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, October 29, 2010

Import Genie: Alpha Five Version 10.5 feature pack of the week

We let the genie out of the bottle and put it in our Alpha Five Version 10.5 feature pack of the week. The Import Genie feature pack lets you upload data from an Excel file or a comma delimited ASCII file from the end user's computer. It then imports that data into the current Grid or another external table.

Instead of manually entering information one row at a time, this feature pack enables you to load a large amount of data at once. You can also create a server-side event to do data validation. So after you've uploaded the file to the server, you can validate the data and then import it into the target table.

Watch the videos to see how easy it is to add this new feature pack, server-side data validation, and more.

Part one

Part two

Part three

It might be fall but spring has sprung in South Africa

Even though there's a chill in the air and the leaves are turning in New England, it makes me think of spring in my hometown of Johannesburg, South Africa. So I thought I'd take a breather from my regular tech post today to share with you some gorgeous photos my cousin Claudia took around her home in Johannesburg.

Since South Africa is on the other side of the world, it's springtime there and the Jacaranda trees and Bougainvillea plants are in bloom. They're carpeting the streets and sidewalks with vibrant purple pedals. Claudia assures me that these photos don't capture the real richness of the purple, but they're still striking.

So if want to bring your head up from the keyboard for a few minutes, take a gander at these pics.

Monday, October 25, 2010

How to export checked records to Excel

Halloween is still a few days off, but I have something to share with you today that's a trick AND a treat. There's a special feature you get when you put both the Export to Excel and Action Buttons feature packs to use in the Grid.

With them, you're able to let your end user check any record, even on multiple pages. Then the user can export those checked records to Excel. This is helpful when the user doesn't want to export all of the records, but can't define a search criteria to select the records they want.

Watch the video to learn how to write a custom export to Excel action button that only exports the records the end user checks.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

New venue and special pricing announced for Boston Alpha University

Last week I told you that we found a location for the November Boston Alpha University training courses. Due to the popular demand for these courses, we're moving to a bigger location.

Classes will now be taking place at the DoubleTree Hotel in Boston's Theater District. And better yet, if you SIGN UP before Oct. 22 (that's tomorrow!) you'll get a wicked good price.

So don't wait any longer if you want to register for:

Advanced Alpha Five Web Applications with JavaScript and jQuery: Originally $1999. Now $1199.
Advanced Alpha Five Desktop Applications: Originally $1999. Now $1199.
Learn Xbasic: Originally $499. Now $349.

Classes will still run from 9 a.m to 5 p.m. each day and include morning and afternoon coffee breaks with a hot buffet lunch. But head over to the website right now to get details on hotels and travel information. Or jump back to my previous post to get more information on the courses.

A 12-step program for Microsoft Access developers

Hello, my name is Richard and I am addicted to helping Microsoft Access developers get their applications off the desktop and onto the Web with Alpha Five Version 10.5. This addiction has led me to create a 12-step program for MS Access developers to follow. If you're an Access developer looking to take control of your applications, follow the steps below and your apps will see a better life on the Web.

The 12 Steps of Access Anonymous

Step 1. Admit you are powerless over Access. Your database applications have become unmanageable.

Step 2. Believe in Alpha Five Version 10.5, a Web database development platform that is greater than Access. It can restore your sanity and get your application onto the Web.

Step 3. Make the decision to download a free 30-day trial version of Alpha Five Version 10.5.

Step 4. Conduct a searching and fearless moral inventory of your recommendations to clients where you insisted they should stay on the desktop because you couldn't get your code to the Web.

Step 5. Admit to yourself and others that Access will never let you take your database application to the Web quickly or at a reasonable price.

Step 6. Acknowledge you are ready to read and watch tutorials to learn step-by-step how to bring your applications off the desktop.

Step 7. Ask Alpha Five developers for support on the message boards and they will assist within hours. Take peace in knowing that if you discover bugs in software, Alpha Five will fix them in days. You don't have to wait until a new version is released.

Step 8. Create a list of all the desktop applications you have harmed with Access and become willing to make amends to them all.

Step 9. Make amends to your apps and your clients by porting their apps to the cloud with Alpha Five.

Step 10. Continue to learn the benefits of Alpha Five and discover new ways to learn all of its benefits.

Step 11. Seek continued support on the Alpha Software blog.

Step 12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, carry this message to Access developers everywhere and practice these principles in all your applications.

OK, the above is tongue-in-cheek and having a little fun with a serious issue. We certainly don't mean to poke fun at Alcoholics Anonymous. It's an outstanding organization that developed the original 12 Step program, which has been proven to help people break their alcohol addiction. If you are struggling with an addiction issue, we encourage you visit the Alcoholics Anonymous website and join a local chapter.

And if you're struggling with an Access addiction issue, well your 12 steps are here. Print 'em out. Cut 'em out. Paste them on your wall.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Alpha Five Version 10.5 feature pack of the week: Action Buttons

Ka-pow! Boom! Wham! No, you're not reading a Batman comic, you're reading an Alpha Software blog post. But those same sounds you probably know and love from your childhood are now erupting from the newest Alpha Five Version 10.5 feature pack: Action Buttons.

We've always offered the ability to put buttons in the Grid row, but the Action Buttons feature pack lets your Grid pack a bigger punch. With it, you can add action buttons in the Grid toolbar; detail view toolbar; any of the free-form areas that surround the Grid, detail view, or search part; master template; and inside the detail view layout.

The action buttons can execute any JavaScript code you define or by using Action Javascript. You can also format them to show text and icons or hyperlinks. To add even more oomph, animate the action buttons by defining special effects, including different images to use for the normal, hover, pressed, and disabled states.

Watch the videos to get a demo of everything I just told you above. If you want even more info, read the release notes.

Part one

Part two

Part three

Monday, October 18, 2010

We interrupt our normally scheduled technical post with an important canine announcement

Over the weekend, The Irish Times reported that Anny, a 4-year-old Irish setter in Germany, delivered 18 puppies! It's being called the "litter of the century."

I couldn't imagine what it's like for Anny's owners to wrangle 18 puppies day in and day out. Just Clifton can be a handful at times.

So far homes have been found for four of the pups. Maybe Clifton needs a little brother or sister to play with. ;)

The Irish Times article is a fun read on this Monday afternoon, so jump over to the full story. It'll certainly put a grin on any dog lover's face.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Alpha Five Version 10.5 feature peek #9: Pumping up the power of the checkbox

Pity the meager checkbox. People click it. It gets a check. The row is selected. Or it selects an option. Well we decided that the checkbox is deserving of a lot more muscle. So we're pumping it up. And that's exactly what we've done.

Now when you check a row, it's easy to make the text change color and enable buttons. There is also a new event in System Events called onGridRowCheck. It fires whenever the a box is checked or unchecked leaving a message at the top of the Grid.

In addition, if you check a bunch of rows, you can easily execute a filter on the server that selects only the rows that have been checked. Before you had to write a lot of code to accomplish this. But not anymore. The Grid has a new method called filterCheckedRows that does all the labor for you.

Watch part one of the video to see how to enable of all these new functions. When you're done, watch parts two and three to see more new functions, including how to use checkbox columns in your custom Ajax callbacks.

Part one

Part two

Part three

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Alpha University update: Boston location announced

We nailed down the location of our Boston Alpha University training courses this November. It will be held at the Hilton Garden Inn Burlington.

Classes run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day and include morning and afternoon coffee breaks, and a three-course buffet lunch. Also, the hotel provides a complimentary shuttle bus to and from Logan Airport.

There's still room to sign up for the Advanced Alpha Five Web Applications with JavaScript and jQuery class, Advanced Alpha Five Desktop Applications class, and the Learn Xbasic class. Hop back to my last post to get all the details and to find out how to register.

Alpha Software gets you loaded

With uploads and downloads, that is! Today we officially introduced the new File Upload, Image Upload, and File and Image Download feature packs for Alpha Five Version 10.5. Below is the press release we issued with the full story. Read on to get the scoop.

Or Maybe We Should Ask, How Many Developers Does It Take to Write the Code That Lets You Download the E-Mail with a Click?

BURLINGTON, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Some of the simplest things in life hide great complexity. Think of the click that downloads an e-mail. Or the simple swipe gesture you use to unlock your iPhone. Or even the remote keyless entry device that’s probably on your key ring right now. How much engineering is required to bring these simple conveniences to you?

Let’s look at your remote keyless entry device as an example. First, a battery-powered, wireless radio transmitter on a circuit board is activated when you push the button. Two codes generated by a chip inside the device are sent to a radio receiver in your car. One code sends instructions for the car’s doors to unlock. The other must match the receiver’s code. Once a match is made, an electrical charge energizes all manner of machinery to pop open the doors and generate that satisfying beep. And that’s just the algorithm. Let’s not forget the electronic and mechanical engineering that was required to take this process from concept to concrete product.

That’s just one example of the simplicity we take for granted. Here’s another: uploads and downloads. Behind each click for an upload or download is a developer who devised a complex system of data transfer, validation, storage, error detection and correction, and visualization that must be coded, tested, debugged, and deployed. At least, that’s how it used to be. Starting today, Alpha Software has made integrating file upload, image upload, and file and image download easy for developers to bake into their applications. Frankly, it’s as easy as remotely opening your car door with the push of a button. It’s all tucked away in three new Alpha Five Version 10.5 feature packs:

  • File Upload for Action JavaScript lets developers add file upload functions to 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.

  • Image Upload for Action JavaScript allows developers to upload an image to the server for it to be displayed in an image field in the Grid. The image can then be either 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.

“In today’s business environment, users have come to expect this type integration, and now developers can deliver it in less time with less complexity,” says Richard Rabins, Co-Chairman of Alpha Software. “Developers no longer have to cobble together their own solutions time and again for every application they build. And novice developers who once shied away from including upload and download functions because of the extensive coding, can now incorporate them thanks to these feature packs.”

For more information on Alpha Five Version 10.5 and its new feature packs, visit the Alpha Software blog, website, or contact


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

Friday, October 08, 2010

Alpha Five feature pack of the week is Reports: Table of Contents, Bookmarks, and Index

Whether you're building a Web or desktop app, you now have the ability to add a table of contents, bookmarks, and an index to your reports with the new Reports: Table of Contents, Bookmarks, and Index feature pack. Better yet, when you create these sections, the entries are live, even after you print the report to a PDF file. Click on one and you're whisked away to the correct page in the report.

As for layout, you can completely customize the table of contents and index sections. And you can also  customize the entries of those sections and the bookmarks. This feature pack makes it a breeze to create reports that can be easily navigated. Watch the two videos to see how much functionality this new pack provides.

Part one

Part two

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Alpha Five bookworms: Find your comfy reading chair!

Everybody has that special nook in their home where they settle in with a good book. You grab a drink, put your slippers on, and maybe even get in your PJs. You twist on the reading lamp that has the perfect lighting, sit back, and crack open your book.

For some of us, that good book might be Mark Twain's new autobiography. It's been held in a vault for the last 100 years, according to instructions left in the late author's will. But the heck with Mark Twain! He pales in comparison to Susan Bush. She doesn't waste time writing about life on the Mississippi River. No, Susan deals with stuff that really matters, such as how to build a function call in Alpha Five.

Susan has been a partner of Alpha Software for many years. She's been producing easy-to-follow tutorial guides for our novice and professional developers since Alpha Five Version 4.5. Her latest "Alpha Five Made Easy" guide covers Alpha Five Version 10.

With its release, I asked her to join us in a guest post to tell us how she got started writing these guides and why she does it. Better yet, she's even agreed to share excerpts from her book and give some "how-to" tips. Keep your eyes peeled to the blog, you'll be seeing more of Susan in the coming weeks.

Why? The question I get is, "Why, in the name of heaven, would any sane person write a book with 500 pages of step 1, step 2, step 3?" Sometimes, it makes me wonder, too. And to think there are now two books per software update -- one for the desktop and another for the Web -- I am constantly on the lookout for the men in white coats.

Way back in the day, software came with free step-by-step instructions. Desktop computers were so new to most of us and it was the only way to interest new users. My first computer, an IBM XT purchased in 1985 came with a blue, hard-cover, three-ring binder that came inside a hard slipcover with the IBM logo.

Once read, I placed it proudly on my bookshelf, with the assumption that it would be my go-to manual forever! Things just didn't change very quickly back then. How quickly that would change!

At the same time I bought that XT, I purchased two software products that were very user-friendly for the day. In the land of DOS, where the more complicated WordStar and WordPerfect ruled, I found a simpler word processing program from Leading Edge called LEWP (Leading Edge Word Processing).

It allowed long file names and directories way before Windows came along. The same company distributed a Japanese database program called Nutshell. Both were easy for the business owner/non-programmer to learn and I credit them with my early affection for computers.

After a few years, Leading Edge discarded software in favor of hardware. By the end of the 1980's, I had learned that the world of computers was in constant motion -- a software product that was not updated regularly was doomed. My search for another user-friendly database led me to Alpha Four.

The development of Windows made learning easier. For a while, one could "figure out" how to use a program just by clicking buttons, but updates came fast and furious as developers realized the power of this new format. Production costs increased and manuals were quickly outdated, so most software companies discontinued them.

But, there was still a need for learning guides and my enthusiasm for Alpha Five led me to a desire to share what I had learned. My focus has always been on the "average user," often a small business owner like myself.

We recognize how essential a custom database is to success, and true to our entrepreneurial spirit, we are basically do-it-yourselfers. However, since time is of the essence, most of us want to get the job done without the additional burden of learning programming.

Over the years, Selwyn and his crew have responded to advanced developers by making Alpha Five incredibly robust. But, they have never waivered from seeking ways for non-programmers to accomplish their goals, too. As I so often say in my books, "You can take applications even further with Xbasic, but it is amazing what can be done without it!"

So to get you started, I'm going to share installments of my latest books here on the blog. I will alternate between the desktop and Web editions. You can download your first installment of "Alpha Five Made Easy, The Basics and More for Version 10" for free! It includes the Introduction, Table of Contents, Chapter 1, and Databases and Tables. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Put your learning cap on: Registration opens for three new Alpha University courses

This post has been updated here.

It's time to ship up to Boston for three new Alpha University courses in application development this November. If you're looking to put some more pizazz into your desktop applications or Web apps, we've got what you need.

The "Advanced Alpha Five Web Applications with JavaScript and jQuery" and "Advanced Alpha Five Desktop Applications" courses both run from Tuesday, Nov. 9 to Thursday, Nov. 11. So choose wisely as to which course you would get more out of.

The exact location of the courses is still TBD, but they will be held in the Greater Boston area. I will post an update with the location as soon as we nail it down.

The Web apps class will be taught by Jeff Cogswell, a well-respected developer who has covered application development for publications such as eWeek. He will cover these four areas: Getting up to speed with JavaScript, Alpha Five's JavaScript model, jQuery and jQueryUI, and jQueryUI and Alpha components.

The desktop apps class will be taught by veteran instructors Steve Workings and Jay Talbott. It will cover topics such as Thinking About Your Data Source, Building Forms that Do More, Xbasic, Deployment and Support, and Using Web App Tools on the Desktop.

Since these are advanced courses, some prerequisites are required. Jump over to the website to see what they are before you register.

The third course we're offering runs one day on Monday, Nov. 8, and has no prerequisites. "Learn Xbasic" will teach you the ins and outs of Xbasic programming, Alpha Five's programming language that can be used for both desktop and Web applications. It will be taught by Jay Talbott and my brother, Selwyn Rabins.

With these courses starting in just a little over a month, head over to the website for more details or to register. Spots do fill up quickly, so don't waste anytime!

Monday, October 04, 2010

How to take the Alphapedia with you

Late in the summer, I introduced you to Alphapedia, our wiki-based, context-sensitive help system. Following that post, we got a few comments from developers saying, "Great idea, but here's the problem. What happens when I'm not connected to the Web?"

Great point. We heard you. Dr. Martin Heller put together step-by-step instructions on how to download Alphapedia to your local hard drive. Now you can take it with you or print it out as a PDF. Here's how to do it.

Step 1: Go to Alphapedia.

Step 2: Locate the "Print Pages" box on the right-hand side of the page (about halfway down).

Step 3: Click the "Download or print wiki pages" option within the box.

Step 4: Build your own collection of pages into an e-book. The existing "Structures" in Alphapedia make it painless to download or print sections such as "What's New in Version 10." And the "Find" box at the top of the page lets you filter page names.

Step 5: Once you've constructed your e-book, press "Print" under the "Selected Pages" list box. It will then stream the e-book as a single HTML page.

Step 6: Print the e-book. Or you can copy it from the browser into Microsoft Word and save it as a DOC, DOCX, PDF, or another supported format.

Simply follow these instructions if you need to save or print any part of Alphapedia. And if you hit any road bumps, let us know.

Friday, October 01, 2010

A spoonful of transcript will help the medicine go down

For those of you who have an e-reader or still prefer to read off of dead trees, you can download the transcript of Dr. Michael Scholin's podcast. Read how Mike's app, USMON Pro 2, takes advantage of the Alpha Five Version 10.5 feature packs, external integration with Web services support, and JavaScript add-ons, just like you saw in Bob Moore's video, and more.

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