Toolmaker Jumps Into IBM i Web Development with WOPiXX
September 16, 2015 Alex Woodie
Toolmaker Advanced Efficiency, a German developer of software for the IBM i server, recently rolled out a new framework for developing Web applications that run on IBM i. The software, called WOPiXX, enables programmers to create new Web apps by leveraging their existing RPG skills, the company says.
Because such individuals are hard to find, companies usually resort to cobbling together development teams composed of individuals who possess the requisite skills. Wouldn’t it be better if a single RPG programmer could build the Web front-end as well as the back-end business logic? That’s essentially what Toolmaker set out to create with WOPiXX.
The software, which stands for “Web Oriented Programming for i” along with Extensions (or “XX”), gives RPG developers a framework for building Web apps that leverage the latest technologies. These applications are stateless, enabling loose integration between the browser and the IBM i server, while keeping all business logic on the back-end.
There are three components to the WOPiXX suite that function as follows:
Toolmaker’s Birgitta Hauser recently described how WOPiXX works to IT Jungle.
“The WOPiXX programmer only writes ILE programs, but instead of defining a display file and moving the data into the display file fields, he defines database tables/physical files and views from which he wants fields to be displayed as well as fields to be modified,” Hauser writes. “When defining an input/output field, the programmer can also add editing options. For these editing options, we provide a bunch of keywords that can be passed in an optional parameter.”
For example, the SelectList keyword will generate a “combo box” consisting of all distinct values within the column in the specified table, she says. Similarly, the Checkbox keyword will generate a checkbox, and the DateNum keyword will convert a numeric datefield (format YYYYMMDD) into a date representation and automatically add a date picker.
Hauser says the familiarity that RPG programmers will feel toward WOPiXX is its biggest strength. “WOPiXX programs can be written in the same way as normal display programs, i.e. we keep (almost) the same program structure and in this way big parts of the former program code can be reused,” she writes. “All other tools start with the Web, design the HTML, fill it with data, and then link to the server.”
Maintaining statelessness is also a big bugaboo for IBM i developers moving into the Web arena, but WOPiXX helps to minimize the difficulty there, Hauser says.
“In my opinion, the biggest problem for the traditional RPG/COBOL programmer is the statelessness,” she writes. “The program ‘ends’ somewhere in the ‘middle’ and must be ‘restarted’ and ‘continued.’ We thought it would be great for a RPG/Cobol programmer if he could write his programs in the same way as he did before, but instead of using a display file he will generate/use a nice graphical Web interface.
“Sure, the programmer has to learn and use WOPiXX functions/procedures, but it is still RPG,” she continues. “We also tried to reduce the parameters to be passed to a minimum. Almost all parameters are defined with constant reference, so literals and expressions can be passed.”
Hauser, who was recently awarded the John Earl Speaker Scholarship Award for her work with COMMON, has written all sorts of applications with WOPiXX, including conference and event management applications, and even a statistics program (with a little help from SQL).
Toolmaker has several customers who are testing WOPiXX and considering it for the development of commercial applications. For more information see the company’s website at www.toolmaker.de.