BCD Rides Demand for Scrollable Grids to RPG OA
May 6, 2014 Alex Woodie
BCD Software yesterday rolled out a new release of Presto–its IBM i application modernization tool–that now supports IBM‘s RPG Open Access technology. Developing a handler for the RPG OA technology enables BCD to support scrollable grids in Presto, which is something that wasn’t feasible before, the company says.
RPG Open Access was introduced by IBM four years ago to provide a more modern way to consume data from RPG applications. The technology, which is technically known as Rational Open Access: RPG Edition, enables developers and software vendors to bypass the 5250 data stream and instead feed data directly from the RPG apps into Web browsers, mobile devices, databases, cloud-based Web services, and other types of clients. This is done by way of OA handlers that direct the data to specific clients.
Several modernization tool vendors embraced RPG OA and started developing their own handlers. However, BCD, you will remember, was not one of them. Representatives for the company said they disliked the invasiveness of the architecture, including the need to open up the RPG code to add the handler. Additionally, the need to maintain two separate code sets–one for the new OA code and one for the traditional green-screen application–increased the workload and the maintenance burden, making it less attractive.
BCD’s objections to RPG OA began to melt away when it became apparent that RPG OA was the only feasible way to give customers the capabilities they wanted in Presto. The big capability they wanted was scrollable grids, with sortable columns also helping to tip the scales toward RPG OA, says BCD’s director of corporate marketing Marcel Sarrasin.
“What’s interesting is people weren’t really coming to us and saying ‘Can you support RPG OA?'” Sarrasin tells IT Jungle. “They would say, ‘Can you do scrollable grids?’ That’s the use case, the benefit, they’re looking for.”
Scrollable grids allow end-users to scroll through large amounts of information in a Web browser in a much quicker and easier manner than if they had to rely on the page-based navigation of traditional 5250 applications, which fetches data 10 records at a time. “The big benefit is you can get 100 or 200 records right in front of you and scroll through that, rather than page through them,” Sarrasin says. “And by getting that whole record set up front, you can also do sortable columns.”
It was technically possible to deliver sortable columns with Presto, Sarrasin says. But since it can be delivered as a new feature alongside scrollable grids, it made sense to go that route. “We did have way to do it, but OA makes it much easier,” he says.
BCD includes an RPG OA handler with Presto. Within the same application, users can intermix screens based on RPG OA and more traditional screens based on the 5250 data stream. It’s all about giving users more choices, the company says.
While BCD is supporting RPG OA with Presto, it has no plans to support the technology in WebSmart, its flagship development and runtime environment for IBM i and PHP platforms. For starters, WebSmart already supports scrollable grids and sortable columns, which eliminates those use cases as drivers to support the technology. Presto, with its focus on application modernization, is a better fit for RPG OA, Sarrasin says.
Presto version 5.5 brings other features, such as new navigation options that place function keys on the left side of the user’s screen. The software also automatically detects subfile options and places them in a clickable menu that appears when a user hovers his mouse over subfile option input fields.
While those features are small, they have a big impact on the end user, Sarrasin says. “That’s just the way they’re used to having those things,” he says. “They’re not used to having to click in a subfile option with their keyboard.”
Presto 5.5 is available now. For more information, see the company’s website at www.bcdsoftware.com
Editor’s Note: This article was corrected. IBM no longer charges for RPG OA. IT Jungle regrets the error.