Profound Declares Platform Independence Day
May 8, 2012 Dan Burger
How do you transform application modernization from something that appeals to techno geeks who love the challenge of coding magic into something that gets the attention of the C-level executives with the big picture business plans? Make it simple and make it platform independent. And let them know the in-house IT skills can handle the job. That pretty much sums up what Profound Logic has done with its latest release of Profound UI.
Credit the product development team at Profound with its continual efforts in adding enhancements to its tools for building Web and mobile applications as well as modernizing green-screen applications. Since 2010, when the Dayton, Ohio-based company released this product–the first IBM i ISV to incorporate Rational Open Access RPG Edition by IBM into a commercial product–the company has poured a stream of enhancements to Profound UI. The latest upgrades warrant an uptick in version numbering. So Profound UI 4.0 was officially announced at the COMMON conference taking place this week in Anaheim, California.
Heading the list of new features is the capability to deploy applications through other programming languages and server platforms in addition to RPG on the IBM i. And that is followed by items such as sharing UI definitions between file systems; building “what-if” scenarios using an application preview feature; and adding the capability to explore source members, IFS files, and reference tables through the Profound UI Visual Designer. The shopping cart is not full yet. Profound UI 4.0 also includes enhancements to existing widgets, conversion themes, and refacing skins. The software also supports HTML5, which is good news for rendering apps on mobile devices. And in the skins game, you’ll find 5250 modernization features that include features for the iPad 3.
“We saw that a lot of the work we put into Profound UI is applicable across any Web development, not just RPG,” Alex Roytman, CEO at Profound Logic told IT Jungle last week. “The idea has been in our heads from the beginning. But when we heard from customers with Web teams that were made up of RPG and other programmers, we got positive feedback not only from RPG developers, but the others as well. Most of this feedback came from business application developers, not heavy Web developers who were building interfaces using our Visual Designer. They were seeing a benefit for application development outside of RPG.”
That feedback led to a feature in Profound UI 4.0 that provides the capability to open and save user interface definitions to the IFS or to the developer’s local drive, in addition to traditional source members. This allows UI components to be published and shared–even emailed as standard files to other developers. And the UI can be saved in DDS format compatible with Open Access for RPG or as JSON files, which are platform independent.
So not only is the Profound UI supporting the DDS format compatible with Open Access for RPG, it is also supporting platform independent JSON files. Those files could be placed on the IBM i or another server, if another server was the better choice, for instance.
“With this announcement, we’ve made the Profound UI platform agnostic as long as you use our API,” Roytman said. “You can use any language. It’s all done on the client side. The back-end language provides the data and reads the users’ responses.”
As an example, Roytman explained this could benefit PHP development by providing an HTML5 interface and allow the PHP developer to concentrate on the business processing rather than the user interface, which is often a PHP table with PHP wrapped around it.
Roytman also pointed out Profound UI 4.0 has a grid component widget that eliminates a lot of work–maybe hundreds or thousands of lines of code–that would be required to build similar functionality in PHP. A short list of the built-in grid components includes features such as automatic client-side sorting, movable columns, row selection, and context menus. These types of details typically take many hours of custom development work using traditional Web programming.
Also built in are inherent validation features such as data type validation, which directs users to enter data as it is defined before anything is submitted to the server. Examples would be validation of numeric vs. character, maximum length and decimal positions, and date formatted in a specific way. The extent of the validation features includes client-side options such as ranges, comparisons, and required fields.
“This is going to be a very good option for developers building transactional business applications that are similar to RPG applications,” he says. “We have a lot of features in our user interface that excel at that. One of its major advantages is the ability to treat Web screens like data sets or record formats. This means that a PHP developer, for instance, can fetch a record of data, and using one line of code output that data to a Web screen defined in Profound UI. This saves a lot of time and keeps PHP code tidy.
Safe and Fast Development
The application preview feature that was added to Profound UI 4.0 is expected to gain favor developers, according to Roytman. It will allow developers to prototype and test screen functionality without writing RPG code or deploying anything to the server. This functionality is tied to Profound’s browser-based Visual Designer tool, which can launch the preview in a separate tab of the browser, where any designer changes are automatically reflected in the preview tab.
This is achieved by prompting developers for dynamic data elements and using them to simulate the screen. All widgets, including subfile grids, will render in the preview as they would at runtime. Developers can setup “what-if” scenarios to test any combination of RPG indicators or data values. It also allows developers to overlay several screens.
Overlaying several screens and setting up “what if” scenarios can be accomplished using the application preview feature in Profound UI 4.0. (Click graphic to enlarge.)
It will also permit developers to code off-line–on a mobile device, for instance–which means the capability to present screens and have functionality while not connected to a back-end source. The most common experience is not having access to the organization’s virtual private network.
Enhancements can also be found in the Visual Designer tool in Profound UI. For instance, a new set of lookup tools allow developers to explore available files and directories on the IFS. And developers can browse the library file system for DDS source members when opening, saving, or converting display files. One additional convenience item is the capability to find, filter, and select reference fields from an existing IBM i DB2 table. Reference fields can be used to place dynamic widgets on a Profound UI screen or to bind a widget’s properties to RPG data.
The Visual Designer tool with Profound UI 4.0 has added convenience items such as look up tools, library file system browsing, and reference field search capabilities. (Click graphic to enlarge.)
Based on previous versions of Profound UI, one of the product’s most used features is the Menu Widget. It has been upgraded to allow unlimited levels of submenus, which can be presented as context menus or as pull-down menus thanks to the “context menu ID” and “orientation” properties re now available. The widget also includes the capability to map traditional green-screen function keys to menu options. This can be tied into a DDS conversion theme to facilitate automatic creation of menus based on existing DDS function keys and the RPG code that controls them. A few of the other widgets that can be quickly deployed are useful in creating panels, pop-up calendars, tabs, and charts.
Charts are very popular for presenting information in a quick and easy to read format. Therefore, a new set of HTML5-based charts is included in this release of Profound UI. Prior to version 4, charts were rendered as Flash objects. As of the 4.0 release, Profound UI can utilize either Flash or HTML5. Because the Apple iPad and iPhone do not support Flash, it’s obvious why the incorporation of HTML was important. New chart types, advanced drill-down features, and expanded data formats support have also made chart-making easier. Profound UI charts can consume data using JSON, XML, comma separated values, or directly from a DB2 database.