Clipper Description

Developed by Nantucket software and released in winter of 1984, first shipping 25 May 1985.

Clipper was a typical database development language and DOS based. Originally is was used as a replacement programming language for Ashton Tate’s dbase II database environment that could be compiled and executed as a standalone application.

Millions of applications were built typically for businesses dealing with small databases like client management, stock keeping. Many applications for banking and insurance companies were developed were the application was considered too small to be developed and run on mainframes. Clipper often served as a front end exactly for the above mentioned mainframe applications and did very well in this area.

One of the language’s features: the possibility to link ‘C’ and machine language objects made it a virtual unlimited expandable environment. When you missed a feature, an interface or whatever you could program that yourself and the extension made a reusable part of your toolbox. Libraries were also made by third parties but the programmer could also create its own library or enhance the existing ones.

One of the disadvantages, for commercial developers at least, was that a clipper executable could easily be disassembled or de-compiled to produce native source code. There were even commercial packages for that. Between the manufacturers of decompilers and Clipper a covenant was agreed that with a certain code in the source the decompilers would not decompile. But for the hard core hackers no door was kept close.

Around the early 1990’s the users felt a need for a more object oriented environment. Nantucket’s answer was: Clipper 5.0 up to 5.3. This made the Clipper language more sophisticated, but completely OO it never was. Objects and classes could be created but the language needed more, and quickly, should it keep its programmers corps it had created since 1984.

Too late the Nantucket company realized it had to port the Clipper environment to the Windows platform as well and began developing a new project: Aspen: Clipper for Windows. Too late, or at least the research was not given top priority for research and development. In August 1994 (Shipped December 1995) a first version became available and was called: Clipper VO (virtual objects) It was truly windows based but had to cope with many typical first issue bugs that were not explained to the full extend. Again programmers had to build new work arounds and did not feel very comfortable with that idea.

The old stock of programmers however had already switched to Visual Basic (Microsoft) and later Delphi (Borland) This came about because many customers with small database environments wanted to upgrade to window versions in their turn pressured by their clients. And as usual clients wanted their applications yesterday!

A second reason why Clipper never got its previous user base back was that the transition to Clipper VO proved to be too complicated for many senior programmers, and juniors already learned to program in Delphi or VB and later Java.

That was a pity because VO proved to be a very powerful and sophisticated database development tool.

Though Nantucket / CA promised a high degree of compatibility with older developments this did not materialize to the degree to make life easier to former Clipper programmers. The result was that programs were rebuilt in the new environments, the best way to do porting actually. Again slimming down the market for Clipper programmers.

In 1995 Computer Associates bought up the Clipper environment, killed the Clipper DOS version and pre-matured project Aspen, and further developed VO

Other developments for Clipper:

Clipper also could be converted to run on UNIX systems by using a porting tool called Flagship. It runs suitably well.

XBase++ is an OO environment and translates DOS Clipper to Windows but does not enhance the clipper development to an event driven application.

Clip-4-Win is a 16 bit compiler and generated character based applications that ran fairly well within Windows.

Harbour  Clipper got a new life with the Harbour project.

The Harbour-project was started as an open source project in early 1999, the project is still on.

The Harbour programming language is a superset of the well known x-Base language, often referred to as Clipper. Harbour is 100% backward compatible with the Clipper Language, yet it adds many modern features and tools comparable to today’s leading compilers.

Out of the harbour-project, xHarbour (extended Harbour) was started late 2001 as a fork off of the Harbour Project

Clipper is still alive!


1984 first issue: Winter 1984

1990 first issue: Clipper 5.0 (distributed at DefCon fall 1990)

1994 first issue of Clipper VO

1997 Clipper VO 2.5

1999 An open source project: Harbour takes up the challenge


Note : This post gathered from here.

Clipper characteristics

Clipper, characteristics and versions

Clipper is procedural and imperative Programming language created in 1985 by Nantucket Corporation and sold later to Computer Associates, the one commercialized that it like CA-Clipper. At first Clipper was created as Compiler for the managing system interpreter of data bases dBase III (in fact seasonal versions of Nantucket included a label indicated that it thus), but with time the product evolved and matured, becoming a compiled language more powerful than the original one, not only by its own implementations but also by the extensions developed by third parties in C, Assembly and Pascal, of which it was inheriting characteristic. This turned into the tool leader of development of applications of relational databases under operating system MSDOS, mainly programs of management, accounting and invoicing ( SAGE – SP, leader of the Spanish market, uses for Contaplus and FacturaPlus ), commercial agendas and programs of pricing (approximately 80% of the insurance agencies of Spain used it in the programs of their agents).


Unlike other x-Base languages, Clipper never counted on a way Interpreter, similar to the one of dBase . Its utilities for handling of Base of data, such as the one of creation of tables (DBF), they gave with the source code written in Clipper and including, the user could adapt them to his needs if he wanted. They also contributed to many routines written in C and Assembly to which the user could go, to extend and even to create libraries of pre-connects complete.

Clipper works in way pure Compiler generating an object code binary; the package also provided a connector (RTLINK or DLINK) that with the object module and the libraries of pre-connects generated ejecuble a module direct. This last one granted to the Clipper applications a speed to him that other managers of data bases did not own, and, like disadvantage, the necessity to recompilar and to connect again whenever some error in the source code was corrected ( Purification was slow).

It owns characteristics that were very attractive for their time and its surroundings of work (TWO), such as: own handling of Virtual memory ( ram in disc); handling of extended memory, the applications could overcome the barrier of 640Kb of ram imposed by MSDOS ; routines and libraries can be only loaded when they are necessary and they unload of ram when no longer they make lack (it connects and overlays dynamic); the amount of registries by tables only was limited the capacity of the disc; great robustness in the applications, particularly in the designed ones for client-servant (network LAN), etc.

Although it did not own practically calculation functions such as the trigonometrical ones, that other languages like FoxPro if they incorporated; the user them could easily elaborate in C and use them like any other function of own bookstore of the package, advantage that happened of which the Clipper compiler and many of their libraries were almost completely developed in C .

Its form, administration, storage and interchange of screens were simple, effective and quick; what good dynamism to the applications developed with Clipper granted.

The language in if he were powerful, counting with a great amount of sentences, functions, memory management and variables that allowed to the programmer very flexible and efficient developments; in reasonably fast form. Also the package included complete “manual in line navegable”, that ram was loaded in memory, to requirement of the programmer, and it was acceded by the single pressure of a pair of keys.

At his long time sea bream, it has been, probably, the language relational database manager of ” low and medium porte” more used in the world. Today many Clipper developers even exist (some grouped communities and with forums in Internet), that make applications, style Windows, even using their own graphical libraries written in C and Assembly .

The first versions

The first versions denominate seasonal versions to make reference to a station of the year in their official names. All of them name like dBASE compilers . These were:

  • Nantucket Clipper Winter’84 – sent 25 of May of 1985
  • Nantucket Clipper Summer’85 – sent in 1985
  • Nantucket Clipper Winter’85 – sent 29 of January of 1986
  • Nantucket Clipper Fall’86 – sent 31 of October of 1986
  • Nantucket Clipper Summer’87 – sent 21 of December of 1987
  • Gatsoft Clipper Summer’88 – sent 16 of March of 1988

Clipper 5

Clipper 5.0 supposes a qualitative jump of the language, although it begins bad. Given the increasing popularity (Summer 87 has been used until the year 2000 like development tool), it is decided to concentrate more in extending the language that in being improved compiler of dBase. They are implemented therefore pseudo-objects and other improvements… but the product sends with numerous bugs that make that the objective public dissuades itself and continues using the Summer87 version, much more stable. The 5,01 correct many of the problems, but it will not be until the 5,2 that take place upsets massive of the developers.

Versions 5 of Nantucket are:

  • Nantucket Clipper 5,00 – sent in 1990
  • Nantucket Clipper 5,01 – sent 15 of April of 1991
  • Nantucket Clipper 5,01 Rev.129 – sent 31 of March of 1992

The American multinational Computer Associates acquires Nantucket and it is sent to improve the product strengthening the inherited characteristics of C, in particular the data type code-block (literally code block, a hybrid between macros of dBase, the evaluation of chains of characters and the leaders of functions). Another one of the improvements coming from version 5.0 is the system “Replaceable Drivers” Database; (RDD or basic drivers replacable of data), that allows with a single sentence to change between different basic norms from data. The appearance of version 5.2, with a frenetic race of subversions (with improvements and correction of errors) until 5.2c, that marks the beginning of the massive migration of those who still remained in Summer’87. The version of used Clipper of history happens more therefore. Contrary, her successor, 5,3, in spite of implementing improvements, falls in a bulk error, when not considering the compatibility with at least the most popular libraries of Clipper (as much commercial as freeware), and to consume excessive resources of TWO.

  • CA Clipper 5.01a –
  • CA Clipper 5,20 – sent 15 of February of 1993
  • CA-Clipper 5.2a – sent 15 of March of 1993
  • CA Clipper 5.2b – sent 25 of June of 1993
  • CA-Clipper 5.2c – sent 6 of August of 1993
  • CA Clipper 5.2d – sent 25 of March of 1994
  • CA-Clipper 5.2e – sent 7 of February of 1995
  • CA Clipper 5,30 – sent 26 of June of 1995
  • CA Clipper 5.3a – sent 20 of May of 1996
  • CA Clipper 5.3b – sent 20 of May of 1997

Computer Associates decides to leave Clipper before the might of Microsoft Windows, and overturns part of the development of Clipper ( project Reels of Nantucket) to its new tool CA-Line of vision Objects, that appears at the same time as 5.3 almost Clipper but the abandonment of the syntax x-Base and not to provide a tool with adapted migration, together with the high price of the product (that in addition debia to compete with other products of the own house, one of them based on BASIC ), causes that the thickness of Clipper programmers chooses to remain in versions 5.3 with libraries of third parties like FiveWin, or migrate to tools x-Base like Visual FoxPro as market TWO is reduced.

22 of April of 2002 Computer Associates and GrafX Software announces that they have reached an agreement of licensing, marketing and development of two of its languages of development: CA-Clipper and CA-Line of vision Objects.

One of the main characteristics that helped the success of Clipper was the possibility of expanding the language with routines in C and ensablador. Several of them, as CodeBase or Apollo is RDDs. With the appearance of Windows several of them were developed to carry the Clipper applications to Windows. Most popular she is the FiveWin Spanish, employee in products leaders of accounting in Spain.

In addition, the use of linkers alternative allowed to improve the generated yield of the feasible one. The most acclaimed it was Blinker, that adds a extensor of with TWO protected mode (it is used with numerous languages and compilers). It added support to compile programs and libraries for Windows.

At present the Clipper language is actively being implemented and being extended by several projects and salesmen. Between the projects of free Software we can emphasize Paper clip, Harbor and XHarbour . Between the commercial compilers XBase++ and Visual FlagShip. And Other products like ” MEDIATOR” that they offer the possibility him of connecting itself to relational Database servers like MS-SQL, MySQL and Oracle.

XBase++ has been called the Clipper Compiler of 32 bits, being at the moment the leader in innovations and incorporations to the language. Or they have been sold more than 25,000 copies of the compiler and they use from solitary developers to great companies like Hewlett-Packard or the Government of Canada.

Several of those implementations are portable thanks to their development in C ( TWO, Windows, Linux (32 and 64 bits), Unix (32 and 64 bits), and Mac OS X ), supporting several extensions of the language; they count on several extensions of the language, and several Replaceable Drivers Database (RDD) that the most popular formats of tables support, like DBF, DBTNTX, DBFCDX ( FoxPro and Comix), MachSix (Apollo), SQL, and more. All these new implementations maintain the complete compatibility with the standard x-Base sintax , at the same time as and syntax oriented to the destiny like SQLExecute()offer Object-oriented programming .

At the moment there is a free version, the Harbor Project that it has like original objective to be 100% compatible one with version 5.2 (most popular of the versions of Clipper), also are addition new characteristic like support for SQL through SQLite. Harbor is available for multiple platforms, including not only MSDOS and Windows, but also to Linux, OS/2 and others. In the month of August of the 2008 the launching of version 1.0 announced officially.

In 2005, Newsgroup of Usenet regarding Clipper comp.clipper and comp.visual-objects follow assets.

Programming in Clipper

Simple Hello world :

? ” Hello World! “

A simple mask of entrance of Base of data :


clear screen
@  1, 0 SAY "CustNum" GET Customer->CustNum PICT "999999" VALID Customer->CustNum > 0
@  3, 0 SAY "Contact" GET Customer->Contact VALID !empty(Customer->Contact)
@  4, 0 SAY "Address" GET Customer->Address


Note : This article Gathered from here.