neuObjects Debuts Graphical Editor for IBM i
September 20, 2011 Alex Woodie
Programmers who are frustrated with accessing DB2/400 from a green screen may want to check out a brand new product called neuEdit from neuObjects. The tool, which is available for a free 60-day download, gives users direct access to database records from a Windows GUI environment, enabling users to navigate DB2/400 with a mouse. neuEdit also brings reporting and printing capabilities that its developers found lacking in other tools.
The developers of neuEdit created the software after being frustrated with the database editor from IBM and editors from third-party tools developers. While DB2/400 has a reputation as a very powerful data delivery platform, the ways in which programmers (and power users to a lesser extent) interact with it are still stuck in the 1980s.
“The ‘400 is a great machine. I think everybody knows that,” says Brian Lazarz, president of the Downers Grove, Illinois, company. “But from the programmer’s standpoint and having a decent database editor–you’re kind of limited to a green screen. And editing on the ‘400 just doesn’t lend itself nicely to the green screen.”
He says the initial idea behind neuEdit was to eliminate the restrictions on screen real estate that exist in green-screen editing tools, which are limited to 80- or 132-columns of data. This approach often requires programmers to open multiple editing sessions to get at the data they need. Navigating between these open windows and keeping track of everything can be a real productivity drain.
Instead of the green-screen status quo, Lazarz envisioned giving his main customers—IBM i programmers–an intuitive graphical interface that doesn’t pose a restriction on how much of a database file, or how many records, they can access before running out of screen real estate. “We’re trying to focus on the needs of the programmer, as far as getting into the database, viewing relationships on the tables in the database, and basically getting to what they’re looking for easily.”
To that end, all types of information can be viewed in neuEdits’ grid, including lists of fields (including internal names and external names, handy if using Synon or other CASE tools); database relationships; and extended attributes, such as triggers, journaling, file locks, and information about file members.
Improving the reporting function is the other main feature that neuObjects focused on with neuEdit. “The other shortcoming I see in most, if not all, database editors is there are very few options as far as reporting,” he says. “neuEdit out of the box has a whole bunch of reports, whether you’re printing data, information about the tables, or the database relations. It just offers the programmer a lot of information at their fingertips.”
Printing is another area that neuEdit has looked to improve upon. The output from other tools often resembles a “program dump,” Lazarz says. neuEdit automatically formats its reports to present the information in a clear manner, he says.
While it’s aimed primarily at programmers, neuEdit can also be used by power users to access all types of records with right-clicks of the mouse. For example, when viewing the names of customers in the database, the software could be configured to automatically pop up a window that contains information about that customer’s orders, or even view specific items in the order.
Lazarz says this function will come in handy with employees that are new to an organization, or with consultants. “If somebody has set up those relationships, it’s a way to say ‘Here’s how to get to the orders.’ You can set that stuff up in neuEdit and it’s available for any other programmers to access. So even when navigating around in an unfamiliar environment, it’s still really easy.”
neuObjects is currently working on a similar capability that will allow programmers to quickly generate little programs that automatically navigate the database and display selected pieces of data. “We’re looking to provide a menu-driven front end for your regular users, a way to develop quick and dirty GUI,” he says. The software will be based on neuEdit, but will be a separate product, Lazarz says.
neuEdit also offers a program references feature that lets a programmer view all the objects that are referenced by a program, including files, data areas, and other programs being called. It also features an import/export features that will save time when moving data to or from an external program, such as MS Excel, Access, or Word.
neuEdit version 1 is available now. The software, which supports IBM i 6.1 and 7.l, starts at $795 for one concurrent unnamed user. The company is currently giving away free trial copies of neuEdit that are good for 60 days. For more information or to download trial software, see the company’s’ website at www.neuobjects.com.