Profound Logic Whips Up 'Dream Architecture' for RPG Programmers
by Alex Woodie
RPG programmers should be allowed to dream. The idea that RPG has reached the ultimate stage of maturity, therefore adherents to its logic and processes should not be permitted to consider the range of possible Web applications that can be developed with it, is a sure path to sealing RPG's popular perception as a language has-been. Profound Logic says it has come up with an RPG programmer's "dream architecture" for Web development with RPG Smart Pages version 5.0, which it unveiled last week.
RPG Smart Pages, or RPGsp, is a suite of tools enabling RPG programmers to build interactive Web applications served from the iSeries' Apache or HTTP Web server. The toolset includes one editor that handles both HTML and RPG editing functions and eliminates the tediousness of using separate editors for the two languages. At runtime, a Web browser executes the HTML and RPG script embedded in the RPGsp page, using CGI techniques to access iSeries data. Various other goodies are thrown in with the bundle, including RPG- and DDS-to-HTML code converters, wizards that guide developers in the use of the tool, 100-plus templates, and code snippets to get developers started in the most common types of inquiry, forms, and file maintenance applications.
Profound Logic's programmers have been very busy over the past year, having shipped three new versions of RPGsp in less than 12 months, including RPGsp 3.0 last August, RPGsp 4.0 at COMMON in April), and the current RPGsp 5.0 release, which the Dayton, Ohio, company would like to be known as the "Dream Architecture" release.
"What makes RPGsp 5.0 so dreamy for RPG programmers?" you may be asking yourself. According to Profound Logic, one of the ways the new version lets RPG programmers dream big is its capability to hide the stateless nature of browser-to-host connections, which is one of the major hurdles RPG programmers face when moving from host-centric development to the Web-centric programming paradigm.
RPGsp 5.0 helps programmers by making the browser-to-host connection appear as stateful as the 5250-to-server connection RPG programmers have come to know and love. As a result, it is easier to implement record locking, to pass information from screen to screen, and to keep track of program calls, Profound Logic says.
"In the CGI architecture, record locking can be implemented, but it's harder to do, and it takes a lot more code," says David Russo, Profound's director of sales and marketing. "In the Dream architecture, everything acts just like native OS/400-i5/OS record locking. So, as soon as a record is read on an updatable file, it's automatically locked. And if another user tries to read the same record, a response is automatically sent that the record is locked, without any additional code."
In addition to making browser connections look stateful during the development process, RPGsp can also simulate other iSeries concepts, including the program call stack, display files with multiple record formats, subfiles with updatable fields, and program parameters, the company says.
Coding complex, multi-program applications is also easier with the Dream Architecture release of RPGsp. In the previous release, "If you wanted to call another display program, you had to redirect the browser to a URL that encodes that program," Russo says. "So, there is too much recoding involved in connecting several converted applications. With the Dream Architecture, there is no recoding involved and everything is automatically taken care of." The capability to convert input-capable subfiles and overlayed screens into Web applications also bolsters RPGsp 5.0's case for becoming the Dream Architecture.
RPGsp 5.0 includes other enhancements on the HTML side of things. With this release, developers can change the layout of a browser screen, without having to code the HTML manually. It also supports the "absolute elements" positioning capability of cascading style sheets (CSS), which offers developers an easy way to move fields on the screen independent of their position in the HTML flow, Profound says. There is also a new tabbed window system in the designer portion of RPGsp 5.0 that should make it easier to code multi-page Web applications, the company says.
In addition to having several RPGsp pages opened at once through the tabbed window system, RPGsp developers can also have the various views of their RPGsp pages opened at the same time. This is something that Profound Logic calls its "split view" technology, and it enables developers to have the graphical design view and the HTML/RPG code view open at the same time.
One of the cool features of this split view functionality is developers can click on an element in the graphical view, and the corresponding code is automatically highlighted in the code view, which means developers no longer have to hunt through lines of code to find the area they need to work on. The split view capability, which was announced in July, was introduced with RPGsp version 4.3.
RPGsp 5.0 is available immediately. Profound Logic is selling RPGsp 5.0 in several packages with prices ranging from nothing up to $20,000. For more information and trial downloads, visit www.profoundlogic.com.