May 03

There has been a lot of talk about SaaS applications with SFDC and Oracle CRM on Demand being the frontrunners in the space. Something that the development community and the business users always want is results “quickly”.

What is APEX?

Oracle Application Express APEX is one such tool which is a RAD (Rapid Application web Development) tool that can be used over an Oracle Database. With application resulting in a rich user interface, it’s easy to learn, easy to use and organizations using Oracle Databases can highly benefit out of it.

APEX is written using PL/SQL and runs entirely inside a web browser; it’s an IDE and a runtime environment. No client software is required to develop, deploy, or run Application Express applications. New built-in capabilities for Application Express include Forms Conversion and additional security enhancements. The important thing to remember is that APEX is designed to be tightly integrated with Oracle Database, to be a fully capable web development environment, and be easy enough for savvy business users to extend applications for themselves.

How is APEX an RAD tool?

Application Express provides three primary tools: 

  • Application Builder – to create dynamic database driven web applications
  • SQL Workshop – to browse your database objects, run ad-hoc SQL queries, as well as a graphical query builder
  • Utilities – allows for data to be loaded and unloaded from both flat files and spreadsheets

Since APEX is so tightly integrated to Oracle database, you can prototype screens right there and then. The object browser allows you to create and view database objects like tables and build reports, charts around those objects. APEX being declarative, changes can be easily made in real time via the built in wizards.

Users are demanding more user interactivity and client-side functionality whereby the application responds as soon as a value is changed or the user leaves a field (wysiwyg, the new buzz word). Such functionality can be readily built into applications today using JavaScript and AJAX, providing you knows how to program in such languages. Dynamic actions are designed to make implementing such functionality declarative, allowing every APEX developer to enhance the user experience without needing to master JavaScript and AJAX. Such an implementation also makes maintenance and debugging a much simpler task.

Out of the box development features include Report, Forms, Charts, Email Services. All of the normal web widgets are available too: radio groups, buttons, drop down lists, date pickers etc. It comes with built in applications such as Project Task Tracker, Bug tracker, Project Issue tracker etc. Output from the application can be directed to the screen or to PDF, Flash, Excel or even integrated into a web service. You can even integrate your javascript code should you need it.

Who can use APEX?

APEX is targeted at the Rapid Application Development (RAD) developer. It is best suited to Departmental / Targeted applications. Not to say it can’t be used for enterprise applications or developed by end-users, there are many examples of both which have been implemented. Its advantage over scripting languages is the declarative framework and longevity as based on PL/SQL. If your business logic is in the database tier, APEX is the way to go. If your business logic is in the middle tier, J2EE maybe a better choice.

You can try APEX by signing up for a hosted account:
Next Blog: “How to” in APEX!

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