The Genie's Browser Presence Grows
Published: February 12, 2008
by Alex Woodie
Organizations modernizing their System i systems with Profound Logic's Genie can now perform all of the screen design work from the comfort of a Web browser with Genie 3.0, which was just released. Profound says the capability to customize HTML interfaces using drag-and-drop techniques in a Web browser should make using the tool easier to use, and introduce it to a new group of users.
Genie is one of a new class of non-invasive tools for modernizing i5/OS screens on the fly, as users access them. The product, which was released less than a year ago, uses AJAX techniques to automatically convert 5250 green-screen interfaces (including system screens and CL programs) into HTML-based graphical interfaces, based on the particular "skin" the user chooses.
With Genie 3.0, Profound Logic has introduced a new screen-designer component that allows users to accomplish these and other tasks directly from a Web browser, without getting down to the nitty gritty technical level required by RPGsp (although they can still use RPGsp to customize their Genie apps if they want to).
To customize a screen with Genie, users simply navigate to the application screen they want to work on, click on a button to enter the design mode, and go to work. Everything needed to prototype, develop, test, and deploy changes to screens (including help text and properties windows) is managed from a single Web browser session.
Alex Roytman, Profound's president, explains how Genie works. "When developers start Genie, they see the System i sign on screen translated to HTML," he writes in an e-mail. "Then, as they sign in and navigate through their application, they see all of their other green screens in HTML format. At any point in time, they can enable the designer and make changes, like adding some radio buttons or dropdowns to that screen. If they choose to save their changes, the new screen design is sent to the System i using AJAX. They can test their changes right there."
Changes are made in Genie by working with the comprehensive properties window. Users can reposition fields, change fonts, use new colors, insert images, and introduce new backgrounds and borders. The user can also change how people interact with the application by adding new buttons, charts, dropdown boxes, checkboxes, hyperlinks, and calendars.
In fact, just about any Web entity or service oriented architecture (SOA) component, such as RSS feeds, can be introduced to the application without writing any code, Profound says. What's more, elements like dropdown lists, images, and charts (based on iChart, which Profound includes with the product) can be tied directly to the DB2/400 database, providing powerful development features without coding.
There are several benefits to this approach, the company says. First, since Genie uses a what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) approach, customers shouldn't be surprised by the appearance of the final product. Also, development is faster and safer, because all components are maintained on the System i server, as opposed to workstations.
But the biggest benefit might be allowing a new class of users to customize their applications, according to David Russo, a project manager with Profound. "We wanted to make it so that any iSeries user could easily work with Genie, without the need for extensive product training or Web programming expertise," he says. "With our browser-based designer, even users without experience in Web programming can perform a great variety of enhancements to an application."
Even non-technical executives can have an impact on their company's applications with Genie 3.0, according to Roytman. "I was just talking to an executive, who had virtually no background in iSeries or Web programming, and was still able to make impressive enhancements to his company’s legacy application using Genie and its latest additions," Roytman says.
Profound also developed two new skins for Genie 3.0. Skins are basically templates that dictate how the screens are going to look, including background and text color, borders and the like. With this release, Profound has added a minimalist skin called "Plain" and a skin called "Gradient" that is described as "sleek looking." The original two skins are called "Blue" and "Classic."
Other enhancements Profound released with Genie 3.0 include the support for custom workstation IDs, increased performance, and improved scripting capabilities. Genie Script (or Gscript) received enhancements that make it easier for users to integrate Genie with other Web applications or to add an advanced navigation system for their screens, such as a tab-based or an accordion-style menu, Profound says.
Genie 3.0 requires OS/400 V5R2 or higher, and supports V6R1. Pricing remains the same at $150 per user. For more information, visit www.profoundlogic.com.
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