Friday, September 20, 2013

APEX 4.2.3 enhances sample and packaged apps

The Oracle Application Express (APEX) builder includes packaged and sample apps.  In each dot release of Oracle APEX we improve these apps.  The vision is two fold, provide best practice and clear examples of how to implement common application components like reports and charts (via sample apps) and provide out of the box fully functional applications (via productivity apps).

In an ideal world these sample and productivity apps would have the following 10 attributes:
  • Simple visually pleasing and intuitive user interface
  • Fast and performant from both database/SQL and HTML perspectives
  • Be HTML5-ey and flash free
  • Be fully responsive allowing the application to adapt to different screen sizes / devices
  • Be easy to maintain declaratively with a minimum amount of custom code or complexity
  • Be fully accessible
  • Secure and compliant with industry best practices (support for multiple levels of access including read only)
  • Have a dedicated mobile UI as needed (e.g. when responsive design is not enough)
  • Targeted at data centric applications (e.g. not focused on static web sites)
  • Be fully upgradable, easy to diagnose bugs, easy to install in short easy life cycle management
These apps are far from perfect but we do strive to achieve these objectives.  

So whats new in 4.2.3 and why should an APEX developer care.  Here is a quick tour of some things new in 4.2.3 I find cool:

1. Filter reports:

Filter reports leverage APEX collections and PL/SQL pipeline functions and provide a great e-commerce style  are unfortunately a tad complicated to implement but are easier to use out of the box then interactive reports for the casual user.  These reports are highlighted in the "Sample Reporting" app.

Here is a page that shows a classic report with a filter control.  The filters are based on lists of values (LOVs) and also support free form search.  This implementation has the advantage of maximizing horizontal screen real-estate by implementing the filter a drop down menu.




The next tab over in the same application shows a similar control but the filter is not hidden by a drop down menu.   The UI on the left side bar could use a bit more attention; hopefully resolved in our next release.  We have found this style report is very easy for first time users to understand as its similar to most every e-commerse site.  It also has the advantage of making "or" queries easy, you can find all the projects with status of "closed" or "on-hold" or "open".  This possible but much harder to do with a standard interactive report.


2. P-Track Enhancements

Next up is enhancements to the P-track.  No huge changes were made but 100's of small tweaks, bug fixes etc.  The goal for P-Track is to make this packaged app a world class project tracking tool for the IT manager responsible for large numbers of projects and constantly needing to maintain a road map (milestones), and ensuring tasks (action items) don't fall through the cracks.  In short I build this app for myself.   I know many use wiki's, excel spreasheets, and for-cost cloud services; all of which can be effective.  I use P-track every day and it helps me keep things structured and allows me to track who is doing what, and all the associated documents etc.

Here is a screen shot of two regions on the home page.  I can at a glance know where my time is going and easily drill in on important projects; and of course track the stuff I'm choosing to neglect.



From the home page I can easily find my project google style by simply typing any keyword.  Recently edited projects are also displayed in a prominent region making it easy to see updates and additions by others.





Clicking on a given project, APEX in this case shows the project detail page.  This page works for both read only users as well as contributors (read-write privilege).  I can at a glance add and view milestones, action items.  I can compare my goal with our actions, milestones and action items recently completed within the last 6 months are displayed by default providing a nice window on whats been done and what needs to be done.  Adding attachements, milestones etc uses model dialogs.



Sample apps ship "unlocked" by default, allowing developers to edit the application after installing it.  Packaged apps are locked.  Packaged apps are locked on install so that you can upgrade in the future; and to date every release of APEX has enhanced most every packaged app.  If your not so interested in using the application but want to review the implementation you can unlock the packaged application by performing the following.


  1. Navigate to the application builder, and click on the "P-Track" icon
  2. Click the "Manage" button
  3. Then "Unlock" following the wizard
Once the application is unlocked you can edit the app customize etc.  But be warned that its now your app and upgrades will not be possible.  The screen shots below show you how; why read text when you can look at screen shots:









Note that P-Track now has both a "Run" and "Edit" option, where before it just had "Run" and "locked".   If you do take the time to unlock p-track and navigate to shared components and then to plugins you can see the ever growing list of plugins used within our packaged apps.  Many are new and improved in APEX 4.2.3 (sorry don't have an exact accounting).  I  am a big fan of our "Flot Pie Chart" plug-in as well as mini-calendar, tags / tag cloud, and big value.  



These plug-ins can easily exported, click "Export Plug-in" in task region in right side bar, and imported into other applications.

Please do try it out on http://apex.oracle.com, and do come visit the APEX team at this years Oracle World in San Francisco next week.  We will be at the demo grounds at the APEX booth in the database area.  David Peake (our friendly Oracle APEX product manager) has created an application to make it easy to find our 36 APEX related OOW sessions/events (see link below).


This site also contains an OOW challenge focused on mobile development and Oracle APEX, if this is up-your-ally please do check it out; prizes will be awarded.

Mike

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

APEX 4.2.3 Released, new packaged app "Data Reporter"

As someone who develops a large number of Oracle APEX apps I frequently have the dilemma of guessing what type of reporting the end users will want. Basically its hard to know what reports people want in the future. To ease this burden the APEX development team and the special projects team here within Oracle have created a new packaged application called "Data Reporter". Here is how it works.

1. Run any Oracle APEX 4.2.3 environment, and if you don't have get a free one here http://apex.oracle.com

2. Click application builder, then create application, then packaged applications, then choose data reporter:



3. Install the application and run it. Installing can take a minute or more.

4. From the Data Reporter home page click the New button



5. Choose the type of report you wish to create, my favorite is the Filter Report, so I will choose one of these





6. Give the report a name and category. Color coding the category allows you to locate you report more rapidly on the home page.





7. Now for the important part, define your query. Administrators of the application can set up canned data sources. I simply selected "Top Cities" and it pre-populated the SQL. I can edit the SQL or enter new SQL. The theory is that SQL not that hard especially if you start from an existing query. For security each table accessed must be pre-defined by the application administrator by adding it to the "Whitelist".


8. Since this is a filter report, I need to determine which columns I would like to filter on. For this data set I choose to provide filters for country, sources, and continent. I also adjusted format masks. I only really need to select one filter and I can simply edit my report later.


9. Thats, it I confirm my report and I am good to go.


10. After creating the report immediately runs. I click the filters I wish to have; in the example below you see largest cities in Europe and North America from selected sources.


11. I can edit my report by clicking on edit. Each time the SQL is changed it is revalidated. I can manage access control, view history of when the report was run and changed etc.


12. Clicking the star icon, favorites the report, making it easy to find the reports you are interested in

13. Navigating back to the home page I see my new report, and it can be run by anyone with access to the application. Of course I have the option to restrict access. This allows reports to be timely addressing what is needed today, and can be removed if. You can filter to show your reports, favorites, specific groups etc.


You can follow the same process to build dashboards, interactive reports, calendars and even PDF printable reports. Hopefully this brief introduction will ease the burden on application developers to create lots of reports an effort to anticipate what end users will want in the future. Now end users can, or at least the SQL Savvy ones can get their data self service.

Monday, April 29, 2013

APEX 4.2.2 released

Oracle Application Express (APEX) 4.2.2 is now released, you can read up and download it here, or try it out on http://apex.oracle.com. In addition to fixing some bugs Oracle APEX 4.2.2 includes a major upgrade of all 18 productivity and all 16 database sample applications. You can find these applications by navigating to the application builder from the APEX home page, then clicking the "Packaged Applications" tab.
Clicking on a given app allows you to install the application, if not already installed, or upgrade if the app is already installed from a previous Oracle APEX version.
In terms of highlights Oracle APEX 4.2.2 introduces a new survey builder app that is modern and robust, and a new brookstrut sample application that has a nice mash up with google maps. All productivity and sample apps make greater use of APEX plugin's and have improved in-application documentation. All sample applications have been ported to APEX theme 25 which is our responsive grid layout based theme. Our most popular packaged app P-Track has been enhanced and refined, so if you are a P-Track user you should strongly consider upgrading. Or sample app "Sample Tabular forms" has been renamed Sample Forms and Grid Layout. This sample app includes explanation of how to use Oracle APEX grid layout and is a great application to review for any APEX developer making the leap to grid layout. We hope our Oracle APEX 4.2.2 release will give both novice and advanced Oracle APEX developers ideas and examples both in the context of a real application (e.g. our productivity apps) and in the form of sample applications. Note you can always install a packaged application then unlock it; thus allowing you to see how it was coded. But if you unlock the application it removes the ability to upgrade to new releases.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Oracle APEX 4.1.1 patch set released on OTN

Oracle Application Express (APEX) latest patch has been released on OTN and is available for download here. This release contains fixes to issues uncovered by our customers (thanks so much for reporting) and our numerous internal deployments. Specifically 221 bugs were fixed; and now this is behind us our development team has clear focus on APEX 4.2.

In addition to the bug fixes we also introduced a new theme and schema provisioning enhancements. The new theme, theme 24, is our best HTML5, CSS3 we have delivered as part of core product to date. It has a blue look and is appealing to my eye. For those who want to craft new themes we recommend starting with theme 24 as a template. The provisioning enhancements are in support of our public cloud initiative documented on http://cloud.oracle.com.

For those who have not yet upgraded to APEX 4.1, now that we have our 4.1.1 patch its likely to be a good time. With 4.1.1 out many may be wondering what's next. Our initial focus is on completing significant mobile work started in our 4.1 release and ensuring that APEX can properly support our next database release; 12c. The "c" is for cloud. You can see our statement of direction here, and yes we are likely to tweak it over time. We never publish dates of releases, but we are planning (not a commitment) to release APEX 4.2 in the database 12c timeframe, thus supporting 12c.

For those interested in all things APEX I strongly encourage you to attend Kscope12, the APEX community will be out in force as will the APEX development team. I will be speaking on Sunday about APEX, 12c, SQL Developer, cloud etc.

Let us know if APEX 4.1.1 is allowing you to unleash your full database centric RAD web development vision, and if not let us know what we need to do in APEX 4.2 to make it better. Happy coding!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

SQL Developer 3.1 released

After lots of hard work we have a new SQL Developer 3.1 release is now available for download here. Even though its a dot release we have lots of new features. Here are the highlights:

DBA Utilities

Release 3.1 continues to expand on SQL Developer's DBA functionality. RMAN, Oracle Recovery Manager, is now part of the DBA navigator. An easy to use wizard takes you through the scheduling of a full database backup. Backups can be stored to disk, tape or a combination. RMAN scripts are generated to restore or recover a whole database, tablespaces, datafiles and archived logs. Reports are available to manage backup jobs, backup sets, image copies and RMAN settings.

Data Pump

To enable very high speed movement of data and metadata from one database to another, SQL Developer has added the Oracle Data Pump technology. Use SQL Developer's Data Pump UI to import and export your Database, Tablespaces, Schemas, and Tables. Select the option to import and export just the DDL, Data or both. Data Pump also offers scheduling capabilities.

Database Diff

Completely redesigned, DB Diff now provides a more reliable comparison and difference management support of your DDL. Select what to include in your DDL Generation and select from various comparison options such as match constraints by name or by definition. Objects can be further filtered. Scripts are generated to synchronize the source and target destinations.

Database Copy

Database Copy is redesigned to enhance performance and offer more flexibility. Choose from various copy options: copy objects, copy a schema or consolidate multiple schemas into one, copy tablespaces, copy DDL, data or both. Further refine your copy by using the filtering capability.

Migrations

Migrations in 3.1 include enhancements to Teradata and Sybase. Teradata support has expanded to include a SQL Translator, Enterprise Capture and Offline Migration. Sybase now offers TSQL Translation with support for outer join syntax including legacy outer join syntax and triggers.

PDF Reports

The Reports dialog is enhanced for ease of use and flexibility to create or update a report. The PDF feature allows the user to change and save their PDF options for a specific report in the Reports Navigator. Customize the visual layout and apply security with password protected encryption to your PDF Reports.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Expert Oracle Application Express

If your interested in Oracle APEX, there is a new book available. This book is special, it's 13 chapters from 13 APEX guru's on the on the topics they know best. This book can help you take your APEX development skills to the next level. If your looking for an introduction to Oracle APEX this is not for you, but if you have created a few applications, mastered the basic concepts, and have a desire to build applications that are at the highest standard, this book can help.

I wanted to highlight the dedication of the authors, all of whom dedicated their time with all proceeds to a great cause. So a special thanks and warm appreciation for the contributions of John Scott, Doug Gault, Raj Mattamal, Anton Nielsen, Martin D'Souza, Dimitri Gielis, Roel Hartman, Francis Mignault, Dietmar Aust, Denes Kubicek, Dan McGhan, and Sharon Kennedy. I also contributed a chapter on APEX Architecture.

So check it out, read the reviews, buy the book, and take your APEX skills to the next level.

Expert Oracle Application Express

K-Scope Video Interview

It was great to catch up with the Oracle APEX community at K-Scope in Long beach this past June. The enthusiasm and success stories were really phenomenal. Here is a video, in which I attempt to side step questions of our Oracle APEX 4.1 release date.

Here is the K-Scope Interview.