After 5 successful earlier editions of the APEX World day, they chose a different venue for the 2015 edition. The ship SS Rotterdam was the setting for the annual APEX World event. For us, it was not only the location that was special, we were also official Diamond Sponsor of APEX World 2015! And a great day it was! Not only to meet a lot of nice people from the Benelux APEX community, but also for the great sessions that have provided us with a lot of inspiration for the upcoming period. It was really an honour for us to be the Diamond Sponsor this year.
Like previous years, the day started with a short opening. This year, Reinier van Grieken, vice president and managing director of Oracle Netherlands was invited to do the opening. He emphasized that the OGh did a great job by welcoming such an enormous audience, which continued to grow over the past 5 years (more than 400 visitors this year).
In this overview we will take you aboard the SS Rotterdam on the 25th of March, so if you missed it, you’ll still get the highlights. And if you were there, you can look back on a great day.
Keynote: OraEvents – Stijn van Raes (iAdvise) & Yves van Looy (Oracle Belgium)
In an entertaining presentation the speakers told us about how Oracle and iAdvise created the situation of a supplier – customer – supplier – customer. iAdvise was hired to build the OraEvents application for Oracle (www.oraevents.eu). The architecture of this application makes it possible to collect data about the interests of registered users. In some situations this can be a huge advantage. For example, there was a situation when Oracle organized an event but it was really hard to get enough attendees. Oracle Belgium searched in the database of OraEvents and in half an hour they filled up the event.
At the end of this keynote, iAdvise wondered what could be possible features in future APEX versions (like APEX 6, APEX 7 or even later). Thoughts about single page web applications, Node.js integration and Source Control were brought to attention. iAdvise hopes that the APEX community will think about these possible features and bring over these ideas on https://apex.oracle.com/vote or the newly formed linkedin group http://goo.gl/L9DirJ
APEX suitable for high volume environments – PostNL & Fiton
Fiton and PostNL developed an application to process postal orders in a very easy and quick manner. Not only national but also international orders can be handled with this system.
Basic and simple APEX functionality was used to enter barcodes in a system which looked like some kind of wizard. Only 4 APEX pages were developed, besides a login system. The application was based on Theme 13 in APEX. The part of the system that takes care of printing invoices was built as a Java applet. The philosophy of this client case was: “Less is more”. Keep your application as simple as possible.
Oracle Forms to Oracle Application Express migration – iAdvise (Yvonne van Dorst) and Robeco (William de Vries)
All 7 APEX applications were developed in a period of 3 months. The business has become APEX minded and almost all questions are more or less like: “Can we do this in APEX?” The answer in most cases is: “Yes we can!” Robeco is a very satisfied APEX customer.
Design of good-looking, flexible and responsive applications – iAdvise (Menno Hoogendijk) and Twinq (Laurens Hamelink)
At the end of this presentation, the audience was asked to visit an online vote, just like tinder. They could indicate whether they really experienced the demo as “Sexy Software” or not. More than 80% was convinced of the sexiness of the software.
Hidden Nuggets in Application Express 5.0 Page Designer – David Peake (Oracle US)
Everyone knows that APEX 5.0 has a lot in store for us. In this presentation, David Peake took
us through the new page designer and told us his favorite features.
The page designer is now divided in three sections. The old tree view can be consulted on the left side of the screen.
The middle section consists of a wide grid layout where we can easily drag and drop new items to our page. Messages will show you what is missing for the new created items.
In the right section we can directly see and edit the properties of the selected item. This new interface allows us to develop much more efficiently. Besides editing one item at a time, it is now possible to edit multiple items. This will save us a lot of time, for example when you want to change the template of all your labels. And when the latest adjustment to your page does not meet your expectations, you can now undo and redo it by simply pressing a button.
Not only the grid layout is quite convenient, keyboard shortcuts will soon be our best developing buddies. To help us along the way, help texts and search capabilities have been increased considerably. Now we will lose less time, if we are looking for that one particular item.
The page designer will give us the possibility to develop even faster!
Interactive Reports: Watch out for the Pitfalls! – Peter Raganitsch (FOEX (AT))
In APEX, we’ve got two different report types to work with: Classic and interactive reports. Many developers prefer the interactive report, because the user can change the appearance of the data through several manipulations. This means that the query behind this report is also adjusted. To figure out how the query will look like after a few filters, you can use the debug function. To get the full query available in logging, you must replace the ‘YES’ with ‘LEVEL9’ in the url. This gives you a more detailed logging. You can also add a small PL/SQL code in the application properties (Security, Database Session, Initialization PL/SQL code):
“APEX_DEBUG.enable (9) ;”. Remember after testing to remove it again.
The pagination type also affects the query of your report. If you use the type ‘X to Y of Z’, then the query will be extended to return the total number of rows. Therefore, use the type ‘X to Y’ for reports with many records.
Also, there is a very useful package for interactive reports named APEX_IR. This can be used to see the full runtime query of your interactive reports, add filters, clear or reset the report settings, delete saved reports and manage subscriptions.
Version 5.0 has several enhancements on interactive reports. Henceforth, it will be possible to use multiple interactive reports per page. Besides that, the action region – after selecting an option in the action menu – will be showed in modal dialogs instead of above the report. The menu is also expanded with the pivot function and the end user can now do a group by on a maximum of eight fields instead of five. With all these improvements, version 5.0 will be very well received by both, developer and end user.
A Spotlight on the Smaller Features of APEX 5 – Dietmar Aust (Opal Consulting (DE))
After three early adopters and a pre-production version of APEX 5, everyone nowadays knows about the most important and biggest new features of APEX 5. But what about those features you don’t notice immediately? Dietmar Aust took us through some of those features during his session about the smaller features of APEX 5.
One of the functional improvements Dietmar told us about is: the file storage. In the past apex versions there were no relative file paths, you had to upload your files individually and updating your files took a lot of time. In the new file storage you do have relative file paths and there is the possibility to upload zip files that will be extracted into the correct folders. Updating your files can be done this way too. Also after updating your files you’ll notice at runtime that the version number, which you can find in the url referencing your files has changed to avoid caching issues.
Keynote: Elegance in the Enterprise – Shakeeb Rahman (Oracle US)
On every project I’ll try to surpass my previous creations in usability and design. And every time I’ll spend some time analyzing the most popular websites about their latest user interfaces and the way they interact with the end user. How do they present their navigation? Where do they put the buttons? And how do they organize their content on a page? All these questions are important because you want your users to feel comfortable when they use your application.
This keynote felt like a spring breeze on the – maybe a little bit – too hot SS Rotterdam. It was refreshing to see the amount of dedication, consideration and research the APEX design development team put in their Universal Theme. Shakeeb Rahman brought a lot of liberating facts about the way users interact with web applications to our attention. One of the statements that caught my attention was:
Most users put a higher rate on an application after the design is improved because they believe it works better than the old one.
Shakeeb also told us to think twice before using reports. Because in some cases it may not be the best approach for presenting the data to the end user. Sometimes it’s more efficient to use a diagram or a chart because users instantly see how your data it related. And if using a report still is the best approach, try to eliminate the columns users don’t really need to see right away. Minimizing the amount of data on a screen results in faster reading and, in that way, is more efficient.
Another thing to reflect on when building your application, is to split the contents into smaller bits by grouping similar fields. By dividing your contents, users don’t see your page as a big chunk of data, but more like smalls pieces of useful information.
The new built-in template that comes with APEX 5 results in easy-to-create, smart, responsive web applications because APEX has done the research for you. It uses built-in crisp icons and follows the currently hot “flat design trend”. Now it’s not only faster to create user friendly web application it’s also much easier because they put all the know-how about user interaction in the new and improved application builder.
That’s also handy because now you can take a peek at how APEX pages are designed if you’re looking for inspiration instead of googling around the web like I used to do before.