Monday 10 March 2014

Review: Oracle Apex Cookbook 2nd Edition

Now with extra zing
It's been bang on three years since I reviewed Oracle APEX Cookbook by Marcel van der Plas and Michel van Zoest (don't ask me to pronounce their names, I'll do it no justice).
It was my 2nd book review and I've enjoyed reviewing Oracle related books & technology ever since - thank you to all publishers involved. Hopefully my technique has improved over time.

Now we're cooking with APEX 4.2 (get it?) and the kind team at Packt have informed me there is a second edition hot off the presses (one idiom that surely has a finite lifespan).

Additional kudos to the six technical reviewers. I've done this job a few times and I appreciate the time & effort it takes to help authors with the book... though one of their bios is very familiar...

The book is aimed at those new to APEX and intermediate developers - a statement I look out for when assessing books so I know what to expect or what I'm in for. Though I think anyone can learn something new, or adapt a technique you may not have seen before.

There are some references to 4.0, but I also share duties for updating manuals and understand you can't be expected to tackle every page, every screenshot in a revision. Looking through the contents I quickly picked up plenty of new & expected additions to this edition:
  • Data upload pages
  • Using shipped files
  • Authorisation plug-ins
  • RESTful web services
  • Using Tomcat with APEX Listener
  • Error handling
  • Packaged applications
  • Table APIs
  • HTML5/CSS3
  • Mobile
My first review covered the recipe style of the book which I think works well and has it's place. As Alex Nuijten describes in his review, the recipe format works for some - and depending on how you're reading/applying the book.

It's also good for feature awareness, so I thought I'd list out what to expect as far as content, highlighting the new content I spotted.
  • Chapter 1 takes you through the essential basics of APEX development.
  • Chapter 2 explores themes and templates - the sort of stuff developers need to do all the time so it's a great reference.
  • Chapter 3 tackles extending APEX with external libraries, and shows how to hook them in with APEX attributes.
  • Chapter 4 addresses Websheet applications - something rarely spoken about in the forums so you won't often find info on this.
  • Chapter 5 now includes how to define an Authorisation plug-in, probably the first type of plug-in you'll typically make - mainly for reusability.
  • Chapter 6 covers multilingual applications, something I may need to look into one day ;-)
  • Chapter 7 has good concise examples of how you can use supplied APIs.
  • Chapter 8 covers webservices, including RESTful which is available from 4.2, with APEX listener 2.x
  • Chapter 9 provides examples on how you can publish reports natively from APEX
  • Chapter 10 on APEX environment has been extended to include great improvements such as error handling.
  • Chapter 11 is on Administration, and includes something missed from the original edition - table APIs.
  • Chapter 12 on Team Development, another underutilised feature with recipes that might get your creative juices flowing
  • Chapter 13 is brand new and covers HTML5 & CSS3. Recipes include how to use HTML5 item types, vital for mobile applications.
    There is a drag/drop recipe that I look forward to playing with - I have a few use cases for this but haven't had a chance to get my head around it, but it looks like I could tailor this simple example to suit my needs. Another recipe covers storage - the modern way of creating more robust websites.
    The geo-tracker recipe will be good to compare with my solution, see if I can learn from how others have done things.
  • Chapter 14 speaking of mobile, this chapter's recipes is a really good range of topics for learning mobile. Creating an app, a hybrid app, list views, mobile forms, item types, calendar, working with images, GPS, swipe events... there's even a nifty trick included regarding QR codes.
I'd recommend it as a reference to any APEX developer.

You can find further details of the book here Packt Publishing - Oracle APEX Cookbook, 2nd Edition.

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