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4th Dimension (software)

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4D Programming Language
Designed byLaurent Ribardière
Developer4D SAS
First appeared1984; 40 years ago (1984) (dev) 1987; 37 years ago (1987) (official)[1]
Stable release
v18 R5 / 19 January 2021; 3 years ago (2021-01-19)
Preview release
v18 R6 Beta
Implementation languageC, C++
OSWindows, macOS
Filename extensions4DB, 4DC
File formatsInterpreted, Compiled
Original author(s)Laurent Ribardière
Developer(s)4D SAS
Initial release1984; 40 years ago (1984) (ss) 1987; 37 years ago (1987) (v1)
Stable release
v18 R5 / 19 January 2021; 3 years ago (2021-01-19)[2]
Preview release
v18 R6 Beta
Written inC++, C
Operating systemWindows, Mac OS
TypeRAD RDBMS IDE Language GUI Designer Web Server
4D Server
Original author(s)Laurent Ribardière
Developer(s)4D SAS
Initial release1993; 31 years ago (1993) (v1)
Stable release
v18 R5 / 19 January 2021; 3 years ago (2021-01-19)[2]
Preview release
v18 R6 Beta
Written inC++, C
Operating systemWindows, Mac OS
TypeRDBMS Web Server Application Server SQL Server Database Server Language

4D (4th Dimension, or Silver Surfer, as it was known during early development) is a relational database management system and integrated development environment developed by Laurent Ribardière.[3] 4D was created in 1984[4] and had a slightly delayed public release for Macintosh in 1987[5][6][7] with its own programming language.[1]

The 4D product line has since expanded to an SQL back-end, integrated compiler, integration of PHP, and several productivity plug-ins and interfaces. Some of the plug-ins created by 4D include 4D Write (a word processor), 4D View (somewhat like a spreadsheet, but with extra functionality) and 4D Internet Commands (which allowed for the addition of Internet-related functionality to a database). There are also over 100 third-party plugins, free and commercial.

4D can also be used as a web server, to run compiled database applications.

Today, 4D is published by the French company 4D SAS and has a sales, distribution and support presence in most major markets, with the United States, the United Kingdom, and France being the primary markets. The product is localized in more than a dozen languages.


Silver Surfer, as it was known during early development, was developed by Laurent Ribardière in 1984. Following negotiations with Ribardiere it was planned that Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer Inc) would publish the software but Apple canceled the plan, reportedly due to pressure from other potential database publishers who claimed that if Apple had their own "brand" database, third party products would be disadvantaged in the marketplace.[8] Apple tried at the time to ensure well-known software publishers supported the Macintosh platform, and as a result the project reverted to Laurent Ribardière, who with the French businesswoman Marylene Delbourg-Delphis published 4th Dimension. Although independently published, Apple supported the new venture and used 4D extensively throughout the organization for projects including fitness center management and CIM (Computer Integrated Manufacturing). A number of Apple personnel became 4D experts, including Lance McAndrew in Apple's Cupertino headquarters and Andrew O'Donoghue in Apple's Ireland-based European manufacturing headquarters, where a 4th Dimension application managed the European Service Center administration.

Over the next few years 4th Dimension's installed base grew, and the publisher ACI established a US-based subsidiary called ACIUS, initially led by Guy Kawasaki. After 16 years of operating as ACIUS up to 2000, the name was officially changed to 4D Inc.[9]

In 1993, 4D Server v1.1, the client/server version of 4th Dimension was introduced along with the release of 4th Dimension v3.1.[10]

In 1995, 4D v3.5 went cross-platform and has since then supported both the Microsoft Windows and Apple Macintosh operating systems.[11]

In 1997, 4D v6 was the first version of 4D to contain a fully integrated web server, allowing developers to translate 4D forms into HTML on the fly using only the 4D language.[12]

In 2004, 4D 2004 was the first version of 4D to allow developers to create standalone, client/server, web and Service Oriented Applications (SOA) without changing any code.[13]

In 2008, 4D v11 added a SQL layer to the 4D database engine and extending native SQL in to the 4D programming language which allowed 4D developers to write native SQL code to connect to either local or remote servers.[14][15]

In 2010, 4D v12 integrated the ability to execute PHP functions/scripts from within the 4D programming language. This version also supported new replication and synchronization commands and included a 64 bit version of 4D Server.[16]

Version history[edit]

Branch Latest version Initial release Final release Status Feb 2022 Notes
v19.x v19.LTS 12 Jul 2021 Ongoing Supported Native support for Apple Silicon, Classes
v18.x v18.LTS 16 Jan 2020 Ongoing Supported Project Databases for Version Control, Built-in encryption tools, 4D for iOS, 4D Write Pro, 4D View Pro
v17.x v17.4 10 July 2018 13 Dec 2020
(4D v17.5)[17]
Support ended 13 Dec 2020 ORDA (Object Relational Data Access), Collections, Object Notation, Dynamic forms
v16.x v16.6 10 Jan 2017 24 Jul 2019
(4D v16.6)[17]
Support ended 24 July 2019 New Cache Management System, Preemptive Multithreading, 4D Dev Pro 64 bit
v15R v15R5 10 Nov 2015 14 Sep 2016 Superseded by 16.x Preview of features to be in v16.x
v15.x v15.6 16 Jul 2015 25 Apr 2017 Support ended 25 Apr 2018 64 bit 4D Server for Mac servers; New network layer
v14R v14R5 May 2014 March 2015 No longer supported preview of features to be in v15.x
v14.x v14.6 12 Dec 2013 20 Dec 2016 No longer supported 4D Mobile (Connectivity options for 4D Server as a datasource for Wakanda (software)); Structured JSON objects (C_Object); SQL views; new tools for maintenance and monitoring, new journaling system.
v13.x v13.6 14 Feb 2012 18 Jun 2015 No longer supported New multithreaded HTTP server; automatic session management; new extensible HTTP client; webkit integration and extended Javascript support; enriched list box; external document management.
v12.x v12.6 3 Jun 2010 8 Oct 2013 No longer supported 64 bit 4D Server for Windows servers; PHP integration; Synchronization and Replication
v11.x v11.9 23 Sep 2008 7 Jul 2011 No longer supported SQL engine; integrated maintenance center (MSC); SVG management; Integrated Web Area
2004.x 2004.8 31 Aug 2004 30 Jun 2009 No longer supported Revamped interface; Integration of high-level ODBC commands, 4D Customizer, 4D Backup and 4D Engine
2003.x 2003.8r2 17 Mar 2003 11 Apr 2006 No longer supported XML; Web Services; Embedded Compiler
v6.8.x 6.8.6 15 Apr 2002 24 Sep 2004 No longer supported
v6.7.x 6.7.5 No longer supported
v6.5.x 18 May 1999 No longer supported
v6.0.x 6.0.5 1997 27 Feb 1998 No longer supported Integrated Web Server
v3.x No longer supported 4D v3.5 was the first cross-platform version (mac/win),
v1.x 1987 No longer supported Mac only



A 4D application can run in either Standalone mode or Client-Server mode.


In Standalone mode, the 4D application (4D.exe on Windows or 4D.app on Mac) is used to open the structure file (4DB/4DC) file directly along with the associated data file (4DD).


In the Client-Server paradigm the 4D Server application (4DServer.exe on Windows or 4DServer.app on Mac) is used to open the structure file (4DB/4DC) file directly along with the associated data file (4DD). 4D may then be used in remote mode to connect to the 4D Server.

Application Editions[edit]

4D has two applications; 4D and 4D Server. 4D Server runs only as a server but 4D can be run in either standalone or remote mode.


4D can be run in two modes. 4D in single-user mode allows for 1 person to run the application. 4D in remote mode is used for connecting to a 4D Server.

4D Server[edit]

4D Server is used for Client-Server connectivity to the application. In this mode, 4D Server loads the structure file (4DB or 4DC) and also the datafile (4DD) and provides network access to 4D (in remote). Each workstation has a dynamically updated cache of the resources they are working with, while the 4D Server maintains the data and code.


This section will include syntax examples demonstrating different programming constructs used in 4D, such as for loops and variable usage.

Data Types[edit]

4D fields, variables, and expressions can be of the following data types:[18]

Data Type Field Variable Expression
String Yes Yes Yes
Number (double) Yes Yes Yes
Date Yes Yes Yes
Time Yes Yes Yes
Boolean Yes Yes Yes
Picture Yes Yes Yes
Pointer No Yes Yes
BLOB Yes Yes No
Array No Yes No
Integer 64 bits Yes No No
Float Yes No No
Object Yes Yes Yes
Collection Yes Yes Yes
Undefined No Yes Yes

More info on 4D data type can be found on the [ 4D Data Types] documentation page

Variable Scope[edit]

Local variables are prefixed with a $ like $myLocalVariable and only live for the duration of the method.

Process variables have no prefix like myProcessVariable and live throughout the duration of the process.

Inter-process (or Global) variables are prefixed with a <> like <>myGlobalVariable and live throughout the duration of the application.

Comparison of looping[edit]


  // Do something
End for


 $i :=1 // Initialize the counter
 While($i<=100) // Loop 100 times
  // Do something
    $i :=$i +1 // Need to increment the counter
 End while


 $i :=1 // Initialize the counter
  // Do something
    $i :=$i +1 // Need to increment the counter
 Until($i=100) // Loop 100 times

Nested Loops[edit]

The following example goes through all the elements of a two-dimensional array:

 For($vlElem;1;Size of array(anArray))
  // ...
  // Do something with the row
  // ...
    For($vlSubElem;1;Size of array(anArray{$vlElem}))
       // Do something with the element
    End for
 End for

The following example builds an array of pointers to all the date fields present in the database:

 ARRAY POINTER($apDateFields;0)
 For($vlTable;1;Get last table number)
   // loop over each table number with $vTable as the number
    If(Is table number valid($vlTable))
      // check if table number $vTable is valid
      // only loop on the valid table
       For($vlField;1;Get last field number($vlTable))
         // loop over each field number within current table
         // with $vlField as the current field number
          If(Is field number valid($vlTable;$vlField))
            // check if field number is valid
             $vpField:=Field($vlTable;$vlField) // get pointer to field
             If(Type($vpField->)=Is date)
               // check if current field is a date
               // only performs these actions if field is a date
                INSERT IN ARRAY($apDateFields;$vlElem)
             End if
          End If
       End for
    End If
 End for


  1. ^ a b "High-End Mac Database Offers Own Programming Language". InfoWorld. 16 March 1987.
  2. ^ a b c "4D Product Lifecycle". 4D. Retrieved 2016-01-10.
  3. ^ "4D People - 4D". 4d.com. 19 June 2018.
  4. ^ "A History of Innovation". 4d.com. 19 June 2018.
  5. ^ "Overdue Apple Server Goes to Market". ComputerWorld. 26 January 1987.
  6. ^ "New Database Software Program Moves Macintosh Into The Big Leagues". chicagotribune.com.
  7. ^ "Seeking 4th Dimension? Take Heart, It's Now In Town". chicagotribune.com.
  8. ^ Guy, Kawasaki (1989). The Macintosh Way. United States: Scott Foresman Trade. pp. 18. ISBN 0673461750.
  9. ^ "Good Bye ACI US, Hello 4D, Inc". MacNews.com.
  10. ^ InfoWorld (27 December 1993 – 3 January 1994). 4D Server delivers on the promises of others. InfoWorld Media Group, Inc.
  11. ^ ComputerWorld (24 July 1995). Database maker opens new Windows. ComputerWorld.
  12. ^ InfoWorld (9 June 1997). 4th Dimension suitable for mixed Mac, Windows sites. InfoWorld Media Group, Inc.
  13. ^ "4D, Inc. Ships 4D 2004 Featuring a New Streamlined Design Environment and New Deployment Technologies | Business Wire". www.businesswire.com (Press release). Retrieved 2016-02-29.
  14. ^ "4D Announces the Worldwide Release of 4D Server V11 SQL". www.prnewswire.com. Retrieved 2016-02-29.
  15. ^ "4D Server v11 adds SQL, optimizes performance | MacNN". MacNN.com. Archived from the original on 2016-03-05. Retrieved 2016-02-29.
  16. ^ "4D v12 is Now Available". iClarified. 4 June 2010. Retrieved 2016-02-29.
  17. ^ a b "Cycle de vie produits". 13 January 2020.
  18. ^ "Data Types". 4D Doc Center. Retrieved 28 July 2022.

External links[edit]