Surround Tech Takes .NET Development Further for IBM i Shops
December 10, 2013 Alex Woodie
Surround Technologies last week unveiled Accelerator for .NET Version 4.3, the latest release of its .NET-based application framework that for rapidly developing Web, Windows, and mobile front-ends for new or existing applications running on IBM i. Surround Tech bolstered its wizard and code-generation capabilities with this release, and also unveiled a beta of a new query tool.
Accelerator for .NET includes a set of prebuilt components and wizard-driven code generators that plug into Microsoft‘s Visual Studio development environment. Surround Tech’s software has traditionally been heavily focused on bridging the gap between existing business logic residing in DB2/400 with Microsoft’s interface development technologies, such as Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) for full Windows PC interfaces and Silverlight for Web clients. But with the launch of version 4.0 earlier this year, the company took a big step toward generating HTML5 interfaces for mobile and Web clients.
The new code generation wizard plug-in that Surround Tech introduced with version 4.3 gives developers more control over all aspects of code generation. The new plugin is a .NET class that gives the developer full access to all the data collected by the wizard, including the capability to add rules to modify the initial defaults of the module manager, the company says.
This new plug-in is part of Surround Tech’s “open generation technology” (OGT) strategy, and basically allows developers to set defaults for all generation options, including rules and standards. It also allows developers to add their own repeatable development processes, which will save time and boost efficiency.
Surround Tech also bolstered its Code Enhancer, which debuted earlier this year with Accelerator for .NET version 4.2. The Code Enhancer tool is designed to help developers refine and update code that was previously generated within Microsoft Visual Studio. The software does this by comparing the existing database (DB2/400, in this case) and the generated .NET programs to analyze changes, identify impacts, and suggest code enhancements to keep them both in sync.
With version 4.3, the Code Enhancer gets smarter through the capability to analyze, identify, and suggest additional code enhancements, as part of an agile development strategy. Surround Tech says the Code Enhancer can now peer deeper into fields that have been added, changed, or removed, including the capability to spot differences in the types, lengths, keys, and names of fields. Developers also get the capability to add or reject any changes it recommends, and to have any changes logged in the Accelerator Database and the entire end-to-end codebase for generated user interfaces.
Surround Tech is also debuting a new component, called the Advanced Query Reporting Tool. This offering, which is currently in beta, will allow non-technical users without SQL knowledge to build custom queries in an easy-to-use GUI, called the Query Builder.
The Query Builder interface allows users to build their queries in a drag-and-drop manner by selecting column names (i.e. DB2/400 database fields) from a list, picking a filter criterion (operator), and then selecting the fields, sequence, and sort order of the result. Users can save the query to make it easier to re-run the query later and to share it with others. They can also output it into Excel for easier manipulation of the data.
Surround Tech says the query tool shows up in the system task pane, which means it’s easily accessible by the users. Administrators benefit by making it easier for users to share queries and query results, while developers retain full control over the columns (data fields) that users have access to.
Version 4.3 also brings new enhancements to the ASP.NET Web browser and mobile interfaces. Surround Tech says it gives users the capability to filter data in both Web browser and mobile views, which will be quite useful for narrowing the results of searches. Users will also benefit from autoscrolling functionality, and visual feedback cues that tell the user how many records were returned from the search and how many are currently loaded into the frame.
Users who move back and forth between mobile, Web, and Windows interfaces will be able to take their favorites and navigation history with them on their cross-UX travels, thanks to the new “cloud plug-ins” feature. Developers also gain more flexibility in how data is loaded into different screens (Web, Windows, or mobile), thereby optimizing experiences for users, particularly when large data sets are involved.
Finally, Surround Tech includes two final features in version 4.3 aimed at boosting the product’s compatibility with continuous integration (CI) development techniques and with inversion of control (IOC) access. The new CI feature manifests itself as a new “msbuild.bat” file that automatically runs the project dependency analysis and creates and optimized build script. The new IOC support comes about through an enhancement to the metadata database that stores assembly information for all generated objects, thereby allowing developers to access other assemblies without needing to have a direct reference to that assembly.