Mobile Business Development seminar in Belgium and The Netherlands(4 and 6 June)

iAdvise organises a free seminar about Mobile Business Development on 4(Antwerp, Belgium) and 6(Breda, The Netherlands) June.

In this seminar we will discuss Mobile Development and Usability(UX – User Experience) in Mobile Development.
But we also compare different solutions, give pros and cons about: APEX Mobile, ADF Mobile and Tabris.

Of course we will also show you best practices, problems and solutions,…

More information(Dutch): http://www.iadvise.eu/seminars

Docufy: Document Generation for APEX made easy!

APEX is well known for his RAD solution and the no-extra cost factor: APEX makes it possible to build on time and within budget your database application for the web. But an application is more then building pages for CRUD operations. Very often you also need to generate well looking documents. And this is standard not possible with APEX. A pity!  Within the Oracle world, Bi Publisher is by far the best solution. But from the pricing point of view, it does not really fit in the ‘cheap’ philosophy of APEX. Further, you can also look for Open Source solutions like Jasper Reports and Birt. Both have a community version that you may use for free.

Nevertheless, we decided to build our own tool. During the presentation at APEX World of last week, organized by OgH, we explained how we came to this decision. On different projects at the Flemish Government we always had the business requirement to generate output for MS-Word (.docx). We first tried to solve this requirement with Jasper Reports. This was fine for simple letters. But the end-user also wanted to change some of those documents after generation … and that was not so easy to do with the output created by Jasper.

So the idea for an own “document generator for Oracle” was born. The main objective was trying to bring some of the better features of other tools together in one solution:

  • Separation of data retrieval and document layout.  The layout is template driven: your template is a MS Word document (.docx). This leaves the possibility open to involve business users in the design and build of the desired output.
  • Simple, easy and light: we want the solution to be as much as possible in the database, in PL/SQL, with no extra software on a middle-tier
  • Metadata driven and nice user interface to manage those data
  • Integration in your application via a PL/SQL API. This application may be developed in the technology of your choice. We use it initially in APEX projects, but it can be integrated in any tool that can do a PL/SQL call (Oracle Forms, any java solution, Formspider, …)

Our custom solution evolved well: we already used it successfully in different projects. Therefor, we decided to make it available for the world and packaged the solution in a tool with the name Docufy. You can find more information on the Docufy-site or you may always send a mail to info@docufy.be.

With Docufy,
we proceed on the APEX philosophy,
there where APEX it self stops:
easy and quick generation of operational documents.

Oracle DB 12c, APEX 5.0 and APEX tech sessions at OGH APEX World

April 9th 2013, APEX World took place, one of the biggest APEX only events in the world, organized by the Dutch Oracle user group (OGH). iAdvise was gold partner of this year’s edition. Below is a view on this event from our perspective.

iAdvise stand

iAdvise booth

The event took flight with the keynote by David Peake, product manager from Oracle. He spoke about Oracle DB 12c, what it is and what’s in there for APEX developers, and some words about what to expect from APEX 5.0. Again, we had to conclude that great things are coming our way in the months to come:

  • pluggable databases,
  • new column types,
  • data redaction,
  • new IDE-like view for the page builder,
  • multiple interactive reports on 1 page,
  • multi-row edit region type,
  • enhanced builder security
  • and some more great stuff…

But as we are used to with Oracle, it’s all subject to change and might not make it into next release :-)
More in-depth details and another view on this presentation can be found on Christian Rokitta’s blog.

The only two things David was clear about were:

  • APEX 5.0 will focus on improved usability and quality rather than on new features;
  • there will be an APEX 4.2.2 release before 5.0 will become available.

Below are our highlights from the presentations we followed.

Transfer Solutions presented their “portal” solution to combine both Forms and APEX applications with one custom single sign-on. We saw some interesting approaches for common issues and found confirmation for our approach in comparable situations.

Rob van Wijk from Ciber presented his white paper “Professional software development using APEX”. Together with his colleagues, he worked out a way to version database schemes and APEX applications in Subversion when all developers are working in their own isolated environment. On top of this, he used Hudson to automate the versioning update-commit process. A must read paper if you consider versioning within your APEX environment!

Regarding responsive web design (RWD), there were two presentations of interest:

Dimitri Gielis introduced how RWD can be accomplished in APEX by using the new built-in grid system and spoke about APEX theme 25 (fully responsive and new in APEX 4.2) but also Twitter bootstrap, which can perfectly be integrated in APEX.

Later on, it was up to CB Logistics, together with iAdvise colleague Stijn Van Raes, to present how they used RWD in a recent project.

Peter Raganitsch and Matt Nolan from FOEX came all the way to Zeist to state that APEX truly is the best successor of Oracle Forms…but not out-of-the-box. In a few demos, in which they combined declarative APEX functionality together with their plug-in framework, they showed how APEX can become a perfect fit for everyone who wants to migrate good old Forms without losing much functionality, usability and maintainability. A bold statement but definitely something our APEX developers will look into.

Roel Hartman showed us what mobile web development with APEX theme 50 and jQuery mobile is all about. He walked through the new item types, lists and buttons and demonstrated how you can easily make your application look better with standard APEX functionality.

Our iAdvise colleague, Karen Van Hellemont, presented with Natasha Van Hoof from the Flemish Government how documents can be generated from the database. Throughout several years, iAdvise gained experience in generating documents with PL/SQL and developed a metadata driven solution with a simple API to re-use it in other projects. The Flemish Government is our first customer to use the complete version of this solution and therefore gave a customer testimonial on their experience with the tool.

The price for most-entertaining presentation definitely goes to John Scott (APEX Evangelists) when talking about HTML5 websockets! The concept of websockets took about 10 minutes. The remaining time was used for demos about what you can do with this. We never heard so many sounds of astonishment in 30 minutes!

For a Belgian-Dutch Oracle consultancy company, this is one of the most valuable events next to Oracle Open World and this year’s edition really showed us that APEX is far from ever going away! It has great potential for a very wide range of businesses and allows both developers and end-users to maximize their needs in every way.

OBUG CONNECT 2013: impressions from an APEX Developer

On 26 march I attended OBUG CONNECT 2013 at Kinepolis Antwerp. With around 40 sessions to pick from, picking out sessions was not an easy decision.

One session that caught the eye was the presentation about Formspider given by Yalim Gerger. While the presentation name and description did not reveal that the presentation was about Formspider, it was not hard to guess since it was given by its creator.

Yalim explained that since 2008 the landscape in the IT world changed. In 2008 developers developed for one platform, now there are many more platforms, all which require different programming skills. Yalim suggested using Formspider, a PL/SQL framework as an alternative. Formspider uses one javascript library maintained by “one” developer. This way only one developer needs to worry about security, browser compatibility and browser performance. On top of that developers only need to learn only one programming language: PL/SQL.

It must be said, Yalim made a strong case. Unfortunately we did not get the chance to see his framework in action, but it has to be said, if even a part of what he said is true, Formspider could become a strong player on the market.

Another interesting session was given by Patrick Hendrickx from Telenet. Telenet used APEX to Design some internal project management applications. He decided to go with APEX rather than buy a product or expand existing products.

He had some good arguments to do so:

-          APEX is Browser only technology

-          APEX is RAD

-          It has good and easy graph support

-          Wizard driven, so less programming skills required

-          Lastly because they already invested in Oracle, it was easy to integrate with the technology stack from Telenet

Not only did APEX fulfill the requirements, it also was a good decision from a financial perspective.

The demo Patrick showed of the different tools was also quite sexy. It is nice to see that architects are starting to see the Advantages from APEX as a development tool.

In conclusion I would have to say that, even though I could not attend all APEX sessions, it was pretty clear that APEX was strongly represented on OBUG, it shows that it is an important player on the Oracle market.

Red Gate Deployment Suite for Oracle, a valuable component in your APEX ECO-System

When working with APEX, you also need a number of tools to improve the efficiency of your work. It isn’t enough to just have the APEX IDE at your disposal. Besides the APEX IDE for the application development, you may use a bunch of other tools. This is what I mean by the APEX ECO-System.

For the PL/SQL development and creation of the objects, such as tables, views, synonyms, sequences, … you may use SQL Developer. The DML scripts with the code for creating those objects may be generated by SQL Datamodeler. This tool is used to design the data model, which offers a graphical representation of the relationships between tables and offers the possibility to generate database objects automatically on our database.  Both tools are part of the Oracle Database Development tools, just like APEX.

Once the objects are modeled and generated on the database, you can start with the development of the application in APEX. After some time, when a first version of the application is ready, it can be deployed on a test environment. Without the aid of an external tool, it’s necessary to make a script of each package, trigger, sequence, synonym, table, view,… in order to create them on the test environment. And when you start with change requests and enhancements, it becomes even more complex!

After the end-user has tested the application and given his feedback, you normally will have to change your packages, tables,… or you will have to add some new functionalities, or you’ll have to change the existing ones. Without the aid of an external tool, you’ll have to make a script of each change you make, in order to deploy the changes on test as well. This is very time consuming and the risk of making mistakes is very big.

In the past, in my personal experience, it took me lots of hours to make a script for each column definition, table, relationship, package, trigger, view,… which has changed during the development cycle. It was very annoying and especially when you forgot one… It’s very time-consuming to find differences between the development and test environment.
But, since I got in touch with Red Gate, all those problems are gone!

Red Gate’s Deployment Suite for Oracle contains a tool that allows you to deploy schema objects and compare schema’s (Schema Compare for Oracle). But that’s not all. Unlike other tools such as SQL Developer, which  only gives the possibility to compare schema’s in a limited way, the Red Gate Deployment Suite allows you to deploy Data from one schema to another as well (Data Compare for Oracle). And last but not least, since the 12th of March, Red Gate extended their product portfolio. They also provide a tool for Source Control (=Version Control) of your database code! This is done by Source Control for Oracle!

A small overview…

Schema Compare for Oracle, allows you to make a full installation script of your database objects. This is very useful because you don’t have to worry about the question if all modifications are scripted, neither about the possible dependencies between the different objects. You are sure that everything on your development environment is scripted in a good way and, when you choose to deploy everything on the test environment, you are sure that it is executed in the right sequence.  Everything which has to do with the deployment of the schema objects is handled with the Red Gate Schema Compare tool, which is included in the Deployment Suite.

While Schema Compare for Oracle is used for objects, Data Compare for Oracle will take care of all your data. This is very useful when you have a test environment with a lot of reference data, which is entered by the Business. Don’t you recognize the situation where your end users have entered data while testing the application in a test environment assuming that this data would also be available in the production environment? This tool allows you to compare data on different schemas, and to deploy changes from the one to the other.

Very recently, Red Gate added an extra tool to his portfolio: Source control for Oracle. It all started with a live lab at KScope12 where every attendee could contribute to the first prototypes. Read more about it here. Less than a year later, a first version is downloadable. Since it is completely new, there is not yet that much experience with it.

Since iAdvise is an official partner of Red Gate, we’ve had the opportunity to test the tool before its official release. After a few months of testing, we can tell you that this is the first mature tool which really helps developers to manage their database code!

The whole idea is to give developers a tool to put schema objects on an SVN repository from the database and to pull those objects from the SVN repository, back to another database. If you ever tried doing this manually, you know that this can take up a lot of your valuable time. Source Control for Oracle will take the manual labor out of the picture and put the files on the SVN for you. While doing this, Source Control for Oracle will notice if an object already exists on SVN and the tool will ask the user what he needs to do with it. This will decrease the chances of anyone overwriting your work. You can also add a comment when you push something to the SVN. You can always read back and see what was changed, why it was changed, when it was changed, and by whom it was changed. In this way, Source Control for Oracle provides a whole version control system for database code.

One of the nice features of the tool is that when you define all your schemas in a SVN repository, Source control for Oracle will compare your schemas in the database automatically with the definitions in SVN, when you start the tool.

As you can read, the Deployment Suite for Oracle isn’t just the first database tool you meet; it’s a lot more than that! At iAdvise, we’re convinced about the added value and we believe this tool will help a lot of people in their needs. If you aren’t yet convinced about the tools, then take a minute to look at the website of Red Gate and check out the videos and testimonials of other users, I’m sure you’ll change of thoughts!

Interested to see & learn more about iAdvise?
Follow us on twitter!

@iadvise_live

http://www.iadvise.eu

Mobile Applications with APEX & jQuery Mobile

Mobile development is not the next big thing anymore, it is THE big thing today. And as you may already know, Oracle APEX is ready to take on the challenge of creating mobile business solutions.

We at iAdvise already started to experiment with mobile application development in APEX 4.0, but off course this was not the ideal environment yet. Since APEX 4.1 you can declaratively create mobile applications with jQuery mobile, and with the latest release (4.2) it’s really starting to lift off. You can even declaratively build responsive applications.

In May 2012 we gave a seminar about mobile development, and since then we successfully developed several mobile solutions for our clients. Below you can find a demo of an application we created for one of our most valued customers, New Holland Tractor Ltd.

New Holland Tractor Ltd

About New Holland: Since 1895, New Holland is committed to providing solutions that improve farming efficiency and productivity.
New Holland offers cash crop producers, livestock farmers, contractors, vineyards and groundcare professionals the largest choice of easy-to-operate tractors, harvesters and material handling equipment.

New Holland complements the widest agricultural equipment offering in the world with efficient Parts and Service support and a range of tailored financial services from a specialist in agriculture. Setting themselves the highest standards in quality and service, is part of the culture of New Holland, part of the DNA of New Holland. The plant in Antwerp (New Holland Tractor Limited) with some 1,000 employees, is a major manufacturing unit of tractor parts such as rear axles and drive systems.

Mobile application

New Holland Tractor requested a mobile solution to let their workers use checklists at the quality gates of the assembly lines in the plant.
In the past they had to manage all these checklists by hand. For each checklist, a paper form had to be filled out after which it had to be processed by hand. This created a lot of overhead and it was very easy to make errors.

The application had to be developed in Oracle APEX 4.1 and had to be super user-friendly. The result is a simple, yet elegant application.

Usability

At iAdvise we invest a lot to make our applications user-friendly. For this project we started off by designing mockups that were used as guidelines during the development phase, those helped us to create a very simple and efficient application.

For the workers of New Holland Tractor, this solution was a huge improvement. Now that the checklists are processed automatically, it’s very easy to analyze the production process and there’s less room for errors, hence it further increased both productivity and efficiency at the assembly lines.

We feel that mobile development with APEX is really kicking off and the APEX development team is on the right track to make APEX a mobile enabled development environment.

Exciting times are coming!

Seminar: Oracle and Reporting(Mechelen 08/11/2012)

Do you have one or more applications on top of on Oracle Database?

Do you want to show this data in documents and/or reports?

Did you know you don’t have to make a big investment in a BI solution to create attractive letters, orders, invoices or lists?

But which reporting tool, from a long list, is the best solution?

After many years of using and testing different tools, we will show and share our experiences of our preferred reporting tools:

  • Oracle Application Express
  • Oracle Reports
  • Oracle BI Publisher
  • JasperReports
  • SQL Word
  • Eclipse Birt
  • PL/PDF
  • DocuFy

We’re going to demo and compare those tools so you can learn the possibilities, advantages/disadvantages, …
Of course we’re also taking the learning curves and prices in count, so you can find out the best solution for you and your company.

More info and Registration(Dutch)

Apex Extension

About a month ago I saw a mail coming by where a colleague of mine had integrated the jQuery plug-in Codemirror into a text area for the end-user. I hadn’t seen this plug-in before, but I really liked the feel of it.

I’m sure all of us can recognize the fact that we miss tab indentation in  APEX, or that we would like to see key words, numbers and strings in color, or how about some line numbers? Perhaps line numbers that hold into account that the line number of an error in a PL/SQL APEX process is never quite the same as the place of the error. This last one is because APEX places BEGIN and END; automatically around PL/SQL processes. Convenient for the developer so he can develop faster, not so much when it comes down to debugging.

Since we can not change the APEX Application Builder, it would be nice to find another solution? And that solution exists: take a look at the following screenshots:

Image

Image

So how did I do it? A little “thinking outside the box” did the trick. While we might not want to mess with Apex directly, we can use browser Extensions and add-ons, to alter the looks, safely from a distance. So I created a small Chrome Extension that integrates CodeMirror into the APEX Text Areas.

Chrome Extensions are created with HTML5 and JS so once you have the basics of your Extension set up you can convert an Apex Text Area like this:
var vTextArea=document.getElementById(“F4000_P4312_PROCESS_SQL2″);

vMyEditor = CodeMirror.fromTextArea(vTextArea, {

mode: “text/x-plsql”,
tabMode: “indent”,
tabSize : 2,
lineNumbers: true,
firstLineNumber: 2,
lineWrapping: true
});

I wrapped this in a “$(document).ready(function(){});” to make sure it is executed after loading all plug-ins.

I hope I showed you all that you can do allot with a little imagination, and I welcome any questions or suggestions.

Joni Vandenberghe