Set Your RPG Apps Free with ODF, looksoftware Says
January 14, 2014 Alex Woodie
RPG developers will be able to create new Web-based GUIs using IBM‘s Rational Open Access: RPG Edition (ROA) technology without touching a lick of DDS thanks to the new Open Display File (ODF) technology unveiled last month by looksoftware. The new technology, which will become available later this month, is standards-based, and essentially takes the development in ROA to the next level, the company says.
Since IBM unveiled the ROA technology about four years ago, it has seen some use. Like any new technology, it has taken a while for the IBM i faithful to consider it a time-tested part of their toolbox. For some organizations, the fact that one needs to either build or buy an RPG Open Access handler has been a bit of a stumbling block. But on the flip side, that has benefited the modernization tool companies, like looksoftware, who have adopted it.
One fact that has stuck in some people’s craw is that ROA requires users to work with DDS to create new GUIs for new applications (as opposed to scraping the screens of existing applications). Considering that ROA was promoted as the foundation of the next-generation of modern Web-based GUIs, that approach just seemed to fly in the face of 21st century reason.
The new ODF offering from looksoftware changes all that, says product manager Eamon Musallam. “Up until ODF, if you wanted to create a new screen, you’d have to define the fields and files you want on the screen in DDS,” he tells IT Jungle. “You would have to do it in a non-drag-and-drop manner, in DDS. It’s a standard thing that all RPG developers know. But it’s a laborious task to actually have to type that out.
“What we have with ODF is a drag-and-drop screen designer, and it generates XML, and that XML replaces the DDS,” Musallam continues. “Essentially it’s streamlining and greatly simplifying the process of Open Access development. And it’s all based on XML and the Open Access Metadata Open Standard (OAMOS), so there’s just a lot of expansion and openness to the growth of this thing.”
The OAMOS group, you will recall, was created nearly two years ago exactly for the purpose of replacing DDS with an XML for future ROA development. The creation of an open metadata standard that could free an RPG OA program to work with any user interface was spearheaded by Pascal Polverini, a looksoftware employee. You can read more about the OAMOS consortium at wiki.ibmioa.com.
Looksoftware is the ISV that has carried the OAMOS torch the furthest, and ODF is currently the only commercial product to adopt the standard and make it useful for IBM i shops. Profound Logic has also been active in ROA technologies, but it hasn’t adopted OAMOS as a standard for new ROA development. The modernization tool Profound designed converts existing DDS source members to native IBM i objects that support a graphical user interface without using XML.
The idea with ODF and OAMOS is to further RPG’s stance as a modern language and to give RPG developers the tools they need to develop modern applications. “The reason we’re excited is there’s still a significant amount of IBM i development taking place in RPG,” Musallam says. “There’s a lot of RPG developers hanging on and they haven’t found something that they can really feel comfortable jumping to. What this is saying is you don’t have to jump. You don’t have to learn anything new. You can code in the existing RPG you know and love. It’s all based on standards. And we just give you a state-of-the-art, drag-and-drop palette for laying out your forms.”
The ODF product will ship later this month, and will be part of a forthcoming release of openlook, the company’s offering for ROA development. The new ODF offering will work with newlook 10, the GUI development tool that looksoftware shipped in August.
Users will be able to create all sorts of new screens using the XML-based specification in ODF, including rich desktop screens and Web-based screens for mobile phones and tablets, Musallam says. The newlook version 10 designer gives users the option of rendering HTML5 screens in a variety of sizes and form factors, ranging from the smallest iPhone screens to the largest tablets.
“DDS has essentially been eliminated,” Musallam says. “We feel we’re in a stage now where we can really go in much more aggressively to show this. If you’re developing in RPG today, you really need to look at this.”
If you’re interested in learning more about ODF, you can attend a “deep dive” webinar by looksoftware on January 29. You can register for the event at go.looksoftware.com/open-display-files-deep-dive-it.