Latest App Dev Design Tool From MRC Arrives
September 27, 2017 Dan Burger
The common thread that runs through application development tools is a desire for simplicity. Ease of use, whether to tool is being used by an experienced programmer or a technologically challenged power user is the prize many companies are searching for. And not all end users have the same Web application goals. Some apps are designed for report writing, business intelligence, executive dashboards, e-commerce, customer portals, or mobile users. And that list could be much longer.
At michaels, ross & cole, the IBM i software tool developer that prefers lower case letters and the shortened handle mrc, its Java-based development tool suite, m-Power, has been enhanced with a design tool upgrade.
“We try to keep m-Power as open as possible and non-proprietary,” says mrc’s Director of Software Development Tyler Wassell. “We use open standards within our Web applications stack that includes Java on the back end and using lots of open source libraries in our runtime. Our focus is on Web frameworks and m-Painter based on an open source library we heavily customized.”
One important change in m-Painter is an underlying code refresh that allows users to continue to use the browser of their choice. Browser standards change and design tools and editors need to keep up with the changes.
Wassell noted that 10 years ago, m-Power only supported Internet Explorer 6 and 7. Now Chrome is the browser of choice for nearly half of mrc’s customers and IE 11 is the second most popular browser.
The new features in m-Painter were mostly added to speed up development, but improvements that improve layout control, and form building are also noteworthy.
Quick Lists is a new feature that allows users to create option lists, ajax lookups, return data lookups, and key/value lookups using database tables or static data.
While m-Painter permits users to enhance their applications without coding, it also lets the more technical users access and edit the underlying source code. The new version of m-Painter simplifies this task, with a new, integrated source code editor.
And m-Painter now includes a dialog that lets developers search through the Font Awesome Icon pack and insert them into applications.
There’s also a “Grid Mode” layout option that lets users see page structure and have more control over application layout. Within Grid Mode, there is an editing feature that simplifies the addition of rows, content, and buttons to applications.
One of the selling points of m-Power, especially from a business intelligence perspective, is a popular pricing structure that avoids licensing on a per seat, per user, per developer basis, which is inexpensive when getting started, but expensive when a company wants to deploy reports to many end users and the runtime fees start adding up.
“We license by the database, with no runtime and distribution fees,” Wassell says.
Although Web application development received a lot marketing push and media attention, it’s not proved to be a high priority for most IBM i shops and the reality has not aligned with the expectations. Wassell agreed.
“Over the time since we started providing solutions for Web-based mobile apps, we have not seen the surge of interest that we thought we’d see,” he told IT Jungle during a phone interview yesterday. “It has been steady, however.”
On the other hand, the services business has been a growth area for mrc, which is what we hear from nearly all the vendors.
“We provide an app dev tool that can be put in the hands of people without programmer skills or Web app dev skills. They take a project as far they are comfortable and call us in if they don’t have time to finish because the project becomes bigger than anticipated,” Wassell explained. “We do a lot of mentoring.”