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Friday, August 27, 2010

Alpha Five feature pack of the week: Up with uploads!

I've already told you about the Image Upload feature pack that lets you upload an image to the server for it to be displayed in an Image Field in the Grid. But if you need to upload more than just images -- such as PDFs, Excel files, Word docs, etc. -- the File Upload feature pack is what you want.

To sum it up, the File Upload feature pack makes it easy for developers to add file upload functions to their applications in addition to letting end users upload files into their databases. It automatically hyperlinks those resources so they can be shared with other users.

Thinking about how uploaded files are being used by an application and its users is what sets the File Upload feature pack apart from the way other dev tools, as I understand it, typically address this problem.

From talking to developers, both of Alpha Five and of competing platforms, it became clear to us that developers were continually cobbling together their own solutions for integrating upload functions into their applications and facilitating collaboration between themselves and clients.

Sure, other dev tools provide you with the ability to send and receive files, but you have to build your own program logic to share a hyperlink with the user, do the error handling for file names and storage, and all the other things you would think were routine.

Well we've baked all of that and more into this feature pack. Now developers can define a button that will upload a file to the server and store the filename of the uploaded file in a field in the current Grid record, called a linked file. You can also define another button that will upload a file to the server and store the binary contents of the file in a BLOB field in the current Grid record, called an embedded file.

Many developers who have seen early beta test versions of the File Upload feature pack have told us that it's unique -- something that no other development tool has. We won't be as bold to make that claim because we have no way of proving or disproving that. But we can tell you that the response to this feature pack has been overwhelmingly effervescent.

Watch this video to get a brief overview. Then head over to our release notes where there are more videos that dive into the nitty-gritty details about the File Upload feature pack's capabilities.

So you tell me, is this unique? Have you seen this in any other development tool? Let me know. And keep your eye on the blog. In one of my next posts, I'll share a video from Alpha developer Bob Moore that demonstrates uploading numerous PDF files to a memo field. Then he'll show you how this was done before the File Upload feature pack was available.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

New Alpha Five feature packs now available

Earlier this month I couldn't resist telling you about the Alpha Five Version 10.5 Image Upload feature pack before it was available. Now you can finally buy it for $129. If you need a refresher on what the feature pack does, head back to my previous post or read our release notes.

But I'm not done yet. I'll be introducing you to two more feature packs -- File Upload and File and Image Download -- in the coming days.

There is an increasing need to include photo and file management in Web applications, such as those built for medical records, project management, case management, inventory control, etc.

Before these feature packs, developers had to either hand code the uploading of files or use a third-party tool to handle the process. It was always a two-step and unrelated process.

These new feature packs do the coding for the developer, thus turning a two-step process into one and getting Web apps built faster. So bookmark our feature packs tag and come back when I dive into Alpha Software's two newest feature packs.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

New white paper shows Microsoft Access developers how to migrate desktop applications to the Web with Alpha Five

It's no secret that some Microsoft Access developers are disappointed with the options they're given to deploy an application to the cloud in Microsoft Access 2010. I've written a few blog posts on it and we even jumped deeper into developers' options in the white paper, "Web-enabling Microsoft Access: A cost/benefit analysis for developers considering Access 2010."

Now we've taken it one step further. For Microsoft Access developers who want to get their desktop applications on the Web, download Alpha Software's newest white paper, "Alpha Five Web Applications for Access Developers."

This 57-page, hands-on tutorial shows Access developers how to move a MSFT Access desktop application to the Web with Alpha Five Version 10 or later. It's penned by Dr. Martin Heller, Alpha Software's VP of Education and Technology. He demonstrates how easy it is to do by walking you through the process step by step.

For the Access developers still on the fence about migrating your Access desktop application to the Web with Alpha Five, still give the white paper a read. You don't have to follow along on your computer, but I believe it will be a valuable resource to hold on to for when you're ready to make the switch.

Alpha Five Version 10.5 feature peek #8: Writing custom JavaScript functions for client-side expressions

Are you ready to unleash the full power of Javascript in client-side expressions? I hope so! When you're in the Grid component, you're able to insert a function in the client-side expression field. But these are pseudo functions, meaning that Alpha Five has predefined builders for them to convert into Javascript.

Now you can write your own custom Javascript functions and use them in client-side expressions, such as calculation fields, show/hide expressions, enable expressions, conditional images, and conditional style calculations. Hit the video for Selwyn's example of a custom Javascript function that is defined to compute the number of minutes between two date and time values in the client-side calculation field.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Watch three videos to relieve Microsoft Access headaches

A few weeks ago I posted a podcast with Dr. Chris O'Brien on how he successfully migrated from Microsoft Access to Alpha Five to build a Web app. In the post, I told you that I would ask the doc for his permission to post videos demoing his app, NexusShare.

Dr. O'Brien was more than happy to oblige. He let me post the following videos he created for the Regional Center leadership teams and related IT departments. Give them a gander to see what he was able to create when he made the switch from Access to Alpha Five.

Part one

Part two

Part three

Friday, August 13, 2010

Clifton and I are 'Walking on Sunshine' in August

It's August. It's hot and humid. I need the beach. Not only do I need it, but Clifton does too. He loves running in the sand and then crashing full force into the waves. And when he bounces out of the water to dry off, everybody around him gets sprayed with the Atlantic Ocean as he shakes his body. So when a friend of mine sent me this video it made me laugh out loud and think of my pup. Click play, it'll bring a smile to your face, especially if you're a dog owner.

However, I was disappointed that Clifton wasn't able to try out for any of the parts in this video. I know he would of WOWED the producers if given the chance. ;-) But that gives me another reason to go back to the beach before the summer ends to take a video of him frolicking along the coastline. Stay tuned for that one.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Part two on how to filter the Grid by user login in Alpha Five

A few weeks ago, Alpha developer Jerry Brightbill showed you "How to filter the Grid by user login in Alpha Five." In it, he introduced the concept of the "ulink" field in Web security. Because the security system is isolated from the rest of the application, it is useful to link a security record to data in another table in the application.

A few users had questions about this, so Jerry was kind enough to write a follow-up post. Below he gives you more information on what kinds of tables can be linked to security by "ulink," and how to get additional user information with it.

The purpose of the article was not to suggest a specific application design, but to introduce the mechanism of linking a single security record with a record in some external table with "ulink" and using data from that external table in a filter. The filtering data could be the data used to link the records, or it could be derived data. The examples were from the Application Server Demo that ships with Alpha Five.

The "ulink" field is explained in the Security Setting genie as:

User records may also exist in tables outside of the security system. This option will enable a special field named "ulink." The value entered in the "ulink" field can identify a related user record in the external table.

A "user related record" could be any record in a table in the application that can be associated with the security record. If a value from an external table is placed in the security "ulink" field, that value can be used to identify the record in the other table or find additional data from that record. Like any linking operation, the value used to link the records should be unique and persistent. Often that is some record identifier value.

The article used a simple example from the Application Server Demo where the Web security record was linked to a record in a "customer" table by placing the unique identifier "customer_id" from the customer table into the "ulink" field. In the demo example, the desire was to filter invoices based on the customer identifier so a logged-in user could only see their invoices. When a person logged in, the session variable defined for "ulink" had their customer identifier, which could then be used directly in a filter.

The example was a direct method to use the value in the "ulink" field. It assumes that the identifier value placed in the field is all that is needed for filtering data. It could be an identifier from a customer table, and employee table, a general user table, or even a company table. For example, an application might only need to filter data based on a user's company.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Introducing Alphapedia: The first wiki-based, context-sensitive help system

Back in February when we welcomed Martin Heller to Alpha Software, we mentioned that he would be working on the development of the Alpha Software wiki, Alphapedia. Guess what? He did it! And we think the tool he designed will be very useful.

When you're working in Alpha Five on your desktop, laptop, or netbook, just select the relevant text or component you have a question about, and press F1. You'll be sent to the Alphapedia entry online where you can find the answers you're looking for. And if you're an expert user, you can actually log in and edit or expand the information contained in any entry.

We distributed a press release today announcing that Alphapedia is open for business. I hope this new functionality will be helpful! Read on for all the details.

Alpha Software Unveils First Wiki-Based, Context-Sensitive Help System

Company replaces Alpha Five's traditional Windows help system with wiki

BURLINGTON, Mass. -- (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Today Alpha Software announced that its Alpha Five Version 10.5 development platform is the first application to integrate a desktop help system with a context-sensitive wiki. The system, dubbed Alphapedia, is now Alpha Software's central resource for all Alpha Five documentation. Alphapedia is continuously updated by Alpha Software staff and independent developers, ensuring users get the most current and helpful support information available.

Getting help from the Alphapedia wiki couldn't be easier. When a user is working in Alpha Five on their desktop, laptop, or netbook they simply select the relevant text or component that they have a question about, and press F1. But instead of the old Windows help system firing up on their desktop, they are whisked to the precise Alphapedia entry online and get the information they need. Better still, if they are an expert user, they can log in to Alphapedia and edit or expand the information contained in any entry.

"Bringing a cloud-based wiki together with a desktop help system is a true industry milestone, and we're proud to be the organization that brought this innovation to the market," says Richard Rabins, Co-Chairman of Alpha Software. "We were the first company to ship Codeless Ajax, which lets people develop high-performance, interactive Ajax database applications without any programming. We were the first to ship portable SQL, which lets developers code once and database anywhere. And now we're the first to recognize the power and importance of wikis as a support mechanism, and to integrate that with a desktop application's help system. I'm sure many other companies will follow this model. And I hope they do, because wikis have obvious benefits for improving help systems and helping users."

Alpha Five developers everywhere are welcomed to sign in to the Alphapedia wiki and share their domain expertise with their fellow Alpha developers worldwide. A free 30-day trial of Alpha Five Version 10.5 with Codeless Ajax can be downloaded at Alpha Software's website. The Alpha Software help wiki is located at


Since 1982, Alpha Software has been providing developers with award-winning tools that make it easy to build business applications. Today over 1 million developers and tens of millions of users rely on Alpha Software's Alpha Five. The company is privately held, and based in Burlington, Mass. Alpha Software can be found on the Web at The company's blog is located at

Review copies, reviewer’s guide, and training available to press and bloggers.
Press kit @

for Alpha Software
Alicia Buonanno, 610-228-2096


Monday, August 09, 2010

Microsoft Access headaches: Take one transcript and call me in the morning

Still struggling with Microsoft Access headaches? Well here's another way to get your Alpha Five prescription. You can now read the transcript of Melissa's podcast with Dr. Chris O'Brien. He's the doctor, not a full-time professional developer, who successfully migrated from Microsoft Access to Alpha Five to build an application for the cloud. You can still listen to the podcast if you missed it, or print the transcript and read it at your own leisure.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Only a few seats left! Sign up for the Alpha Five Version 10.5 training course in London

The Alpha Five Version 10.5 live, hands-on training course in London is almost sold out! So if you were thinking about attending, now is the time to sign up. Plus, you'll save $200 and $300 if you register today.

As I mentioned to you before in June, "Alpha University" is an in-depth training course that will teach you how to build modern Ajax-enabled Web database applications rapidly with Alpha Five Version 10.5.

The three-part course will accelerate your Alpha Five learning curve for building apps for the cloud that look and perform like desktop applications. And it will leave you one step closer to becoming an Alpha Certified Developer.

The course will be taught by Steve Workings and Jay Talbott, both well-respected and experienced Alpha Five developers, at the Hilton London Heathrow hotel from September 13 to 17. But I'll stop telling you what you've already heard. Instead, flip back to my previous post to get all the details on the course.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Alpha Five feature pack of the week: Image Upload

Think fast! You probably thought I was serious when I said we were done with our Alpha Five Version 10.5 feature packs. Well I fooled you then! We're back with a brand new feature pack that will be released this month -- the Image Upload.

In true Alpha Software style, I'll give you a sneak peek at it before it goes on sale. The Image Upload feature pack lets you upload an image to the server for it to be displayed in an Image Field in the Grid. The image that is uploaded can either be directly embedded into a record in the table that the Grid is based on, or it can be saved in a file that is referenced by the Image Field. Watch the videos below to see all the hours of programming melt away when you install it.

Part one

Part two

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Tuesday's Tech Toon

Comparing FileMaker Pro's Web capabilities to Alpha Five

CORRECTION: Apparently I'm the one who hasn't been getting enough sleep. I neglected to give Jeff Cogswell credit for this brief. He put it together with the support of Dr. Martin Heller. My apologies for the confusion, I've updated the post below.

I suspect that Dr. Martin Heller hasn't been getting much sleep lately. Over the past couple of weeks, he was busy putting together his latest tutorial on how to register Web users, which he shared with you last week.

No sooner had he finished that then he got to work on a marketing brief with Jeff Cogswell comparing FileMaker Pro's Web capabilities to Alpha Five, which we're posting today.

In "FileMaker Pro vs Alpha: A Clear Decision," Dr. Heller they look at the two options FileMaker Pro gives its users when they want to deploy an app to the cloud -- Instant Web Publishing or Custom Web Publishing. The brief also weighs FileMaker Pro's customization capabilities, time and resources it takes to build a Web app, costs, and more to Alpha Five.

I won't tell you what they found in this post. Instead, you'll have to read the marketing brief to see how FileMaker Pro stacks up against Alpha Five when building Web apps.

But I will leave you with this. If you're a FileMaker Pro developer looking to customize your Web apps without having to write code, I think you'll find this brief to be very useful.

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