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Volume 4, Number 43 -- October 26, 2004

BCD Announces RPG Code Converter, Outlines Web App Enhancements

by Alex Woodie

When BCD Int'l starts shipping ProGen WebSmart Version 5 next year, it will include a new RPG code converter designed to jumpstart iSeries shops' Web development projects using the WebSmart development environment. The code converter in WebSmart 5 is just one of the announcements BCD made at the COMMON conference last week, including an upcoming release of its Spool-Explorer/400 product and new features in its Nexus Web portal.

If one were to draw a triangle with WebSmart, Nexus, and the combination of Catapult and Spool-Explorer/400 at each point, the center of that triangle would represent the thrust of BCD's development effort these days and its strategy of uniting its Web application development, portal, and document delivery technology into a cohesive whole. While the products are still separate, they are becoming more integrated with each new release, and the updates that the Chicago company will start rolling out in November are no exception.

BCD's new converter, called RPG to WebSmart Conversion, can convert entire green-screen OS/400 applications into Web-based applications that can be served and maintained from its WebSmart integrated development environment, BCD says. The software supports conversion of ILE RPG into ProGen Markup Language (or PML, BCD's fourth-generation language) for business logic, and the conversion of DDS into HTML for the user interface.

Once the source code has been converted to PML, a whole host of code-generation options are available to the developer, including generation of JavaScript and Java servlets (through the Java Edition of WebSmart), or RPG-based CGI scripts (through the Original Edition). It's all about giving users choices, says Eric Figura, BCD's sales and marketing director, and that message seems to be working. So far, there have been 800 WebSmart installs at OS/400 shops, Figura says.

RPG to WebSmart Conversion stands out from other RPG code converters recently brought to market because of its integration with the WebSmart IDE, Figura says. WebSmart IDE features, like syntax checking, HTML editing, and basic change management capabilities, help developers to continue to develop the code. With other RPG code converters, "you're relegated to the world of line-at-a-time coding, often in a language you don't understand," Figura says. "WebSmart is technology RPG people understand."

BCD is giving away RPG to WebSmart Conversion with paid licenses of WebSmart 5.0 through March 31, 2005. Normally, the company would charge $7,500 to $10,000 for the conversion tool, the company says.

Other enhancements that will debut with WebSmart 5.0 include the capability to generate source code on a PC with the WebSmart IDE; new wizards for generating icons, boxes, tables, and forms in HTML; new wizards for building and testing SQL statements (native I/O is also supported); new vertical views of HTML statements in the IDE; and PML improvements, such as support for nested functions. Licenses for the ProGen WebSmart IDE range from $5,500 to $11,000, while the WebSmart Web application server ranges from $5,000 to $10,500.


BCD is also gearing up to launch a new release of its Nexus portal, a WebSmart application for OS/400 that gives users browser-based access to iSeries applications and data. When it ships next month, Nexus Portal Version 2.5 will have several new features that should boost the productivity of users, including a new Internet chat feature, a browser-based 5250 emulator, new spool file management capabilities, and enhancements to BCD's Web Object Warehouse.

Web Object Warehouse is intended to serve as a repository for documents that would normally be stored on a PC, such as Word and PDF documents and spreadsheets. With Nexus 2.5, BCD has included a new Web Object Warehouse interface it says makes it easier to perform "free format" searches. This release also enables users to add their own search values to documents kept in the Web Object Warehouse, which should help them find the documents faster.

BCD is now including MochaSoft's popular TN5250 emulator as an optional portlet within Nexus, the company announced last week. To keep the MochaSoft portlet after the 30-day trial is up will cost $350 for an unlimited site license.

Nexus users will be able to communicate with each other in real time using the new Nexus Messaging portlet in Version 2.5. The software will support text, HTML, and "emoticons," as well as iSeries system messages, BCD says, and users will be presented with a list of other users signed on to the system. Nexus Messaging will automatically keep a log of all messages.

Nexus Messaging won't be able to communicate with Internet-based messaging clients, like AOL Instant Messenger or MSN Messenger, and will be restricted to other users on the local or wide area network. One of BCD's developers, Kevin Cronin, with Excel Systems, in Vancouver, British Columbia, uses Nexus Messaging to chat with colleagues on-site at client installations. "It's as if they were sitting right next to me," he says. "There's no need to fire up MSN Messenger or send dozens of e-mails."

The final new portlet included with Nexus 2.5 is a portlet version of BCD's Spool-Explorer/400 product. This new capability will allow Nexus users to view OS/400 spool files as HTML in a Web browser. The next release of the portlet will let users save the spool file as a PDF document and e-mail it, BCD says.

BCD is continuing to license Nexus in a unique and creative way. BCD has waived all license fees and is requiring Nexus users to pay an annual subscription fee of $2,195 per server. So far, there have been about 200 Nexus installations, Figura says.


In addition to making Spool-Explorer/400 features available as a portlet through its Nexus Web portal, BCD is also planning a new version of the product in November. Version 4.0 has many new capabilities, including a new user interface, a configuration wizard, enhanced support for PDF, RTF, and HTML, and support for the Nexus Web Object Warehouse.

The link to the Nexus Web Object Warehouse will allow users to get more use out of their documents, says Darrell Jackson, the lead developer for Spool-Explorer/400. "The interface between Spool-Explorer/400 Version 4 and the Nexus Web Object Warehouse gives end users the power to add ad-hoc and mined documents to the repository, quickly and easily," he says.

This article has been corrected since it was first published. The triangle analogy in the second paragraph should have included Catapult, a BCD document management product. Also, the annual subscription fee for Nexus is $2,195 per server, not $3,500, as originally stated. IT Jungle regrets the errors. [Correction made 10/27/04.]

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Editor: Alex Woodie
Managing Editor: Shannon Pastore
Contributing Editors: Dan Burger, Joe Hertvik,
Shannon O'Donnell, Timothy Prickett Morgan
Publisher and Advertising Director: Jenny Thomas
Advertising Sales Representative: Kim Reed
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