if more recent versions require a visit to an online activation service. (I should add, after my rant, that I do understand... too well!... the concerns of software authors about theft of their products. But customers have needs, too.)
You can also sometimes find Delphi on magazine cover discs. Be careful about limitations that those copies may entail. (They often do not permit you to sell things you've created with them.) If you have a library of old cover discs, you may well find you have a good copy of Delphi there.
For some time, Delphi came in various "flavors", e.g. "Academic", "Standard", "Developer", "Professional", "Enterprise". For getting started with Delphi, any is fine. The "Academic" version's license forbids selling your creations. For some advanced database and client/ server facilities you need to go beyond the "Standard" version, but my tutorials work fine with the "Standard" version... there's one that does some database work, and another that does some simple webpage client/ server work. The latter does require some (free) 3rd party components, but I rarely use even those. Writing the free program I distribute so you can set up my FarWatch system for monitoring premises across the internet (very low cost) doesn't need anything beyond Delphi 2.
My advice? Go the magazine cover disc or eBay route. But for those of you who want to do otherwise, I've tried to find answers. Before I tried (not for the first time) to find those answers, I was less inclined toward the "use eBay" view. Maybe I'm just being stupid, but I have not enjoyed my quest for an alternative. I suppose, as I have moaned, I should at least concede that Borland/ Inprise/ CodeGear/ TurboExplorer have risen a bit from their nadir when there was nothing (that i could find) for the small people.
You can download a 14 day free trial... but to my way of thinking, that's next to useless. Either decide you want to spend large amounts of money for a full, current version, and get that at the outset, or don't. Installing a trial always brings the risk of leaving unwelcome rough edges when the 14 days have passed.
I will have a better option for you in a moment, but let's just get another thing out of the way first. If you dig around at the Borland Shop.... (click the "Delphi" Quick link in the left hand column), you may be able to find "Delphi Developers for Win32 WBT - Student Edition Join Professor D. and his student Peter in exploring the full set of Win32® features in Delphi® 2006 as you develop a Win32 application.", which, June 07, costs $119. (I don't think you can get to that by a sensible, static URL, which I would have given you if I'd found one). For your $119, lucky you, you get access to 9 hours of online tuition, and, if I understand the ad properly, at the end of that, you get a chance to download something... but I suspect it is an "Academic" edition, with a license that precludes selling things you create. Anyway, I think, you have to be "currently enrolled as a student at an accredited educational institution" before they will take your money to sit through their "How to use our product." (As for "Professor D" and "Student Peter", did the person who created Microsoft's idiot paperclip move to Borland?)
(If you decide that the eBay/ cover disk answer isn't for you.)
One of things that annoys me about trying to find a copy of Delphi at a reasonable price/ features point is trying to decide who you ask.
As a former shareholder, I know a bit about Borland. Now there's something called "CodeGear" out there. At 6/07, at www.codegear.com, it is described as "from Borland", and as a "new" organization. It probably is both... but I treat things I read on the internet to a heavy dose of caution. I liked the way the people at Encyclopedia Britannica put it, when they were coming to terms with the new pricing realities. They still thought you should pay them hundreds of dollars for their publication. They said "All it takes to publish something on the internet is a computer and the ability to fog a mirror." I'd rather go to www.borland.com for "Borland" products. Sigh.
There's also something called www.turboexplorer.com, which also seems to be genuinely a Borland derivative. With "Internet Explorer" and "Windows Explorer" two terms with established meanings, it took me a while to figure out... I think... what "TurboExplorer" meant. We'll come back to that.
The good news is, I think, that you are allowed to download a version of Delphi, and use it for sensible things, for free. "Sensible" seems to include writing things which you subsequently sell. It does NOT seem, pity, to include installing it on computers in a school for teaching purposes. I am always aware that perceptions I have can be wrong, and in this case, I am particularly aware of that because I find the information on the web so hard to navigate and interpret. Maybe I'm just dumb, but my Delphi Tutorials usually appear in the first 5 hits of a Google search, even if the Google link is to the old table of contents page for the tutorials. (I've bragged to suggest that maybe I'm not ox dumb.)
The free version I think you are allowed to use is probably something like a "Standard" edition... i.e. it has all the basic features, but lacks some advanced things, e.g., perhaps, the ability to create sophisticated client/ server applications, host SQL.... I don't know... I've never felt the lack of the things that are in the fancier editions, so haven't paid too much attention to what is "lacking" in the "Standard" edition.
BUT the "free" Delphi, called, I believe, Turbo Delphi, does NOT allow you to add third party components to your application development environment. Not a "big" problem, for most people, I suspect... but a pity. I'm a great fan of the open source movement, and there are many, many free third party components available for Delphi. (And some of them are good!!) The "good news" is that, I think, for a "mere" $399 you can upgrade your free Turbo Delphi to remove the block on third party components. I suppose another option is to forget Delphi, use one of MicroSoft's free products. You know their marketing will take you where you want to be in a heartbeat. I hope you also know that their products may well be loss leaders. It wouldn't surprise me to find in a year or so, when other options have died, and/ or lots of people have been sucked in by the "free" MS stuff, and spent the hours it takes to master any language, that the MS stuff gradually begins to cost money. Netscape, anyone? Anyway... back to the free Delphi....
If you don't buy an old Delphi via eBay, etc, I wonder if it will run on a Windows 98 machine, as Delphi 2 and 4 and 7 will? And what demands will it put on your hard disk? Of course you may not care.
Oh yes... another restriction from entities that seem to be Borland connected: You can only have one of their Turbo products running on a machine. I don't think Turbo Pascal would count against that total. (Turbo Pascal is an excellent, free, way to write programs for MS-DOS. Both Turbo Pascal and the programs it produces can be run on Windows XP and earlier machines. Probably Vista, too, but I haven't tried that.) The "Turbo" line, of which you can have one for free, also includes several varieties of Delphi, and at least one of each of the following: C++, C#, InterBase, JBuilder, Ruby on Rails.
My quest for the free Delphi, which I know I read was available, took me down the following paths. I believe the free Delphi is somewhere close to where I've been. Some of them involve expired security certificates, but, hey, details!
From the CodeGear Turbo Products page, there is a "Free Trial" button.That leads to a page with a table headed "Downloads (keys where required)" This may be the path to follow. I think you might get the software and the key, all in one download. On the same page, there's mention that you can purchase the Turbo editions listed on the page from the Borland shop site. I think this is a reference to purchasing the more advanced versions, if you decide you need their features, e.g. the ability to use third party components in Delphi, which costs (6/07) $399 to add.
The same page speaks of "Turbo Delphi Explorer". I could be completely wrong, but what I think they meant was that you could get the "Turbo" edition of Delphi, in order that you might "Explore" what it has to offer.
At another stage of trying to find where I needed to go to download the free Turbo Delphi, I found myself at the "Borland Developer Network, membership services login" page. Now... I think you can become a "member" just by registering. In fact, I was already a member (not that I see why you should have to become one). I pressed on a bit further, and found myself looking at sundry questions about why I wanted the key and who I was. That page said an activation file would be sent to my eddress, presumably if I filled in their form, which I decided not to do. It still wasn't clear to me how I would download what I needed, and frankly, my patience was exhausted. I don't get the impression that the Borland marketing people want you to have access. If they do, they should visit, say, the Serif freeware site, and see what people who want to try some free software more often experience. Serif, as I believe Borland should, give away older versions of their product, in order to "hook" people on how good it is, and then reap the reward when people buy more developed versions.
With all the trouble I was having downloading the software, my confidence in what it might do to my system was dented. I believe you are only allowed one "Turbo" program on your system. If I tried the Turbo Delphi, would that clash with my other Delphis? I didn't want to take the chance.
As you can see, I was already less than impressed. Then, at www.turboexplorer.com, which I think is "official", I came across.....
"Important update! Please download the "hotfix roll-up" that increases the performance and reliability of Turbo Explorer. Just download and run the installer to update your version of Turbo Explorer."
Sorry, Borland. 1) I'm not sure I want "Turbo Explorer"... and if that's the Turbo Delphi, or the name of a family of demo versions, then I think you've chosen the name badly, and 2) I don't want more things making what is installed in my computer an ever changing mystery. Patches I understand. A program that might "do things" I avoid.
Here begins several paragraphs about related issues....
In another place, I read: "To install Turbo Explorer, you will need to download two files. The prereqs.zipfile contains additional run-time files required by Turbo Explorer that may not be currently installed on your computer. This includes the Microsoft.NET 1.1 runtime and SDK, the J# run-time, InternetExplorer 6.01, and MSXML."
One of the great things about the Delphi I know and love is that it doesn't need lots of "stuff". If I produce something with this "modern" Delphi, will my clients have dependency hassles if they try my product?
I also read: "The other file you will need to download is the installation program for the Turbo Explorer edition you want to install."
I'm guessing "Turbo Explorer edition" is a way of saying "the Turbo product you want to try, e.g. Turbo Delphi, Turbo JBuilder, etc".
... here ends "several paragraphs".
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