mrc Goes Web 2.0 with m-Power
October 30, 2007 Alex Woodie
mrc software last week announced the launch of m-Power 2.0, a new release of its Java-based development tool often used for writing Web and BI applications for the System i. With the new version, mrc is letting developers add Web 2.0-style functionality to their application, such as the capability to pop open a small, temporary window that displays pertinent information when a user places her cursor over a link on a Web page.
There are many reasons to modernize older applications. Let’s start with the biggest reason: the 5250 interface. Let’s face it–they’re not pretty. And while green screens are preferred by some for their lack of moving parts and simplicity, new crops of computer users will find them increasingly alien to use.
Instead, today’s youth are much more familiar with Web interfaces. It could take them weeks to learn how to use a typical 5250 app, but put a Web interface on top of that RPG application, and they’ll pick it up a lot more quickly. They will also look up to you, the assistant to the director of application development, as somebody who’s “cool” if you can make working with an account maintenance application as fun and exciting as updating your MySpace page.
Okay, i5/OS applications will never be as cool and exciting as social networking sites (although they will undoubtedly have fewer security issues). But that doesn’t mean you throw out the window all the advancement in user interface design that Web 2.0 has brought us and go back to 5250 screens. There are some particularly handy features grouped into the Web 2.0 category that you could use to spruce up that aging i5/OS (or pre-V5R3 OS/400) application, and you can use Chicago-based mrc’s m-Power application development tool to do it.
One of these handy features in m-Power 2.0 is the capability to have the window pop up when you wave the mouse pointer over a link. This feature–which mrc calls “Hover” for lack of a better term–lets users get access to pertinent data faster than they would normally require. It also reduces the need to be clicking that mouse button all the time, mrc points out.
What’s more, if the application is properly set up, users can move from one hover window down into another hover window, just by moving their mouse and hovering over enabled links. For example, a user can instantly see all open orders for a particular customer when they hover their mouse over a customer number. They can then click the customer number in the open orders section, and open a new hover window that gives them the option of updating an order. In this manner, a user can drill-down through customer data, and use the System i in new and creative ways.
mrc has added several other new Web 2.0 features with M-Power 2.0. Support for cascading drop-down lists makes it easier for developers to write Web interfaces that collect user data through drop-down lists.
A new reporting feature makes it easier for developers to create “top 10” style lists. By restricting output to a certain number of records, mrc makes it easier to create a list of the top 10 highest sales regions, the five worst-selling products, or three most profitable distributors, for example. The option to export reports as formatted Excel spreadsheets will also ensure no formatting is lost when downloading to a PC.
Better continuity between the look and feel of Web and e-mail output is another new addition. Whether your page is run off the server at run time, sent via e-mail, or saved to your local PC, the page will always have the same look and feel, mrc says. The company has also made it easier to create dashboard Web apps with a new application importing feature.