Every once in awhile, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything ...
... and United Codes has been very fortunate. It's been able to introduce a few of these into the Oracle APEX world.
In 2015, we introduced APEX Office Print; it didn't just change the way we export and print data; it changed the entire mindset on how to present data.
In 2019, we introduced APEX Media Extension; it didn't just replace Oracle Intermedia; it changed the way we deal with media in APEX.
Well, today, we are introducing three revolutionary products for Oracle APEX:
- an automated documentation generation tool
- a monitoring tool
- a quality assurance tool
You might recognize the above ... this is how Steve Jobs announced the iPhone. For me, one of the best presentations I've seen. Of course, APE is not the new iPhone, but I strongly believe that APE will change the way we deal with Oracle APEX applications. Let me tell you why...
Automated Documentation Generation
Nobody likes to write documentation. In most cases, documentation is written at the end of a project and because someone forces you to do it. It takes days to write and to decide what to include and what to leave out. It's not always clear why you even write the documentation. Maybe it's because you want to remind yourself of some functionality. In most cases, however, you write it to help other people understand the project. The day it's written, it's already outdated, as things change. Documentation is hardly ever being maintained or even able to be located when needed. In short, it's just a pain.
When you follow a few good practices during development of your Oracle APEX app, APE will do the documentation part for you! You will have always easy to find and up-to-date documentation. The person looking at the documentation can decide what they want to see and what they want to dive deeper into.
You can define a project in APE and specify which applications belong to this project. You can specify some background of the project, but the real power is that APE reads the Oracle APEX meta-data. APE also allows you to change the help and comments directly inside the APE interface. If you follow the APE guidelines on how to write comments for your database objects and procedures and packages, you are golden. APE reads all that info too and presents in an easily digestible format.
And in case you want to export the documentation, you can do it with one click as we have integrated APEX Office Print (AOP) with it. Select the different sections you want in the document, chose the format (HTML, Markdown, PDF), and hit the print button.
If I asked you, how many workspaces and applications do you have in your Oracle APEX instance? And from those applications, how many are currently in use, and who is using them? Are things running smooth or are your users receiving many errors? Would you know?
I didn't. And almost all companies I'm called into have only a rough idea of what apps are running. In one company that I visited a few months ago, they asked me to document all the apps that were running and who was using them... the people who managed their Oracle APEX apps were replaced a few times, and they just had no idea anymore.
When you create an Oracle APEX app today, you can specify a feature called Activity Reporting, which gives you a decent overview of that specific application. But I always wanted more than that.
I wanted a holistic overview of my Oracle APEX instance. Show me in the entire instance - what is going on, which workspaces and applications are still being used, how much, and by who. But also let me drill-down into a specific app and get detailed insight into which pages are being used the most, where errors are happening, and how the performance is. I'm not only interested to see numbers, but I want to know that today things are running better than yesterday or the week before. APE will show you exactly that, in a clean and easy to use interface.
This dashboard gave us so much insight into our own environment. It showed me not only do I have to fix some bugs in applications I wrote many years ago, but also that I might need to look at some queries as performance isn't always that good and probably is slowing down my database at times. It also showed me which applications are important and being used on a daily basis and by whom.
And that company who asked me to document their Oracle APEX environment? I just installed APE and the management now has an always up-to-date view of their environment.
You start the project by creating a data model. Next, you create the Oracle APEX app, show the customer, make changes in the data model, and the APEX app and you iterate like this a few times. At least this is how the start of a typical project looks like for me. For other companies it might look a bit different, perhaps a bunch of consultants comes in, which work on an APEX app, do some handover, and leave.
The hardest part is keeping an eye on the relationship between the database objects and your APEX components. Which database objects are still being used? Which APEX pages are still being used? And oh boy... we are two years later and I have to make a change in this table, what's gonna break?
Another part I always found challenging is to know if how you built the application and intended it to be used, if that is also how people actually use the app. It was only by people showing me their workflow that I could effectively give them tips on how to better use the app... or actually, improve the app so it was more obvious for the end-user what was expected.
So what I understand under quality assurance tool; is a tool that helps you to code well, that gives you a clear view of the database objects, the APEX components, the relationship between them, and visibility in the usage of the app, so you have all you need to do an amazing job.
APE will not only give you insight into all the components but regardless of how you look at it, you get the picture! Either you start with the Entity-Relationship diagram and see the APEX components linked to it. Or you start with the Page Flow of your APEX app and drill back to the ERD. And finally APE has a visual that has never been done before, we call it the Session Flow. It's an amazing visual representation of how people actually use your app and how people navigate from one page to the other.
All of these views have given me insights into my own Oracle APEX apps, which I've never had before. We got insight into how people use our portals, we saw we had database objects which were not used at all and when we had to change a page, we knew what the impact would be on other pages linked to that page. It's an awesome feeling when you truly master your app.
APE - Your Second Screen
It's really cool to have an app with the above, but as developers, we are constantly in Page Designer when we create Oracle APEX apps, right? Wouldn't it be nice to have APE on a second screen and while you develop, APE gives you more information, like the database object dependencies of that page?
We thought that too ;) Click on the Eye in the Tree View and be amazed :)
Note: for some people, quality assurance is following naming conventions and good practices. And I love for example to use the APEX Advisor, as it does some checks for you. In a future release of APE, we also want to cover that area of QA and our plans are to include an advisor you can customize with your own checks.
And there's one more thing ...
We decided to make APE completely FREE for personal use! Head over to https://www.apexprojecteye.com and download APE today!
Let the EYE be with you! ~ Yoda