BCD Flushes More Green from Modernized IBM i Screens
February 4, 2014 Alex Woodie
Presto is an on-the-fly GUI generator for 5250 green screens that BCD unveiled in 2008. The software works by intercepting the 5250 data stream and then converting it into HTML according to rules specified in pre-defined “skins.” The resulting Web interfaces are then served from the Apache Web server.
IBM i screens that have gone through the Presto wringer are eminently more usable and better looking than the 5250 they evolved from. The Presto screens are even viewable from smartphones and tablets–without requiring a 5250 emulator. Compared to the UI modernization tools iSeries shops had a decade ago, the Presto tool, starting at $3,275, is a miracle worker on par with Gandhi or Mother Theresa.
Nonetheless, there are limitations when working from the 5250 data stream–limitations that can’t be fully addressed without re-architecting the application from the ground up. For example, Presto users still must navigate their applications using the original menu system. BCD addressed this limitation somewhat with the Presto 5.0 release last fall, which added macro capabilities that allowed users to jump to specific screens in an application without pressing a series of F-keys.
With Presto 5.1, BCD has taken the next step and is enabling customers to replace menu numbers with images. BCD notes that, by default, Presto automatically turns menu numbers into hyperlinks that are clickable. But the new enhancement will go a step further and get rid of the numbers altogether and replace them with images.
BCD has done a lot of work integrating an icon library, and these icons will undoubtedly get some use with the menus. The company is also allowing customers to override the default green-screen field tabbing order with a flow that is more natural to a Web page.
Presto 5.1 includes two other features that should make it easier to make modernized screens look shipshape. For starters, BCD has included new keyboard shortcuts that enable customers to simultaneously align several screen elements to the same margin. “This makes it quicker to give screen elements a uniform look,” the company says. On the mobile front, BCD has updated the new mobile skins that it shipped in version 5.0 by updating the header bar and removing containers. This should make the screens look more like traditional mobile apps.
Presto 5.1 is available now. The company offers free trial downloads from its website at www.bcd-software.com.