Profound UI 5 Expands What i Can Do
May 20, 2014 Dan Burger
RPG development teams are being pushed to their limits as the scope of development projects expands with a greater emphasis on Web and mobile. Time is a great teacher, but there never seems to be enough time to meet the demands. Profound Logic, an IBM i application tool vendor with a warehouse full of development experience gained during years of application development and modernization projects, is on the hunt to keep RPG developers ahead of the demands.
The newest in a long line of enhancements that support RPG Open Access and “top down” RPG programming are aimed at simplifying the management of applications that can be presented in both green-screen interfaces and rich user interfaces; support for websites and applications that do not require sessions; and integration with AJAX, XML, CSV output, and dozens of UI frameworks, such as Sencha or Dojo.
These features will be built into Profound UI 5.0, which becomes available in June.
“More and more of our customers are running into requirements that they can’t meet with traditional RPG development options, says Profound’s CEO Alex Roytman. “We are seeing requirements to support AJAX, XML, CSV output, the creation of Web services, and the use of interfaces designed by external teams, which may use HTML or a third-party UI framework.”
That led Profound to include a Universal Display File editor in Profound UI 5.0. The editor is used to import templates built with HTML, JSON, XML, or plain text and incorporate RPG data into these templates. The templates become dynamic documents capable of interacting with standard RPG I/O. Consequently, companies that were using complex APIs to integrate with these technologies can now use standard RPG and RPG Open Access.
This will be a separate RPG OA handler. It will ship within Profound UI 5, but when you define the handler–it’s a change in one line of RPG code–it will require the selection of the Universal Display Handler for this particular program.
Because there are organizations that keep green-screen interfaces after modernizing to a graphical user interface, Profound is also introducing all-in-one display files. IBM i ISVs are often in this situation of supporting both GUI and green screens. Some end-user shops may have staff that prefers green screens over GUI or vice versa, or they may be transitioning and want to maintain both until the transition is complete. Maintaining separate files and programs as the capabilities of the two types of interfaces diverge means double the work though.
Profound UI 5.0 has the capability to package green-screen and GUI interfaces in the same set of display files and RPG programs. The new GUI is no longer connected to or limited by the green screen, but the metadata for it can be stored in the same display file as the green screen, which is definitely a file management benefit. Along with this, the same RPG program can be used to drive the two separate interfaces, even after the RPG Open Access handler is added.
“Traditionally, a handler for RPG Open Access communicates with a Web interface, but not a green-screen interface,” explains Roytman. “By enabling a handler to communicate with both interfaces, developers can say goodbye to dual efforts and additional time spent in change management. The green-screen portion of the display file does not limit the rich portion of the display file. The rich interface can present a lot more data with its grid-type presentation–more columns, more rows, but all contained within one definition.”
The Profound UI 5.0 Visual Designer has been updated to recognize the differences between green-screen and graphical interfaces stored in a display file. This allows developers to open these all-in-one display files in the Visual Designer to maintain the rich UI, while still being able to use tools like SDA and the Rational Screen Designer to open the same display file for the purposes of maintaining the green-screen interface.
A visual design tool is very important in the modernization effort. Ease of use is a huge factor for building interfaces and modernizing green-screen applications.
Profound’s Visual Designer has point-and-click and drag-and-drop functionality, and works with more than 100 pre-built, cross-browser interface components that add convenience to designing grids, dialogs, charts, tab panels, menus, and other graphical features. It also supports PHP, CL and COBOL development.
With the development of e-commerce and high performance websites in mind, Profound took into account the stateless and stateful applications. Stateful is traditional for RPG applications. It keeps track of the user session. Stateless applications do not establish a server-side user session and, therefore, scale much better. Stateful applications can be resource hogs in instances where application scalability is necessary. This is especially relevant when many anonymous users are involved, like on a website. A key new feature in Profound UI 5.0 is the capability to create and launch stateless Web applications through RPG Open Access.
With stateless display files, developers can, for example, easily incorporate reusable iFrames to display order or customer information. Since a session is not established each time an iFrame is displayed, the applications performs and scales much better. Stateless features can be dropped into stateful programs.
The stateless capability and the all-in-one display file capability are built into Profound’s original RPG OA handler.
“From my perspective, stateless is not the solution for everything,” Roytman says. “Stateful with RPG is still very prominent. Everything in Web development outside of RPG is stateless, but you need the stateful sessions in a lot of cases. It is not going to go away. There will still be apps that require users to log in and create sessions. Offering stateless options allows developers to pick the right tool for the right job.”
Pricing will be processor based.