Monday, 22 June 2015

KScope15 APEX Symposiums

Kscope15 officially kicked off on Sunday with a set of symposiums, I stayed in the APEX room the whole day, though I really wanted to hear what Steven Feuerstein had to say after lunch in the other room. I also hear a great discussion was had in the ADF room on tablet first vs mobile first.

APEX Episode 5 (A new frontier)

Joel Kallman kicked off the movie themed symposiums with a great talk about how APEX really is the enterprise solution people want/need, despite what other people say about it - and the fact it has been so for some time.

It wasn't a technical talk, but set a great tone for rest of the conference. Kudos to his delivery, it seemed well thought out and provided a powerful message about the wonderful tool that it is.

He mentioned interactions with various community members and highlighted how powerful the community has become in driving the evolution of the product. His praise indicated how vital community interaction is for the success of APEX compared to other tools on the market that have limited to no interaction with their customers.

This reminded me of something mentioned by Mike Hichwa regarding how the team uses the product to build packaged applications, compared to the Oracle Forms team who never used the final product. It makes a big difference.

Need for Speed (Page Designer)

Patrick Wolf formally introduced the group to the APEX 5 Page Designer, and various little tools within it that make development so much easier. The IDE truly is a marquee feature that shows how APEX has matured as a modern, advanced development tool.

Here are some great nuggets that are worth checking out

  • A specific grouping for dynamic actions fired on Page Load
  • Additional context menu facilities on various components, such as "create opposite action", something originally found just within the create DA wizard
  • Right click to delete, no prompt since we can just undo actions in the IDE
  • Drag/drop in the grid layout, far advanced compared to 4.0
  • Bulk property edits, just like Oracle Forms - one of my favourites
  • Updated help text for component properties
  • Code editor highlighting, including validation and auto-complete for page items and core packages
  • Block edit within code editor
  • In-browser searching including option for regular expressions
  • Shared component references and grouping, another of my favourite innovations 
Polite applause was extended for some of the features as Patrick announced them, showing community appreciation.

Interstellar (Universal Theme)

Shakeeb Rahman gave us an overview of the fantastic Universal Theme. It was an overview as opposed to a detailed look at how it all works, I think other presentations will be going into further detail on specific features.

One admission that came early was that further enhancements are to come as further feedback comes in, but the theme has been integrated into the APEX environment in such a way to make it easier to incorporate these in your applications in future releases.

He covered three major points.
  1. Responsiveness - the new theme is leagues ahead of the capabilities of Theme25, which admittedly had shortfalls. It was interesting to note that accommodations have been made for things like tap event handling, to hand the 300ms wait time back to the users. I've used Touch Punch in the past to help with this.
  2. Versatility - Lists are more heavily used in APEX 5 for navigation aids, which I think is great because they are a versatile feature. The menus are built with Accessibility in mind, and support keyboard navigation. Icon libraries have been included, with room to extend in future releases.
  3. Options - I can't remember if this was the actual heading, but the declarative options now provided with templates will help developers build more consistent applications without the need for deeper CSS skills. Template Options give developers the same type of declarative CSS assistance Dynamic Actions did for JavaScript. It's a deep topic that needs it's own sessions but there are plenty built in demonstrated in the Universal Theme sample app.
    The Theme Roller enables re-colouring the application to a far greater extent than 20 variations on a similar theme could ever do. I reckon even my colour-blind friend could use it to build a scheme that contrasts well.
    Entire themes can also now be subscribed.

The Fifth Element (Mobile + HTML5)

Marc Sewtz braved the world of live demos to show developers improvements made to the mobile user interface. I found this interesting to compare to how we solved problems in developing for 10" tablets using the desktop interface. 

Not much appears to have changed from the developer's perspective (except for integration with the new IDE), but many HTML5 features have been incorporated into the build.

Out of the various suggestions Marc made for developing responsive apps with the universal theme, I think the most important was thinking "mobile first". This is regardless of the technology you're using.

Matrix Reloaded (Interactive Reports)

Anthony Rayner (one of a few faces I'm not sure I've ever seen) ran through what features APEX 5 provides for Interactive Reports.

  • Intro - reminder for the group on what IR are all about
  • Modernised - more CSS, more client side processing means more snappy interaction for the users.
    Accessibility standards are now met and plenty of people seemed to have questions regarding this, though it's a shame it got picky and slowed the flow of what Anthony had to say. His main point on this was regardless of whether you need to meet these standards, you should consider them while developing to help promote better applications.
    • Action icons have been restored. 
    • Single row view has been modernised. 
    • Column options have been modified to help accessibility issues, but all will reap benefits. 
    • Report and column widths are responsive to the page. 
    • Dialogs are used instead of dropping down content. 
    • Settings and filters have been cleaned up and enhanced.
  • Extended - plenty of new features added in APEX 5
    • an impressive pivot feature has been added to user options. 
    • Multiple IRs can now be defined per page, it's best to ensure they have their own ID.
    • Headers fix to the top of the page
    • Theme roller also integrates with IR 
  • Upgrading - Main issue coming out of complete IR revision relates to the gReport object and upgrading older reports. Any markup on 4.x report will probably no longer work.

The Prestige (Migrating to Theme 42)

Shakeeb came back to help the community migrate to the Universal Theme, using pre-packaged applications as an example..

Head to and find the Bookmarklet to help with migration to switch to Theme 42.

Reset grid option. Default option probably handy, "Reset fixed region positions" but worth exploring what happens to your application with each. It will really depend on where you're coming from. Plenty of help on the topic by clicking ? icon next to option.

Shakeeb started by demonstrating how to update the login page to match a pre-packaged application built on APEX 5. He showed how easy it was to find, copy and apply various properties using the Page Designer.

Icons were real easy to add to the navigation menu using pop-list options to select font-awesome icons.

Existing regions had plenty of customisations to aim for responsive layout. Shakeeb removed a bunch of these, showing how ready Theme 42 is out of the box.

Buttons were easy to adjust and modify with some dragging and dropping in the grid layout, with basic tweaks to make them iconic.

Template options also came into play to help tweak page layout.

We can now create copy (and/or subscribe) of existing plugins from another application which was missing from previous releases.

List template attributes are introduced in APEX 5 to help work out what the 1-10 attributes are for the relevant tempate - very neat.

Change one attribute to convert existing pages into modal pages and all the links automatically treat the page accordingly. Now clean up the page to suit being modal, again solved with declarative features and region template options.

Rinse and repeat for your entire application, I guess! Shakeeb certainly had plenty to say about conversion and offered to give the crowd more (but I think many are ready for a beer). I look forward to more session content from him.


Bring on day 1

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