Friday, July 9, 2010

New Oracle APEX Forum Poll

Thanks to the 527 people who participated in our last poll. This poll asked who used Oracle Application Express to integrate with the Oracle E-Business Suite; and 23% indicated that they did. Obviously not a scientific poll, but still highlights some usage paterns.

Our new poll asks "What do you like best about Oracle APEX 4.0", and in the interest of brevity gives you 8 choices; Dynamic Actions, Plug-in's, Websheets, Team Development, Improved Interactive Reports, Improved Application Builder, RESTful Web Service integration, and New themes.

I also voted myself, and it was a hard choice; as I like all of the features. In the end I selected the "Improved Application Builder". The ever-present search, the new faster rendering and more attractive "blue-look", the tree edit, the improved debugging, high-lighting of buttons in forms to indicate the obvious action, is what I like most. When using my Apple i-pad I do enjoy or many of our new icons (easy to click on with your fingers) as well as the adoption of Interactive reports for the builder.

One feature people may not know is you can enter a page number in the "search application" search box from any builder page and it takes you directly to a given page. If you were nice enough to read this far; please also take the next step and vote.

Known Issues with Oracle Application Express 4.0

Since the introduction of Oracle APEX 4.0 on June 23, 2010 we have seen significant uptake of our new release (APEX 4.0). In monitoring the discussion forums and other channels we have received a number of customer issues uptaking Oracle APEX 4.0. To provide the APEX community with the latest information on APEX 4.0 issues / bugs we have create an Oracle Application Express 4.0 known issues web page.

This page does not track all issues or bugs but should do a good job highlighting many. The development team is working hard to develop one off patches (for some issues) as well as a 4.0.1 re-release. As of the time of this post we have 2 one off patches available via metalink.

We have also updated our Oracle APEX OTN page to link to this known issues page, in the "New in release 4.0" section. If you do encounter bugs with Oracle APEX 4.0 and wish to bring these to our attention please do use the Oracle APEX discussion forum or log bugs with Oracle support.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Oracle APEX in the News

I did a few press interviews on our June 23, 2010 release of Oracle Application Express (APEX). We have found more then 15 stories, A few highlights are:

"Oracle Application Express is the primary custom development platform at General Healthcare Group (GHG),” said Marc Yaneza, Technology Director IT, General Healthcare Group. “Its speed of delivery and ease of use has given GHG an excellent, cost effective, scalable platform to get the right tailored applications delivered when required. We’re really looking forward to Oracle Application Express 4.0 where Dynamic Actions and the new reporting capabilities will provide a much richer user experience. Plug-Ins will also help us to technically streamline the way that we create, deliver and re-use custom code, increasing productivity.”

“At PINNACLE Software Corporation, a division of PAETEC Incorporated, we utilize Oracle Application Express to develop our enterprise class Service Lifecycle management software that is used to help IT organizations manage their service support and service delivery business operations,” said Dennis Vanill, Senior Manager Software Development, PAETEC. “We are eager to begin leveraging several of the new and enhanced features available within Oracle Application Express 4.0 designed to help facilitate larger team development. We are particularly excited about the ability to create dynamic actions and plug-ins to easily extend the functionality of the tool. Additionally, we hope to drive efficiencies within our development organization by leveraging the integrated project management, feedback and bug tracking features built inside the tool.”

Oracle Application Express 4.0 Now Available (Database Trends and Applications)

Citing a particularly useful new feature, Hichwa notes that Dynamic Actions allows developers to declaratively create a broad range of AJAX controls without coding JavaScript. "This enables developers who don't know JavaScript to develop rich client side functionality they could not otherwise develop. It also improves productivity in that it's faster than coding JavaScript." Another useful capability, Pluggable Components, allows APEX to be extended by third parties to include new components such as advanced item controls - mashups to, for example, Google maps, etc., Hichwa says. "The plug-ins are installed and then appear as if native when creating components using wizards. Pluggable components empower the community to extend APEX as they wish."

Oracle APEX Gets Web 2.0 Boost by Joab Jackson, IDG News

"By far, this is the most significant release to date. It has more features and pushes the platform much farther than previous releases," said Mike Hichwa, an Oracle vice president of software development.

On the surface, APEX proves to be a very basic tool that offers a lot of RAD capabilities and is quite simple to get started with. As users delve deeper into the tool, they will find a lot of powerful capabilities that may offer just enough flexibility to delay the need to buy more advanced development suites. It all comes down to how developers want to present data and fill table forms on the Web for their users.

You can read many more, here (scroll down to news), you can also google news for "oracle application express".

Oracle Developer Tools User Group (ODTUG) Kaleidoscope 2010

The ODTUG conference (June 27 - July 1, 2010) brought many in the Oracle development community to Washington DC (my fair city) for a week of sessions, hands on labs and general socializing. Speaking with ODTUG organizers attendance was way up, even when many user group conferences are down. Speaking for myself I thought the buzz and ambiance was exceptionally positive.

For the Oracle APEX tracks the week started off well on Sunday with a full day Oracle Application Express Symposia; that walked through the process of building an application starting with the Data model, moving into application development, building plug-ins, performance tuning, user interface design, printing, security and globalization. The week continued with two full tracks dedicated to Oracle APEX, and a database track with lots of SQL, PL/SQL and SQL Developer content. It was a big success by all accounts. It is also worth noting that Symposia featured Oracle SQL Developer Data modeler, as well as Oracle SQL Developer. Both tools available on the Oracle Technology Network (OTN) here.

On Monday ODTUG President Mike Riley noted that the Oracle APEX team timed the release of Oracle APEX 4.0 the week before ODTUG from maximum effect (which is true, we worked real hard to make this date). From the Oracle Database Development tools perspective Oracle APEX was the biggest draw accounting for about 28% of all sessions / events. The Oracle SQL Developer, SQL Developer Data Modeler, and SQL Developer Unit testing were also well represented with both user sessions and hands on labs.

I enjoyed, not only my keynote address which I co presented with Oracle APEX development manager Joel Kallman (which I was pleased filled two rooms to capacity), but mostly the opportunity to talk to the developers. I filled a full notebook with success stories, enhancement requests, and ideas on how we can better advance database tools. It was an international event with a large number of attendees from all over Europe.

For the Oracle APEX community attending ODTUG the talk was all about the 4.0 release; many had seen various early access releases, however many were surprised with the elegance, depth, and ease of use in dynamic actions, Interactive Reports, and Plug-ins. Many presentations highlighted the speed at which developers can create database centric applications and I attended packed (as in standing room only) presentations that highlighted team development, websheets, improved charting, RESTfull web services, and modernized user interface themes.

My congratulations and thanks to hard working organizers of this years ODTUG and I look forward to next year's ODTUG in Long Beach CA.

Oracle APEX Listener

As of June 28, 2010 the Oracle APEX listener is available for download on the Oracle Technology Network (OTN) here. The APEX listener in combination with a J2EE Web Server is a drop in replacement for Apache / ModPLSQL. Since Oracle Application Express (APEX) is deployed within an Oracle database you need some thin mid tier to facilitate the communications between the browser and the database. The Oracle APEX listener does this, it takes URL gets and posts and maps them to database calls; then returns the generated HTML to the browser. The Oracle APEX listener not only services all versions of Oracle APEX it can also service any PL/SQL Web tool kit application.

For those who follow this technology closely you will note this is the third way to expose Oracle APEX (and Oracle web toolkit) applications on the web. The Oracle HTTP Sever (OHS) is distributed with the Oracle database as well as our middleware. The Oracle HTTP Server bundles Apache 2 with the PL/SQL module (mod_plsql). This is good for customers / developers who want to run Apache. A second alternative is to use the Embedded PL/SQL Gateway (EPG), which is can be enabled by running database scripts and runs out of the database using XDB. This is good for less demanding workloads that want the simplicity of no mid tier. Ideal for a notebook. So this brings us to the new APEX listener which is the third way of integrating Oracle APEX. The Oracle APEX listener can run with Oracle Web Logic Server (WLS) or Glassfish, or most any Java web server. This configuration is ideal for customers / developers who use a Java stack, use Oracle Fusion Middleware (FMW) or like the simplicity of deploying in a Java Web Server.

From my perspective the Oracle APEX listener is the way to go for most, in that it does not lock you into any specific version of Apache (you can of course front end the APEX listener with Apache), and it offloads the web serving from the database when using EPG. So the APEX listener addresses major concerns of our customers (1) no Apache version lockin, (2) synergy with the Java stack (3) external to the Oracle database.

To learn more about how to install, use, and manage the Oracle APEX listener you can visit our OTN page. If you have support for the Oracle database you can call Oracle support. If you want to discuss the APEX listener in our OTN forums you can do so here.

Oracle Application Express 4.0

As of June 23, 2010 Oracle Application Express (APEX) 4.0 is now available on the Oracle Technology Network (OTN) here. This is our (the Oracle APEX development team's) most significant release since Oracle APEX was first released in 2004 (as HTML DB). Oracle APEX is a unique product (actually it's a no cost feature of the Oracle Database), in that it runs within an Oracle database, and is capable of providing multi tenant / self service application development.

Here is how it works, you simply navigate your browser (ff, ie, safari, chrome) to an "instance" of Oracle APEX (which is simply an URL, for example our kick-the-tires free public service is and sign up for a "workspace". Once you have an Oracle Application express workspace you can start exposing your Oracle database data on the web by creating an "application". If you don't already have Oracle database tables created, you can create, load and manage your database objects using the Oracle APEX SQL workshop.

You can create simple applications that report on database data or more complex applications such as the Oracle Store. You create these applications using declarative programming (wizards, property sheets) all from your web browser. For example you can click on the APEX Application Builder icon, then on the create application button and build an application using a simple wizard. Then you can add report pages, form pages, integrate web services, create charts, calendars, etc, link all these pages together using tabs, page branching, and list controls giving database developers with a working knowledge of SQL and relational databases the ability to create useful multi user web 2.0 application in minutes. Even if you haven't "programmed" in years but understand databases you can quickly master the basics of Oracle APEX.

So what's all the hype about Oracle APEX 4.0? The 4.0 release introduces some innovative features including dynamic actions which provides declarative client side page event processing. For example dynamic actions let you hide / show, enable / disable page components triggered by events on a page; they also let you make SQL and PL/SQL calls without reloading the full page using AJAX; all without coding JavaScript. Simply follow a wizard that defines the triggering events and actions. Plug-ins are also powerful in that they let Oracle APEX guru's craft Oracle APEX components (region and item controls) that can be loaded into an Oracle APEX application extending the rendering capability of the application builder. The plug-in components then appear as native feature function of Oracle APEX. Crafting plug-in's requires knowledge of APEX internal API's so its not for the novice, but consuming a plug-in is trivial. So plug-ins unleash the creativity of the vibrant and creative Oracle APEX community.

You can install Oracle APEX on your laptop, including a MAC by running a native db or using a database within a VM. You can install APEX 4.0 into an Oracle database 10.2 (or better) in your organization, or you can use an instance hosted by Oracle or another hosting partner. You can even run APEX in on the Amazon cloud using the Oracle AMI, EC2 and EBS. Since the client for development and runtime is a browser, you can develop your application from any browser that has connectivity to your development instance, this includes the Apple iPad, Linux OS, MS Windows, etc. As of APEX 4.0 we do not support IE 6 (because it's a tad buggy with modern stuff), but you can create applications that are IE 6 compatible. Personally I work almost exclusively in Safari, so I can "launch" my development too, login, and start developing and tweaking an application in seconds from just about anywhere.

You can read more, much more, about APEX on our OTN pages