What Problem Domain Does Formspider Address?

Formspider addresses the same problem that Oracle Forms was built for, some twenty years ago: Enabling PL/SQL Developers build great enterprise applications with just PLSQL.

At its height, Forms was great for that. Its only programming language was PL/SQL. The applications built with it ran on any platform. For example, I built applications that run on Windows. To this date, I still don’t know a single Windows API. I wrote in PL/SQL, using Forms PL/SQL API’s and Forms took care of the rest.

Since PL/SQL cannot really run anywhere but in the database, some brilliant engineers at Oracle had to convert all the PL/SQL code I wrote as a teenager, to C, C++ or whatever so that my applications can run in Windows. I still don’t know what they have done. I never needed to know. I never cared. My focus was on implementing business requirements in PL/SQL and deliver results to my clients. Forms took care of the rest. That was the beauty of Oracle Forms. Applications built in Oracle Forms are platform agnostic.

I don’t want to be one of those old guys who tell stories, hell I am only 35, but one day, a new Oracle Forms version came out and whola!. All of our Forms applications were now running in browsers. All the old applications were upgraded to the new version with virtually no refactoring. I even remember a Forms Developer version that had two run buttons: One for running the application on Desktop and one for running it in a browser. The same code base could be deployed in different platforms. This was ten years ago. » Read more…

CeBIT, Hannover

In the first week of March, Formspider is going to be at CeBIT, Hannover. You can find us in Hall 9 at Stand B75. We are sharing a space with other fellow R&D companies in the ITU ARI Technopark. So far, just the preparation alone has been an incredible experience for us. If you are attending the fair, we would love to meet you in person. If you’d like to attend but don’t have a ticket, don’t worry. We have plenty. Just email us at contact@theformspider.com and we will send you e-tickets.

Looking forward to seeing you there.

Formspider Local Installation

We just made Formspider available for downloading and installing locally. This was important as there was quite a bit of interest in the local installation. The team tested the hell out of the installer but please, please, pretty please let us know if you run into any issues. Giving feedback is incredibly easy. If the installer fails, it will ask your permission to send us the installation log. It collects no personal information and asks for an optional email address to get back to you when the problem is fixed.

The Installer currently supports Windows only. We are going to support other platforms but in the meantime, if you need Formspider installed to a different OS, contact us at contact@theformpider.com. We’d be happy to guide you through it.

My ODTUG

Tonight I received an email from Mike Riley, president of ODTUG, asking me several questions regarding the ODTUG Kaleidoscope Conference between June 26-30 2011, I have the honor of being one of the presenters in the conference. Below are my answers to his questions.

What’s the best thing about Kscope conferences?

Kscope has a very special place in my heart even though this is going to be the first time I will be presenting or even attending. In early 00’s I was just a young developer at Dulcian, USA. Every year around spring time, a breeze of excitement surrounded the company. Paul would gather us in the conference room and we’d start planning his presentation for ODTUG. (We always referred to the conference as ODTUG. Still today, I have no idea when people started calling it Kscope.) It was, (and still is) the conference where Dulcian made its big announcements. The entire company would come together to complete “an important milestone in the company vision” just in time for ODTUG.
“Do you think we can finish this by ODTUG?”
“This feature is important for ODTUG”
“If this doesn’t make it to ODTUG, we are screwed.”

In my head, I created this imaginary crowd of important mysterious experts, who never called, never emailed, never visited us for 364 days in the year but looked forward to what we had to show in June. » Read more…

Formspider vs. APEX

Every product is built so solve a problem. Before its implementation, its creators ask a question and come up with an answer which is the product. How should we stick nails to a wall was the question the creator of the hammer asked.

This question can be asked pragmatically by looking back in time. For example, for centuries humans asked how can we travel faster and decided to breed faster horses. Then Harrison Ford came along. He asked the same question, looking into the future and came up with the automobile.

Back to our case, Apex is first built in early 00’s looking back in time and asking the question: “How do people write web pages?”.

Formspider is first built in 2008, looking into the future and asking the question: ”How should we build applications?”.

These two are fundamentally different questions and as a result you get fundamentally different products.

The question it answers is engraved in the essence of the product. No matter what you do, you cannot escape it. You can change directions, play catch up to industry trends, add features, plugins, make up new concepts as you go along, yet the fundamental weaknesses in the architecture will always come back to haunt you. Case in point; this is why it is painful to build a three level master detail screen with Apex. This is why it is very hard to do version control, especially if more than one developer is working in the project. This is why it lacks a transaction management layer. This is why an Apex application is up to its gills with HTML/JavaScript; the assembly language of the Web. Working at that level of abstraction, or lack of it, is no less crazy than developing applications with Assembly code in the 90’s instead of Forms. However, if you look back in time and ask the wrong question, Apex is the only answer you are going to get.

Formspider has a fundamentally better architecture. For example, in Formspider, you don’t write web pages. The notion of a web page does not even exist in Formspider because the page paradigm is an archaic concept of the early Web. Formspider works in the application paradigm not in the web page paradigm. There are no page submits, no regions refreshes, no HTML, no JavaScript, no DOM manipulations. Formspider uses the browser as a canvas to draw applications UI. Formspider developers write code to respond to user events and inputs coming from the UI. This is why building a three (or more) level deep master detail screen is a matter of course in Formspider. For a long time, it did not even occur to us to put a demo to our web site to show off this capability because we did not think it would be an interesting one.

In Formspider, the entire application is defined without using client side technology. Therefore, Formspider architecture supports streaming applications to any device and platform that exists now or will exist in the future such as a browser, a Windows PC, a Mac, a mobile device that runs iOS, Windows Phone, Android or even Google Glasses as far as I am concerned.

Formspider has a world class transaction layer, that is fully controlled by the developer. A framework to build enterprise applications that has no transaction layer, but issues mandatory commits at certain times, is unimaginable to us. It’s ludicrous. It’s just bad design.

For a long time, PL/SQL developers could procrastinate making a decision or just go with Apex because there simply was no other choice. This is not true anymore. The ball is on your court now. As PL/SQL developers working at IT departments, ISV’s and system integrators, it is now your turn to ask the question:

Do you want a faster horse or do you want a car?

Yalim k. Gerger

An Open Letter to PL/SQL Developers

I am happy to announce that we officially launched the public beta program for Formspider, our rich Internet application development framework for PL/SQL Developers. If you are a PL/SQL Developer who is interested in new ideas and technologies, make sure you check out our web site http://www.theformspider.com.

Formspider aims to fill the gap left by the demise of Oracle Forms. Coding in Formspider is 100% PL/SQL. There is no need to know Java or JavaScript. Every application is 100% AJAX by default. Applications built with Formspider run as DHTML/JavaScript applications in the browser. All Formspider applications run in IE, Firefox and Chrome smoothly without any extra effort. It has a cool IDE, charting, component based development… etc…etc…

I could go on and on. However, none of this matters if our users don’t like what we have built. We will end up with a nice idea that turned out to be a failure. So above all features and functionalities, what matters most today is what you think of Formspider. We are in the beginning of what hopefully is going to be a long journey (we just launched our public beta after all). The faith of the journey is in the hands of our users. If you support us with feedback, ideas, criticism and candid reviews then we will do everything in our power to make you happy and successful.

We believe PL/SQL deserves a more important role in web development and its potential is not being used well. We believe Oracle Forms was a great product for the challenges of its era and even though the times have changed, the underlying principles of sound application development have not. We believe the PL/SQL community deserves a powerful web framework that is second to none. We believe we are not the only people think that way. We invite you to think together.

Yalım K. Gerger