Profound Logic Shows Off Innovation At PowerUp
June 11, 2018 Alex Woodie
The recent COMMON PowerUp 18 conference was a tour de force for Profound Logic, which not only showcased major enhancements to its flagship Web and mobile development tool for IBM i, Profound UI, but also swept the IBM Innovation Awards with two customer success stories.
Let’s start with the Innovation Awards. Every year, IBM and COMMON highlight the innovative work that two companies do with their IBM i systems, including first and second place. While IBM i modernization vendors are usually well-represented in the nominations and eventual winners, we’ve never seen clients of the same modernization vendor take both first and second place.
But it happened last month in San Antonio, when two of Profound Logic‘s customers — Dayton Freight Lines of Dayton, Ohio, and Heartland Co-op of West Des Moines, Iowa — took first and second place in the Innovation Awards, respectively. Justin Porter, COMMON’s president (now its immediate past president) provided some insight into the companies’ use of IBM i and Profound technology.
“A major part of Heartland’s business is propane deliveries,” Porter said. “Deliveries were driven primary by drivers’ knowledge of customers and routes, which led to downtime and inefficiencies when new customer routes were added or changed. Together with the help of Profound Logic, Heartland Co-op enhanced their current iSeries programs to develop a process to dramatically reduce inefficiencies in deliveries, as well as increase in the number of customers who can be serviced daily.”
Dayton Freight, meanwhile, used Profound Logic solutions to tackle a host of issues with the IBM i applications programs that it uses to manage its freight delivery business. According to Porter, one of the core problems stemmed from orders that involved full freight and less than truckload (LTL) deliveries. In such situations, workers had to enter the same order information into 5250 screens twice to get the orders to properly flow through the scheduling and payment processing.
The business process for customers was no less cumbersome. “On the customer facing end, to schedule a shipment, customers would receive a rough PDF quote and were required to phone in a confirmation for scheduling, complicating and adding time to the scheduling process,” Porter said.
Dayton’s initial modernization efforts focused on transforming the RPG applications. The company used Profound’s Universal Display File technology to implement REST endpoints, which allowed RPG procedures to be run simultaneously on full freight and LTL freight. The result was a drop in data entry time from 38 minutes to five minutes per order.
The company also updated from greenscreen to Web technology through the use of Profound’s RPG Open Access and display file technology, and utilized the Node.js technology in Profound UI’s Visual Designer to create HTML-based emails that looked and functioned in a professional manner.
“We are extremely proud that our customers and employees were recognized for their excellence at the event,” said Profound Logic CEO Alex Roytman. “It demonstrates our emphasis on IBM i innovation and our goal of investing in some of the brightest stars in the IBM i community.”
Profound UI 6
Profound Logic also used the COMMON PowerUp conference to launch Profound UI version 6, which represents a major overhaul of the company’s flagship development tool for creating modern IBM i user interfaces. It also launched Profound.js 4.5, a minor upgrade of its Node.js environment.
The Profound UI enhancements fall into four main areas, including a refreshed Visual Designer, the introduction of custom widget sets, a new drag-and-drop responsive design experience, and support for multi-Document Editing.
Visual Designer – which is the main interface that Profound UI customers use to work with HTML, CSS, and JSON technologies to design new application screens – received a major overhaul with Profound UI version 6. Customers who use the Web browser-based environment will notice that it looks like the modern interfaces they’re designing.
“The whole tool has a refreshed interface,” Roytman told IT Jungle in an interview at PowerUp. “It has a better look to it and a better feel, a little more modern.”
Visual Designer ships with a set of more than 150 different widgets that customers can drag and drop onto the screen. With Profound UI version 6, the tool gives users the capability to configure their own set of custom widgets to use in their modern applications. “What’s really important here is our customers have their unique needs and we allow them to assemble and use CSS and whatever technology to assemble their own sets of widgets that they would use in their applications,” Roytman said.
While customers could program their own custom widgets and use them in previous versions of Profound UI, it took a bit of work and it wasn’t done in the tool. “But now we allow you to custom build your own widgets right in the designer,” Roytman said. “You’re creating your own set without doing any coding. It’s pretty neat. I think a lot of our customers are going to appreciate this.”
Similarly, the company has spruced up the tool’s responsive design capabilities to make it easier to serve GUIs that onto customers’ devices. In the past, companies might have used a separate framework to handle their responsive design needs. But much of what customers need for responsive design is now packaged into CSS and CSS3, making separate frameworks unnecessary, Roytman explains.
Profound augmented its Responsive Layout Editor to provide a true drag-and-drop experience that lets users assign screen elements to certain sectors of the screen with a couple of flicks of the mouse. Depending on the size of the customers device (Profound lets users define tiny, small, medium, and large screens), they will see different screen elements in certain ways.
“The cool thing is you can do this in a drag and drop, point and click manner,” Roytman said. “We feel that’s pretty amazing. It’s using the same concepts that you would use doing responsive design using any other framework, but instead of coding, this is visual way to arrange it.”
That was a recipe for complexity, Roytman said. (It also limited the number of monitors developers could make use of. Now developers can use two or three monitors if they want).
“One of the problems with that is, if you made a change in the CSS you’d have to reload the tool to see those changes,” he said. “Now because it’s all integrated, you make a change in the CSS and immediately you see [the change reflected]. You know how it is in design – you want to iterate. Do I like this color? No. Let me adjust it a little. That’s how this multi-document editing helps – it’s the fact you have multiple tabs in the enjoinment and also the fact that you’re editing code right within in this browser-based environment.”
Profound also added an IFS explorer to Profound UI that should help make expeditions into IBM i’s Windows-like file system a little less adventurous. Roytman compares it to the Remote Systems Explorer (RSE) functionality in RDi. In addition to exploring files in the IFS, it gives users access to all of the IFS functions, such as uploading files and changing directory names.
All told, the enhancements in Profound UI version 6 should make it easier for IBM i developers to create Web and mobile GUIs that look and function in the modern manner – and to do so without bringing on dedicated graphics or Web design folks.
“It’s designed for somebody who doesn’t want to get into the weeds,” Roytman said, including RPG developers. “We’re saying, look a lot of this stuff you can do in a point and click manner. It adds to your productivity and it saves time. It makes it easier and you need less specialized skills to create the type of user interfaces that people are looking for.”