Profound Reveals Flexible Code Generator for RPG and PHP
November 18, 2014 Alex Woodie
One of the toughest parts of beginning an application modernization initiative is just knowing where to start. To give IBM i developers a head start, Profound Logic last week officially unveiled JumpStart, a new code generator that outputs basic RPG and PHP programs, complete with a modern Web or mobile interface. But unlike other code generators, the company says JumpStart gives you full control over how the resulting code looks.
JumpStart is the latest addition to ProfoundUI, the company’s tool for creating modern user interfaces using RPG Open Access technology. The company decided to build JumpStart after several clients asked for help with building the server-based back-ends for modern apps to go along with the modern user interfaces that ProfoundUI delivers.
Developers get started with JumpStart by selecting a template for a common type of application, such as a subfile listing, data entry, or lookup. Then they point the JumpStart tool at an existing database file, hit enter, and voila! Clean and modern RPG or PHP application code–complete with HTML5- and JSON-based user interfaces–comes out the other end.
It’s a little more complicated than that, but not much more. “Think of it as a scaffold,” says Profound Logic product developer Brian May in a recent webinar. “It will allow you to quickly kick off a new project by basically pointing it at a file and letting it generate the CRUD [create, read, update and delete] application for you, so you can just go in and add your logic.”
The software supports all the modern RPGLE accouterments, including embedded SQL for database access, data structures for display file I/O, aliases for long names, modular subprocedures, and free format RPG specs. The product uses mainline procedures, not the RPG lifecycle, May says, which is one of the reasons for generating clean code.
“One of the great things about JumpStart is it does generate clean modern and easy to maintain code, and it does that using templates,” May says. “You’ll find the templates very configurable and I think that’s what sets this particular application generator apart from others.”
JumpStart gives developers the capability to create their own template to generate code the way they want. This is handy if the developer’s shop has certain standards, such as a requirement to have “DS” as a prefix on all data structures, May says.
“Our templating system actually allows you to control what that generated code looks like,” he says. “If I wanted to come in and change all the data structure names, I can come in and add that prefix to all the data structures, and then any application I generate going forward will have that on the front end.”
If your shop doesn’t use embedded SQL, fear not! You can continue to use standard file I/O operations. That’s another example of the flexibility that templates give you with this product, May says.
“You can use whatever coding style that you feel you would like to use,” Profound’s IBM i Champion says. “That’s what really gives JumpStart a lot of flexibility. The code that is generated will be modern using our standard templates, but you have full control. So if best practices change, or you have shop standards, or if you like to do things a little different way, you can change the templates to conform to the way you would like the code to look when it’s actually generated.”
JumpStart can also be used to help accelerate the learning process for programmers who are just learning RPG, says Alex Roytman, CEO of Profound Logic. “New developers, or developers that have a background in other languages, find it easy and intuitive to learning modern RPG.” It’s the old legacy RPG code that they may struggle with. The code and interfaces created by the Profound UI JumpStart tool are very easy to work with for any developer,” he says.
The one thing you’re not going to get from JumpStart is 5250 green screens. All of the programs generated by JumpStart include GUIs based on Rich Display Files; the RPG OA-based files are generated by Profound UI.
The company has lots of ideas for how it can continue developing JumpStart in the future. For now, it’s in limited beta. If you’re interested in joining the beta and getting your hands on JumpStart, contact the company. If you’re interested in viewing the recent Profound webinar that discusses the new JumpStart features in depth, you can view it here.