Alpha Software is focused on enabling developers to create robust, data-driven business applications that run on any PC, Tablet or Smartphone in the fastest, most efficient and cost-effective manner possible.

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Friday, May 28, 2010

PC Magazine calls Alpha Five Version 10 'excellent'

Some things speak for themselves. After several months of testing and working with Alpha Five, PC Magazine reviewer Samara Lynn revealed her opinion of our product.

We were holding our breath. PC Magazine has a well-deserved reputation for having some of the most rigorous testing processes in the industry. And if they don't like something, they'll pan it.

This is something of a heritage for this publication, which can trace its roots back to the beginning of the personal computing industry.

Today we read everything online. But there was a time when PC Magazine was printed on dead trees. At the birth of the personal computing industry, PC Magazine was typically 400 or more pages. It would land on your desk with a loud thud, and you would stop what you were doing and read every last page.

For me that hasn't changed. I hit PC religiously. So to get four out of five stars from PC Magazine is both a personal rush, and a testament to Alpha Five's capability and ease of use. I encourage you to read the review and watch the slideshow -- especially if you're not an Alpha Five customer, and are exploring new options for your preferred development platform.

I want to thank you to Samara for her effort in producing the review. Samara didn't just give us a test drive and cough up a half-baked opinion. She put the product through its paces. And for that, we and PC Magazine's readers are better off.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Alpha Five Verison 10.5 Feature Peek #2: Customize SQL error messages

If your user is working in the Grid component against a SQL database, it will send back an error message if your user duplicates a record or makes some other mistake. You, as the developer, understand what the error message means, but your user might not. Simple, concise error messages will provide a better experience for your app.

Here's how you do that. Use the new OnSQLExecuteError in Alpha Five Version 10.5 to customize error messages that are returned by the database server. This allows you to intercept them and change them before they are presented to the user. You can also use language tags to internationalize your error messages. Now your users, no matter what language they speak, can clearly understand what went wrong.

Watch Selwyn demonstrate how simple it is in under three minutes. Then start customizing your messages.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hi everyone, I'm Dave Blazek, the cartoonist behind Tuesday's Tech Toon

I draw pictures. I use a sharpened stick ... with rubber on one end. I use this stuff called paper. So what am I doing here?

Hi, I'm Dave Blazek. I'm a cartoonist. And you're going to be seeing some of my stuff starting next week, and then the first Tuesday of every month right here. We call it Tuesday's Tech Toon. The good people at Alpha Software must have lost a bet or something.

I've done this before. My cartoon, Loose Parts, is syndicated all around America and for some reason, in Malaysia. The National Cartoonist Society just nominated it for best panel cartoon in the country. They also must have lost a bet.

And my other cartoon, Biz, runs every Sunday in The Philadelphia Inquirer. I don't think they lost a bet. Rather, I suspect it's some sort of charity-related prison work release thing they haven't told me about yet.

I have four books in publication, two cats under my piano, and cartoons used here and there in publications and websites. And I suspect, one or two highly-regretted tattoos.

And I start a lot of sentences with "and."

So what am I doing here? What I always do. I poke around. Look in the cupboards. Grab a little of this and a little of that, throw it in a big cartoon pot, and hope that what comes out is deliciously amusing and fat free.

Because I'm more than a cartoonist. I'm a tech user, too. I have several file drawers filled with cables and adapters whose uses I've long ago forgotten. I've built websites and worked with clients. I own everything from an iPad to a computer I believe is made out of wood and runs on static electricity. Oh, and I'm in awe of what you do.

So I'm going to follow you. Watch a little. Then throw everything into a comic atom smasher (hopefully one that works better than that pasta/anti-pasta collider I built) and see what cartoons come out.

I'm here to observe, but to learn, too. So if you see something you'd like prodded with a stick, let me know. If you'd like to prod me with a stick, let me know, too. Though there's quite a line and paperwork to fill out for you to do that.

But here's something you should do. Bookmark the Tuesday's Tech Toon tag to get a load of my cartoons, or come back the first Tuesday of every month for a good chuckle. See you next week!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Alpha Five Version 10.5 Feature Peek #1: Formatting international currency symbols

I'm talking money, honey. As more developers build Web applications for global use, we continuously expand support for internationalization. Now in Alpha Five Version 10.5, you can easily format currency symbols for every country in the world in your applications for the cloud.

Previously, you could only use non-Unicode symbols, such as the dollar sign. That wasn't helping our friends out in Nigeria who couldn't use the symbol for the naira in their applications. This really happened. They told us the problem, and instead of just adding the naira symbol, we added all 130 currency symbols.

The first video demonstrates both server-side and client-side formatting of the currency data. The second video shows you how to print reports with international currency symbols. Godere!

Formatting international currency data

Printing reports with international currency symbols

Friday, May 21, 2010

Get moving! Sale on Alpha Five videos ends today

You're busy, I know. You can't make every webinar we offer on Alpha Five. So I wanted to give you another way to get the tools, tips, and support we present in them.

We sent Alpha Five expert Jim Dusoe into a fancy studio to re-record his popular webinars for better sound and picture quality. After a little editing, we now have "Alpha Five and Fusion Charts" and "SQL Server and Alpha Five on the web" available to you as video downloads.

There's some good news and bad news that comes with this. First, the good: They're on sale! The bad: The sale ends TODAY. Sorry for the late notice, but I've been busy too!

Here's what you get. "Alpha Five and Fusion Charts" is a 30-minute video that shows you how to add amazing controls and dazzling displays to your Alpha Five Web and desktop applications. We took $10 off the price and you can get it today for $39.

"SQL Server and Alpha Five" is a 70-minute video that teaches you how to choose the right version of SQL Server, install it, create SQL Server tables, use stored procedures and triggers, and more. We're offering it today for $59, $10 less than our usual price.

And if you want both, we packaged them together for $89, a $20 savings. So now's your chance. Buy yourself a treat just in time for the weekend. :)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Coming soon: Alpha Five Version 10.5

We don't like standing still. Alpha Five Version 10 is still fresh from the oven, but we're about to give you Version 10.5 with some significant feature enhancements.

And as part of that we're taking feature peeks to the next rung on the ladder. When we debuted feature peeks with Alpha Five Version 9 back in February 2008, they became one of the most popular features of this blog. What other vendor gives you inside information long before features actually ship?

We started Version 10 feature peeks earlier than we did with Version 9 because we knew this was a popular element of the blog. We started so early that we were leaking peeks of features before they were fully baked.

The reason is two-fold. Again, we knew this was something you wanted more of based on the data we have about your reading behaviors. And second -- perhaps even more important -- we get great feedback from you about whether these features are relevant, necessary, how to polish them up, etc.

Well, guess what? As I said, Version 10.5 is in the oven. We're baking it at 350 degrees until it's golden brown on top, and we're hoping to have it come out piping hot really soon. Here are two important things you need to know about this upgrade.

Number one, if you buy Alpha Five Version 10 today, the upgrade to 10.5 is free. There's no reason to wait for the new release. Number two, we're going to start showing you what's new in 10.5 now. Who loves you, baby?

So, keep your eyes on the blog or bookmark the feature peeks tag. It could be as soon as today that I start to dribble out the Alpha Five Version 10.5 feature peeks. And there's A LOT to talk about.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

How to develop applications for the cloud in 15 minutes or less

I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but I suspect there are a few developers out there who haven't pried their fingers from their desktop-bound apps to build an application for Web or cloud computing.

Your customers want their apps in the cloud, and your customers' customers want them in the cloud. So you need to be able to build applications that run in the cloud. Now you can do that in 15 minutes or less with the Alpha Five Version 10 Reviewer's Guide. It's an easy, hands-on demonstration that shows you how to build applications for the cloud in just 15 minutes.

This was actually developed for the press. In order for non-technical journalists to review a technical product, we give them this guide to walk them through it. But then we slapped ourselves on the forehead, and said, "Why don't we share this with everybody else?" So here it is.

One missing piece that you'll need in addition to the Reviewer's Guide is a copy of Alpha Five Version 10. Download the free 30-day trial, and if you need more than 30 days to test drive it, send me an e-mail and we'll work something out. If you already have it -- get to work! When you're finished, you'll be building apps for the cloud so fast that you might need to lie down afterward.

Give it a whirl. And when your application is finished, write to me and let me know what you thought of the guide.

Friday, May 14, 2010

How to use an auto-suggest control instead of a dropdown control in the Grid

Here's time-saving tip number two for you this week. Feeling lucky? Maybe you should buy a lottery ticket on your way home from work tonight.

A popular feature of a dropdown control is that it lets you store an ID value, but display text. For example, in an order items table you store the product ID value, but display the product name. Selecting a product name instead of memorizing an ID value is much easier for the user.

Here's the drawback. The list of choices for the dropdown control has to be loaded when the Grid is loaded. If the list is big, the Grid will not load as fast as you would like. And if the Grid displays multiple rows, the problem gets worse because the list will be downloaded for each row in the Grid.

These two videos show you a technique where you can use an auto-suggest control in place of a dropdown control to achieve the same benefit for the user without any performance degradation. That is, decode the stored value with a human-readable display value.

The auto-suggest control lets the Grid load faster, since the list of choices does not have to be loaded up front. Then when a list of choices is presented to the user, it is pre-filtered based on the characters the user has started to type in the field. Watch the videos and see how Selwyn pulls it off.

Part one

Part two

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Meet our netbook contest winner

When Cynthia heard she was the winner of our netbook contest, she couldn't believe it. And I don't think she believed me until the MSI Wind landed on her doorstep. But when it did, she took out her camera, invited some special guests over, and un-boxed her prize.

Thanks for sharing this exciting moment with us Cynthia! I know you'll love the netbook. So without further ado, here is Cynthia's video.

Congrats again, Cynthia! To see her winning submission, take a look at the comments. It's the 15th one from the top.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

InfoWorld ranks Alpha Five #1 among rapid Web development tools

SURVIVOR: InfoWorld ranks Alpha Five #1 rapid Web development tool
The number 8.4 never looked as good as it does today. That's the score InfoWorld gave Alpha Five Version 10 in a comparative review to rank us #1!

In "InfoWorld review: Tools for rapid Web development," Rick Grehan reviews and scores Alpha Five Version 10, Iron Speed Designer 6.2.1, Visual LANSA for the Web 11.5, OutSystem Agile Platform 5.0, and MLstate OPA S2 Beta. On a scale of one to 10, Grehan looked at ease of development, extensibility, portability, documentation, and value.

After thorough, detailed testing, Rick's conclusion was that Alpha Five came out on top. There is only one way I can describe how I felt reading the review. I have to put it in the context of being a dog owner. It kind of felt like my dog won best in show. :-)

Even though Alpha Five scored best in Rick's review, that doesn't take away from the competition. We were up against some exceedingly sophisticated, tough development platforms with many users and apps in the field. They're formidable competitors in the marketplace that we always have to stay several steps ahead of. Clearly, based on this review, we're doing just that.

Of course, we didn't score a perfect 10. So we can't say it was all roses and sunshine for Alpha Five. But Rick's bottom line is this: "Alpha Five is an excellent database application builder that can create desktop as well as Web applications ... "

Just as this article hit the Web, we started to receive e-mails from readers. One observation that Rick didn't point out, but one of his readers does, was this:
"More precisely, Iron Speed builds CRUD (create, read, update, and delete) interfaces for databases. It won't create your application's "business logic" -- that is, code beyond the fundamental CRUD operations. Alpha Software BUILDS real business logic applications!!"
That's a great point that we often don't talk about. Alpha Five is a complete application development environment. Some of these other tools in the market just help kick-start your project, but then leave the rest of the building to be done the old fashioned way -- line by line of code.

Another thing that the article mentions, but doesn't really highlight, is the differences in the costs of these programs. We did the research. We're not only the best product according to InfoWorld, but we also have the best pricing for developers. Take a look at this comparative grid:

  • Alpha Five: $699.
  • Iron Speed: $2,795.
  • OutSystem Agile Platform: $49 per user of an application per month. Equals to $6,000 a year for 10 or $60,000 a year for 100 users.
  • Visual LANSA: Not posted on their web site, but we were given a quote by the company which stated "about $15,000 for first deployment server, and $5,000 for every additional server. "

One other tool we have on this front, if you haven't seen it, is our comparison product grid. Take a look at it. Alright, I'll stop thumping my chest here and sew my buttons my back on. It's time to read Rick Grehan's review for yourself.

How to use JavaScript to create a "duplicate record" button in Alpha Five

Here's a cool tip that will make life a little easier and more productive for your users.

It's not uncommon for users to have to manually copy and paste a record to populate a new record. But what if you could give them a button that does this automatically? That's exactly what we're going to show you today.

The secret is to make use of Alpha Five's open extensibility by coding a little JavaScript. In these two videos, my brother Selwyn will show you how to create the duplicate record button. And you can simply reuse his code to do it yourself.

Do you have a cool JavaScript tip that works great with Alpha Five? Let me know.

Part one

Part two

Thursday, May 06, 2010

A dog of a birthday!

Two of my favorite people -- er, I mean pups -- celebrated their third birthday this week. I've told you about my adorable canine cousins in South Africa, Luigi and Francesca, before. They're growing up so fast. They didn't party too hard to celebrate. Here they are taking it easy as they grow older.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Why Microsoft Access 2010 is not a good bet for Web developers

I've had the song "I'm a believer" by The Monkees stuck in my head since I received a long e-mail from Martin McSweeney saying that he is a true believer in Alpha Five. You remember Martin. He's the author of our "A developer's thoughts on Microsoft Access 2010" series, and the Head of Development at

Since posting his initial thoughts, Martin has continued to master Alpha Five. This time around, instead of me just posting an e-mail I got from Martin, he offered to produce a genuine guest post for our blog. In Martin's view, and as the headline of this post explains, MS Access is fundamentally a bad decision for contemporary database developers who earn their living by providing Web database solutions for clients or their company.

Martin thought long and hard about this decision because he built his business on Access. But he doesn't feel he can sustain that business on that platform any longer, due to the recent decisions Microsoft has made about the future of Access.

Conversely, he sees a bright future for his business on Alpha Five, and is converting major applications, originally built in Access, to Alpha Five. Martin doesn't see any justification for continuing to use MSFT Access in this fast-changing world of development (big surprise -- I agree with him).

And so here is his manifesto. If you're an Access developer, I strongly encourage you to read Martin's post below. I'm convinced it will make you think long and hard before you upgrade to Microsoft Access 2010 and consider Alpha Five as an effective escape route. It could lead to a much brighter future for you, your applications, clients, and company.

One final note before I give this over to Martin. We haven't touched this. So don't flame me if there's a typo. :)

As a longstanding Access Developer since the good old days of Access 2.0 nobody could argue that I have been anything but loyal to a product that has enabled me to become the developer I have. Over the years, Microsoft have been criticized for their dominance of the market and my view was, that I had no problem with that as their share of the Office type application suite brought some uniformity to the development community.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Computer Takeaway calls Alpha Five "a perfect choice"

COMPUTER TAKEAWAY: Alpha Five is a perfect choice
The Alpha Five Version 10 reviews continue to roll in. The latest is from Computer Takeaway, an independent review site in the United Kingdom. If you don't have time to read the full write-up, here's the biggest highlight -- at least for me. :)

The editors said, "If you want to create a web application, but don't have extensive programming skills, Alpha 5 in our opinion seems to be a perfect choice anyone from beginner upwards that wants to develop their own database applications easily with the minimum of learning, whilst still maintaining the customisation available through custom programming."

Thanks fellas! If you have a few minutes, read the other things they had to say.

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