Thursday 4 November 2010

Oracle Apex 4.0 UKOUG SIG in London

I attended the UKOUG SIG on Apex 4.0 in London yesterday and learned lots of new things. Thanks to presenters like John Scott from SumNeva and Hillary Farrell from Oracle. Looking forward to receive the seminar notes.

Briefly the things to take home from this SIG meeting for me were:
  • Oracle Apex plugins are great. Great presentation from John Scott on this.
  • In Oracle Apex release 4.0.2, there will be new themes which will render nicely, almost like native apps, on iPhones and iPads.
  • Lots of tips and tricks on how to scale and tune Oracle Apex using tools like, Jmeter, Firebug, Yslow
The Q&A was interesting, as it seems like I am not the only person on earth who thinks that having such an excellent tool such as  Oracle Apex without "Publishing" capabilities, printing in PDF, Word etc, is a bad thing. Why doesn't Apex enable you to print in PDF by default? Why do you have to buy more software from Oracle such as BI Publisher to do this?  I hope I am not sounding stupid. I know there are Free alternatives which enable you to print in PDF such as Apache FOP, but hey, why can't I just be able to print in PDF out of the box?

Specifically, Oracle Apex has a feature which enables you to migrate your Oracle Forms & Reports into Apex. That is, you can say bye bye to your Oracle Forms & Reports fat clients and get your Forms & Reports on the web with Apex, a brilliant free alternative, instead of the expensive Oracle Fusion Middleware stack, the new version of Forms & Reports. Who wouldn't want that? Especially in the age of Cloud computing! What a cool idea!

But there is a snag. You can't just convert your stylish Reports for free.  If you want to carry an Oracle PDF report you created in Oracle Reports, say an invoice with colors and boxed sections, pixel-by-pixel as it is to Oracle Apex, you will have to first convert it in BI Publisher to a "Report Layout" file and then import it in your Oracle Apex workspace. There is no other way to extract the XSLT from your Oracle Report and upload it to Oracle Apex, you will have to go through the BI Publisher route. Prove me wrong, please has anyone found another free and legitimate way?

You might say, with a bit of configuration work you can get Apache FOP to print you PDF output from your Apex reports and regions and you can do that free. You can even create new layouts and print them in PDF using Apache FOP, that is fine. But what if you want to migrate 100 reports, all invoice and billing templates which took developers ages to create? You will realize that to move an existing Oracle Reports report style (XSLT) into Oracle Apex as-it-is, pixel-by-pixel is possible only through BI Publisher. I tried and researched deep and wide on this topic. Is there anybody who managed to extract XSLT from their existing Oracle Reports and create an Apex Report layout?

I like Apex, I like the idea.  But to get the  business and the managers to like it, will have to do a little bit more.