Monthly Archives: February 2008

APEX 3.1 goes live

If you didn’t catch it yet, the Oracle team behind Application Express have been working hard (as always!) and have just released APEX 3.1

There are some incredibly cool features in 3.1, such as (from the SoD):

  • Interactive reporting region types which natively integrate Web 2.0 features to filter, break, sort data, etc.</li
  • Improved PDF report layout
  • Enhanced print attributes allowing for more control of PDF document structures
  • Optional runtime-only installation, which will install the minimum number of database objects and grant the minimum number of privileges to run Application Express applications in a production environment
  • PL/SQL API to manage a runtime installation of Application Express
  • Documented and supported Application Express JavaScript libraries
  • Improved calendar region type supporting AJAX requests
  • New PL/SQL API to send attachments in e-mail
  • Enhanced integration with Oracle SQL Developer for MS Access to Application Express migration

I’ve just tried a couple of test installs and have it up and running on my laptop, so far it’s delivered everything it promised!

Beginner Application Express Training (5.2 on the Richter Scale)

I’ve been helping out providing some on-site beginner level Apex training for a company here in the UK over the last few weeks and it’s been quite a nice change for me since I’m usually called in for Advanced Level Training instead.

None of the attendees were what I’d call ‘Oracle Developers’ or indeed Developers at all, they were (self-confessed) Microsoft Access and Excel addicts.

Well, as anyone who has used Apex before knows, Apex makes it extremely easy to migrate your existing data from these tools. However, just migrating isn’t enough, after all who wants to move away from a tool that already does what they want to another tool that (at best) might just do exactly the same job.

So, my job as Trainer is to show off all the nice features in Apex (and the Oracle database) that not only makes the idea of moving to Apex attractive, but actually makes it into a ‘why didn’t I know about Apex sooner?’ type of reaction. Needless to say that after using Apex for as long as I have (and in as many different ways as I have) I have lots of things up my sleeve that should manage to convince even the most sceptical die-hard Access or Excel lover.

Of course, I never claim that Apex is a silver-bullet (no tool is) and it certainly isn’t suitable in every case or scenario, however I’ve found that by demonstrating the features of the product itself you are more likely to show that one feature that each person in the audience has wanted to use or that they think will be useful to them.

In other words, 100 powerpoint slides of “Apex Good, Access Bad” won’t work, it just sounds like propaganda. However letting people see the tool in action (At Apex Evangelists we’re big advocates of live demos) they can see whether the features you’re talking about are really as easy to use as you say they are.

So, what has this got to do with Earthquakes? Well for those of you reading this outside of the UK, last week we had an Earthquake here in the UK (yes really…it does happen here occasionally). The day after the earthquake I was talking to one of the training attendees and he said he was awake when the quake hit (around 1am) because he’d been installing Oracle XE on his home PC to use Application Express. Now bear in mind that this was someone who hadn’t even heard of Apex 2 days before and had actually stayed up until 1am in the morning to download and install it (I don’t mean it takes a long time to download or install by the way! Just the fact that he was interested enough to stay up till the early hours to do it).

When you stand up in-front of a group of people and Present, there is almost no better reward than hearing back that you’ve said something that interested them (or at least interested some of them).

I always do a quick straw-poll when I do these types of things, here are the results (it was just a quick hands-up exercise) –

  • At the beginning of the one course only 1 out of the 12 attendees had even heard of Apex
  • After day 2 (of a 3 day course), 2 people had installed Apex on their home PC’s
  • By the final day, 4 out of 12 people had installed Apex on the home PC
  • By the final day, 9 out of 12 people said it was ‘extremely likely’ they would use Apex as part of their daily work rather than Excel/Access (obviously where appropriate)
  • Of the 3 people who said it was not ‘extremely likely’ the main reason they gave was that they would first want more training (which was good, as they weren’t just simply saying ‘no’, they wanted to evaluate the tool more

With Apex 3.1 just round the corner, my job of convincing people to use Apex is going to get even easier!