SystemObjects Lets You Generate iPad Apps from IBM i
December 11, 2012 Alex Woodie
Here’s a prediction that’s easy to make: The surge of interest in smart phones and tablets that we saw in 2012 will continue into 2013 and beyond. With demand for mobile computing firmly in place, the rush is on for IBM i software vendors to create mobile interface development tools for IBM i. One IBM i software vendor that wants a piece of the mobile action is the French company SystemObjects, which recently launched a new mobile application development tool called SmartPad4i.
SystemObjects built its reputation with an AS/400 version of the Delphi RAD tool called Delphi/400, and has since moved into Web development and application modernization tools for the IBM i platform. The company got into the mobile space two years ago with the launch of Business4Mobile, a pre-built application that enables users to query DB2/400 and get results returned in a dashboard. The product has since been upgraded with the capability to write to the database, in addition to reading from it.
Since then, SystemObjects has rolled out a new mobile product called SmartPad4i. Whereas Business4Mobile was a pre-built mobile application that supported IBM i and other systems, SmartPad4i (or SP4i) is an application development tool for writing brand-new mobile apps that utilize RPG or COBOL logic on the IBM i server and HTML for the Web client.
SP4i can be used to create Web apps with full read-write access to DB2/400, without much coding. The software has two modules, including the SP4i Designer, and the SP4i Generator. Users get started by importing a pre-existing Web page created using any HTML editor, such as Dreamweaver, into the SP4i Designer. This Web page should have the organization’s logos and artwork, and will function as the template.
Once the Web page has been imported into SP4i Designer, the user assigns names to all of the objects in the Web page, such as data entry fields, clickable text, drop down lists, radio buttons, and other GUI elements. The tags will be treated as external data structures by the backend RPG or COBOL application; HTML output takes the place of DDS output.
Next comes the IBM i development portion. From the user’s favorite IBM i code editor–such as Source Edit Utility (SEU)–the user selects the SP4i library, enters the name of his program, and hits the “generate” button. The SP4i Generator then generates all the code required, including the RPG (or COBOL) application that corresponds with that particular Web page, as well as HTML. This program provides the basic structures for the application; the user can customize it by adding his own business logic in the space provided.
The SP4i server program uses standard IBM i Web servers (WebSphere, Apache, or Tomcat) and can communicate with any Web browser on any device. The SP4i server can automatically detect the type of device the Web browser is running on, and adjust the client interface accordingly. For example, if the device is an iPhone, it will suppress the address bar, providing more of a “native” iOS look and feel. But the software will also work for Web browsers running on full PCs and Macs, in which case the address bar will be shown.
Each module created with SP4i consists of one backend SP4i program and one Web page. Multiple SP4i modules can be strung together to create entire applications, where each module has the capability to call or be called by other modules, with or without the passing of parameters. Database access is accomplished only through SQL.
“The generated program includes all the logic to display or edit the data, make the controls, and update the database if needed,” says SystemObjects CEO Serge Charbit via email. “If needed there are special tags in the source program to add special logic.”
SP4i automatically generates about 80 percent of the code required to get a mobile Web app up and running. What’s more–the remaining 20 percent of coding required utilizes standard IBM i coding skills, Charbit says. “It’s easy to be used by existing RPG folks,” Charbit says. “We know that these people are [very busy with code maintenance tasks] and they don’t have the time to learn new languages.”
SystemObjects, which has an office in Media, Pennsylvania, is distributing SP4i primarily through its business partner channels. Pricing will be set by business partners, but will likely be under $6,000. For more information see www.systemobjects.com.