BCD Tweaks IBM i Development Tool
Revised: August 8, 2012
by Dan Burger
There's nothing wrong with the green screen, but you better ask the people who use those applications if they believe that or not. While the old school display kicks butt in plenty of modern organizations from banking to manufacturing and from Omaha to Okinawa, there are bazillions of 5250 apps that need to be converted and brand new Web apps that need to be written. WebSmart ILE is one of the tools for doing that, and Business Computer Design, Intl. (BCD) has just updated that tool.
Developers have been using WebSmart ILE to produce CGI-based Web applications since 2001, and the WebSmart user base is estimated by BCD at more than 2,000 customers with more than 2 million end users (some of which use the PHP version of the software). They are developing apps that run in the native Apache HTTP Web server that's shipped with IBM i and that access DB2 for i (DB2/400), SQL Server, and MySQL databases.
The latest release of WebSmart ILE is version 9.2. Its list of enhancements is topped by a grid template that BCD literature describes as "a more modern way of displaying and editing data in a tabular layout." Also on the enhancement list is the capability for creating PDF files from Web applications and pages, and support for HTML5 to view charts on iPads and other devices that don't support Flash. BCD has an integrated tool it calls SmartCharts that can be used to create animated graphs and charts and display key performance indicators (KPIs).
Web 2.0 Grid Template
BCD has always had an emphasis with WebSmart in using templates as a way to quickly and easily get Web applications deployed and increase programmer proficiency without a steep learning curve. With the grid template, IBM i programmers can coolly and calmly create Web applications that include grids over DB2, MySQL or SQL Server data. The grid features include sort-able columns, flexible paging options, scrolling, and row highlighting. It also offers a modal window for editing records, which improves the overall look and feel of the application and makes it faster to add or edit data.
The grid template uses the jQuery jqGrid plug-in and it gets a performance boost by only refreshing only the necessary portion of the screen when displaying and processing data rather than refreshing the entire page.
"Today's users expect Web applications to have the latest bells and whistles, and that means using grids," says Eric Figura, director of marketing and sales for BCD. "Grids not only make your Web applications look nicer, but they also make it faster to display and edit data. There is no tradeoff between having a nicer looking UI and performance. You get the best of both worlds."
Users often generate PDFs from Web applications with the idea of archiving and distributing the PDFs. But not all Web apps are designed to convert to a PDF. WebSmart 9.2 can generate PDFs that include static text and database file fields.
SmartCharts, a set of chart templates included with WebSmart, now includes HTML5 animation capability. It allows users to design and integrate real-time animated two- and three-dimensional bar charts, pie charts, and executive dashboards on the fly and display them on Apple iPads and other devices that do not support Flash. SmartCharts also has Flash capability for the devices that support it.
Additional WebSmart ILE Features
WebSmart uses its own language, PML, to generate RPG ILE (also known as free-format RPG) Web applications in conjunction with HTML. PML allows developers to create functions based on ILE procedures.
Because of its longer time in service, WebSmart ILE is used by many more BCD customers compared to WebSmart PHP. But according to Eric Figura, the company's director of sales and marketing, the two versions of WebSmart are more balanced when comparing adoption by new customers.
"BCD offers Web application development tools that provide features and functionality in either ILE RPG, a language that IBM i developers truly understand, or PHP, a non-proprietary, open source language," Figura points out. "Companies make their choice based on business needs."
WebSmart ILE is sold as an independent solution or part of an integrated suite of BCD products that handles Web enablement of 5250 applications, portal, and business intelligence requirements. Pricing is tier-based relative to the system or number of developers. Discounts are available based on the number of products bundled in a purchase.
For additional details and a short WebSmart video, visit this link.
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