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Monday, November 30, 2009

Scheduling events in Alpha Five Version 10

I hope everyone had a safe and happy Thanksgiving, but doesn't Monday hurt just a little bit more after a long holiday weekend? BACK TO THE GRIND, FOLKS. How can I complain, though, when I have you to come back to?

In fact, I spent the last few days watching a customer's question about Alpha Five Version 10 be resolved quickly and easily over e-mail, and it brightened my day to be reminded that our developers are not only responsive to our customers' needs, but jump at the opportunity to help them create outstanding applications.

One of our customers recently downloaded the Alpha Five Version 10 trial, and as he put it, had spent the last week "exploring all the great improvements." But he had a question. He couldn't figure out how to create events that are triggered by date and/or time in Alpha Five Version 10.

For example, the system he's creating will allow him to enter future actions that his church needs to take regarding members who may have upcoming events, such as surgery or anniversary of a death in their family. As such, he wants the database to have a field for that date/time, which Alpha will then automatically generate an e-mail reminder on that date.

He also wants to be able to set up a recurring request to send out an e-mail (or a report attached to an e-mail) that summarizes all the recent prayer items posted into a database without requiring a person to initiate the report. But he couldn't figure out how.

That's when Alpha developer Jerry Brightbill stepped in. Since this is a question other people out there delving into Alpha Five Version 10 might have, I thought I'd post Jerry's solution here on the blog.

As Jerry said in his e-mail back to our customer, if you're working on the desktop, there are a number of methods to schedule events. The desktop has a function that can be used to set up schedules to run scripts (script_schedule()) as long as the database is open. This can be used to automate various processes. For more information on this functionality, have a look at our script_schedule() help page.

Another method is to set up an Alpha Five database that has a script called an autoexec script. When the database opens, the script runs automatically. It can perform a number of actions and then close the database when done. The database can be opened by a batch file run by the Windows scheduler. This has the advantage of not requiring a database to be open all of the time and the schedule is controlled by Windows.

A similar capability on the Web side is more challenging, but many developers have set up what are called "cron jobs." A cron (short for chronograph) is a time-based job scheduler in Unix-like computer operating systems. This lets users schedule tasks to run automatically at a certain time or date. In its infancy, it was most often used to automate system maintenance or administration, but today, it's essential for other purposes, such as connecting to the Internet and downloading e-mail.

For more information about how other Alpha users are incorporating crons into their applications, have a look at the Alpha user message board. Note: the message board will require a quick sign up to access the page.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Alpha Five Version 10 Feature Peek #41: DetailView

Alpha Five Version 10's DetailView can be shown in a popup Ajax window. You might want the window title to be dynamically constructed using data from the current grid row. This video shows how you can do this using system Javascript events.



Friday, November 20, 2009

Robert Scoble features Alpha Five Version 10 demo on scoblemedia

As you already know, one of the highlights of our recent media push of Alpha Five Version 10 was my meeting with Robert Scoble while I was in California for Oracle OpenWorld 2009 last month.

We sat down together for a cup of coffee, and I was able to show him a demo of some of the great things you can do in Version 10. As you probably remember, the response was incredible. As I said in my last Scoble post, it's not every day one of the most influential chaps on the Internet calls your product "revolutionary."

To put it lightly, we were thrilled. It was a true testament to the countless hours of planning and hard work the Alpha team has invested in Version 10 over the past year, as well as the months of testing and feedback our beta testers have invested.

When Robert and I left off, we agreed to another meeting for a closer look at V10, as well as some other development projects he has up his sleeve that piqued our interest. And before we knew it, Selwyn and I were boarding the plane back to California to meet with Robert at his house for a private demo of Alpha Five.

And what do you know, we made the Twitter stream again. As usual, Robert had one eye on us and one eye on his iPhone. We already knew he's is a whiz on all things social media, but this meeting took it to new levels. How many people do you know who can be fully immersed in a video demo, ask questions, carry a conversation, and tweet it all from not one, but TWO Twitter accounts on his phone?

This time we were featured on Robert's @scoblemedia Twitter stream, the account he uses to highlight videos he creates of what he calls "bleeding-edge technologists."





In the first video, Robert interviews Selwyn, who gives a brief history of Alpha Software, and our driving motivation behind creating Alpha Five.



And here in the second video, Selwyn gets to the real meat of Alpha Five Version 10.



It doesn't get much better than a tip of the hat from Robert Scoble. And now, our fingers are crossed that Robert deems us worthy to feature Alpha Five Version 10 on his Scobleizer blog.

You can Follow Robert's tweets @Sobleizer and @scoblemedia.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Alpha Five Version 10 Feature Peek #40: Field validation

The video below demonstrates Alpha Five Version 10's awesome agile development process in action. Late last week, Alpha customer Bob Moore made the request for a field validation feature in Alpha Five Version 10, and within an hour, our developers had it up and running. It doesn't get much better than that.

Have a look at what Bob put together using this new field validation feature, and let us know what you think. What features do you want to see in Alpha Five?


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Happy Veterans Day from Alpha Software

As you know, yesterday was Veterans Day, and it was truly touching to see the outpouring of gratitude from Americans for the men and women who risk their lives for this country. Naturally, the blogosphere was abuzz with articles and stories of heroism and thanks, but there was one blog post that really stood out for me.

Jason English at Mental Floss put together a collection of videos of dogs welcoming home their owners from wars abroad. It was truly heartwarming, and I thought you might enjoy it as well. You know I can never resist a nod to our four-legged friends. ;) But this is a reminder to never forget to give that nod to our servicemen and women too. They deserve thanks like this from all of us.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Alpha Five Version 10 Feature Peek #39: Printing the currently selected records, or opening a grid showing currently selected records

Putting a button on a grid to open another grid or a report is easily accomplished using Alpha Five Version 10's Action Javascript. The video below shows how you can use the special Alpha Five functions, CurrentGridFilter and CurrentGridOrder, to print the records that are currently selected in the grid. You can also use these functions to open another grid showing the same selection of records in the current grid.

All the grid possibilities have you tongue tied? Have a look at the video to see it in action.



Monday, November 09, 2009

Alpha Five Version 10 press coverage roll up

There's been a lot of buzz around Alpha Five Version 10 so far. What's everyone talking about? I'll give you a hint; it rhymes with smodeless smajax. Of course, as you know, codeless Ajax is only one element -- although a pretty impressive one, if I do say so myself -- of the new features available in Alpha Five Version 10.

I'll continue to post any press mentions we get here on the blog, but I thought it would be easier to put up a press "roll up" post as well, just in case you missed anything the first time around. Happy reading!

TechRepublic - Programming news: Alpha Five, IronPython, Scala, F#

Friday, November 06, 2009

Alpha Five Version 10 Feature Peek #38: Show/hide expressions in page layout and TabbedUI component

In Alpha Five Version 10, you can use show or hide expressions in the page layout component to show or hide the objects that you place in the component. The expressions can refer to session variables and arguments defined in the component.

Using show/hide expressions, it's easy to show one user a page with one particular set of components, and another user a completely different set of components. In the case of the Tabbed UI component, the show/hide expressions can control which buttons are visible in the button pane. Have a look at the video for a full demo.


Thursday, November 05, 2009

TechRepublic announces the release of Alpha Five Version 10

TechRepublic announced the release of Alpha Five Version 10 early this week, and I'm happy to say, made special mention of all of the positive praise we've gotten so far. We even got a promise of a review in the near future. :) Thanks, TechRepublic!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Alpha Five Version 10 solutions in a blink (or a seventh inning stretch)

Last night I got an e-mail from one of our Alpha developers, Bob Moore, attesting to the raw power and speed of codeless Ajax. Bob was watching the Phillies beat the Yankees (remember, I live in Boston, so there are only two teams I ever root for: the Red Sox and anyone who beats the Yankees) in the fifth World Series game.

During the game, he was also browsing through some recent posts on the Alpha Message Board on his iPhone, when he came across a how-to question. An Alpha Five Version 10 user could not get his freeform code to be "seen" by the Ajax/Java. Here's what he posted:


In the past, we have been able to upload files from a grid free-form field using the html "Browse" form code, plus the appropriate a5w xbasic of course.

With V10 the Browse form still pops when used in a Freeform control up but I am assuming that the Ajax/Java is not "seeing it" as when it becomes dirty, the save does not light up ... and if I enter another field to dirty the form, the file name is not saved.

If a html form is used on an A5w page, it all works but it would be nice to use this in the grid as before.

Has anyone got this to work in V10? If so, what was the "trick"?

This is a frequently used feature by many others I am sure -- I am hoping there is an easy work-around.

Bob grabbed his laptop, fired up Alpha Five Version 10, and was able to create a solution and a video demonstrating how in about 15 minutes, and without missing a pitch. Talk about speed! Talk about power! Talk about codeless Ajax!

And if you've ever had the same question, be sure to have a look at Bob's video to see how it's done.



Monday, November 02, 2009

HealthSoft Solutions finds a solution with Alpha Five

Have I mentioned that NOW IS THE PERFECT TIME TO START THE BUSINESS OF YOUR DREAMS? No? Well then let me repeat myself. NOW IS THE PERFECT TIME TO START THE BUSINESS OF YOUR DREAMS.

Don Lavigne, founder of HealthSoft Solutions, has done just that. It's the classic entrepreneurial story. Don had a need. He turned to Alpha Software to solve that need. And he found his solution so useful, that he figured others could benefit too!

Have a look at the case study below to read Don's full story, and be sure to check out the fancy PDF version as well.



Customer Name
HealthSoft Solutions

Customer Profile
HealthSoft Solutions was designed to give chiropractors and physical therapists the ability to create a daily patient record in a matter of seconds and generate complete reports with the push of a button. HealthSoft Solutions' intuitive medical office applications can help users quickly and effortlessly accomplish almost any office task, while strictly adhering to today's stringent insurance guidelines.

Location

Annandale, N.J.

Industries

Healthcare IT

Situation

Lavigne will be the first to tell you that in a busy chiropractic office, chiropractors need to be able to generate patient reports quickly. Insurance companies and government regulations require detailed patient files for each visit that include information such as objective, assessment, plan, muscle tone, range of motion, etc. Most chiropractors write these reports by hand after each appointment, meaning many offices are handwriting up to 100 reports each day. And because most chiropractic visits are part of a multiple-week-long treatment plan that includes much of the same therapies each week, most of the report-taking is repetitive. In his own chiropractic office, Lavigne tried to expedite this process by creating a database program that could generate reports digitally. He invested $7,000 in a documentation and practice management program. But soon after Lavigne began working with it, he realized there were too many limitations, the program was non-intuitive, and the process was tedious. Overall, it was taking Lavigne even more time to create a report digitally than it would to write them by hand. In the end, he abandoned the software and was back to square one. Lavigne needed a fully customizable software program that would be intuitive, non-repetitive, and most importantly, fast. That’s when he first considered creating that solution himself. But Lavigne had no programming skills. He searched for a developer who could build a program to meet his specifications, but received quotes upward of $250,000. Not only was that out of his price range, but he knew he would have to spend his own time in conversations with a programmer to ensure they included exactly what he wanted in the application.

Solution

Instead of wasting time describing what he wanted to a developer, Lavigne decided his time would be better spent creating the application himself. Doing a simple Internet search, Lavigne found Alpha Software. Alpha promised everything that he was looking for, and the price was right. Before even opening the box, Lavigne spent a few months learning how to create navigatable tables that would be as user friendly as a simple Excel spreadsheet. He then used Alpha Five to build forms based on his existing fields. As a non-programmer, Alpha Five’s wizards and easy-to-master toolbars were essential to Lavigne. Besides spending 40 hours a week at work, Lavigne came home each night to three young children, so he didn’t have time to teach himself anything that would require a computer science degree. With Alpha Five, there was no need. Thanks to Alpha’s low learning curve, he felt proficient after only spending a few hours a week working on his application.

Benefits

The result is a high-performance, completely customizable, intuitive Web database that is now addressing all of Lavigne’s requirements. Lavigne, a chiropractor with absolutely no background in programming, was able to have his entire application up and running within months. The application’s design lets users rapidly create patient notes that fully comply with stringent insurance and government guidelines. Alpha Five’s powerful yet easy-to-use tools made it possible for Lavigne to achieve the lofty goals he established for the database, without having to learn a computer language or writing a single line of code. While it used to take Lavigne up to five minutes to create a single patient report, he can now compose a report in just seconds. The application’s workflow is intuitive and user-friendly. And almost any office task can be completed in only a few mouse clicks, from documentation to time sheets to patient exercises and education. Because it’s Web-based, anyone from the office can securely access medical records without any further investment in IT infrastructure. Lavigne was so pleased with his application, he dubbed it HealthSoft Solutions, and now sells it to chiropractors and physical therapists as a documentation and patient management program. Because Alpha’s flexibility makes it easy to customize any application, Lavigne offers to modify each program to suit his customer’s unique business needs. HealthSoft Solutions has taken off, and Lavigne has delivered dozens of custom applications in a fraction of the time and for a fragment of the cost of other solutions.


For More Information

Alpha Software, Inc.
781-229-4500
www.AlphaSoftware.com

HealthSoft Solutions
888-477-2656
www.HealthSoftSolutions.com

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