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Friday, December 31, 2010

Have a doggone happy new year!

On behalf of everyone at Alpha Software, as well as my dog Clifton and his uncles, we wish you a happy and healthy new year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The most popular Alpha blog topics of 2010

It feels like only yesterday I sat down at my keyboard to reflect on 2009. Time really does fly when you're using Codeless Ajax. We have lots of new things coming to you in 2011, especially in the mobile arena (hint, hint). But I'm not going to dive into them just yet.

Instead, I'm going to take a step back. I compiled a roundup of our most popular topics on our blog based on the number of page views these articles received in 2010. Take a few minutes and thumb through the topics that created buzz on the blog.

Podcasts: This was a real surprise to me. I've heard some people say that podcasts are dead. Meanwhile, podcasts were one of the most popular topics on our blog in 2010. I think I know why. It's real developers sharing real stories of what it's like building Web apps in Alpha Five. Plus, we don't sugarcoat these interviews. We share the problems that the developers encountered, how they worked around them, as well as the advantages they found in the tool.

Feature tips: Everyone likes a helping hand, so we dished out as many helpful hints we could. We took tricks we learned from Alpha Five developers and ones we stumbled upon ourselves to help you speed up the developing process. By the way, you can contribute to our feature tips. If you have a neat trick that solves a problem, please share it with us. I'll make sure that your tip gets the chance to be featured on the blog. Developers helping developers -- that's what it's always been about.

Feature packs: Thirteen Alpha Five Version 10.5 feature packs debuted this year. One of the reasons we think they were so successful is because we wrote extensively about them. We wanted to show developers what they do, how they can help, and why they matter. Rather than just putting them on sale, it was important for us to give developers deep insight to help them decide which feature packs, if any, were right for them.

Press coverageThe media has no loyalty to Alpha Software. And as a result, they tell you exactly what they think when they review Alpha Five. I tell you all the time the benefits Alpha Five gives you. Then we work hard to get the product in front of reviewers who will confirm or invalidate the promises we make. I'm really gratified to say 2010 was a fantastic year for reviews. We received nothing but outstanding ratings from all of the reviewers, and you can read them all here on our blog.

Microsoft Access: Did you blink twice yet? This is the Alpha Software blog, but apparently you love reading about Microsoft Access. I think I know why. There's a move of foot among Access developers to see if there's a path for them to get their apps on the Web without the high cost and complexity of the current Microsoft model.

There's no question that Access developers aren't happy campers. And frankly, we are going to do all we can to help them migrate to Alpha Five. Part of that is making sure we have a rich array of blog posts that provide them with the support they need to understand how to get from Access to Alpha Five. Lots of man hours have been spent showing you how easy it is to migrate, and apparently you're finding it helpful. Is there something more you'd like to know? Let us know in a comment.

Comparison grid: Since August 2008, we've been maintaining a grid that compares Alpha Five, Microsoft Access, FileMaker, and Iron Speed. It was originally intended just as a tool to help developers who were trying to make a decision see how these products stack up. It's turned out to be an evergreen that developers turn to again and again.

That's my wrap up of 2010. Be sure to bookmark the topics you want to learn more about in the New Year. And I'll be telling you what to expect in 2011 in my next post.

Monday, December 27, 2010

New Web application framework will put you over the moon

When Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, it was a major accomplishment to say the least. But his accomplishment pails in comparison to Steve Wood's. Steve was the first person to build a complete Web application with Alpha Five Version 6 in 2005. (I'm exaggerating a bit, but come on, I was pretty excited when the first Alpha Five Web app launched.)

Unlike Neil, who never went to the moon again, Steve has built dozens of Web applications since. Steve also runs AlphaToGo, LLC, which builds custom apps and offers developers support. He even built the company's website on Alpha Five.

Steve's been able to build so many Web applications because he created a template that serves as the foundation for every Web application built with Alpha Five. The framework is a complete, ready-to-go environment for building an Alpha Five Web application with proper security, user management, content management, and preferences management.

The framework contains all the pages you would expect to find in a commercial website, such as login, about us, my account, etc. Steve used this framework for his own personal use for years, but one day slapped himself on the forehead. In his eureka moment, he realized that a lot of other developers would greatly benefit from this tool.

Steve never set out to sell his framework, but realized that it could save developers hundreds of programming hours and get sophisticated Web applications to market faster. So he packaged up his creation for Alpha Software into the AlphaToGo Web Application Framework SQL Edition and DBF Edition. Hit the video to get a quick, three-minute overview of the framework from Steve.

As you just saw, The AlphaToGo Web Application Framework can be up and running in five minutes. It's essentially an instant website that can be customized to your needs. Better yet, once it's live, you or your client can edit the content online.

If you're worried about learning a new tool, AlphaToGo has plenty of resources including free limited support. That covers installation, configuration, and publishing issues. There's also a video library to get you up to speed quickly and weekly instructional webinars.

So if you're ready to build Web applications in a fraction of the time of get more applications built in a shorter amount of time, you can save $474 on the Web Application Framework right now in the Alpha product store. Here's what's on sale now:

  • SQL Edition stores data in SQL tables for better performance, reliability, and scalability. Includes scripts to build database for MySQL and SQL Server.
    • Regular Price: $999 Your Price: $525

  • DBF Edition stores data in DBF tables making setup easy. No other database backend required.
    • Regular Price: $999 Your Price: $525

After you install the AlphaToGo Web Application Framework, give it a test try and tell us what you think in a comment on this post. Even better, send me a demo of the application you built and we can feature it on the blog.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

PC Utilities calls Alpha Five Version 10.5 a 'powerful database tool'

When our friends over in the U.K. saw the review of Alpha Five Version 10.5 in the latest issue of PC Utilities, they dropped a copy of it in the mail right away.

After giving it a gander, my smile stretched ear to ear. Unfortunately, the online version is only available to subscribers. So instead, I'll share with you what I think are the highlights of the article.

The editors of the magazine called Alpha Five Version 10.5 "a sophisticated tool" and a "powerful database tool" in their review. They also go on to say that "if you are an experienced code-jockey, its XBasic language allows you the flexibility needed to write in custom features."

Thanks editors for taking a look at Alpha Five and seeing that it doesn't compromise power to be an easy-to-use, yet affordable, developing tool. PC Utilities magazine has spent the last 10 years uncovering hidden software gems that save developers time and money, so I was thrilled to see that Alpha Five met that criteria. I've always considered us a hidden gem, but I guess we're not so hidden anymore -- and I'm OK with that!

If you want to take a look at the article, you can subscribe to the online version. Or you can scroll through a PDF version of the issue, although you might need a magnifying class to see the text. :)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Space is running out for online Alpha University courses -- register today!

If one of your New Year's resolutions is to get a better handle on Alpha Five, then our January Alpha University training courses will let you cross that off your list. There are only a few spaces left. But if you register now, you'll still receive the early bird pricing.

As I told you before, these four new Alpha Five courses will be taught live, online. Classes vary in length and meeting times, but they're all designed to cover a lot of material in short order to make the most efficient use of your time. And better yet, if you miss any of the sessions, you'll receive a recording of each one.

The Javascript, jQuery, and Alpha Five class is led by Jeff Cogswell, and kicks off on Jan. 10. The remaining three classes are taught by Steve Workings and Jay Talbott. They include Xbasic 101, which starts on Jan. 11; Introduction to Alpha Five Ajax Web Application Development, which starts on Jan. 20; and Building Alpha Five Desktop Applications, which starts on Jan. 26.

Flip back to my previous post or head to the website to get all the details on each course and its instructors.

Internationalization support makes your Alpha Five Web apps speak in tongues

Back in March, I gave you a sneak peek at Alpha Five's new internationalization support. We extended language definition strings from the grid component to the Tabbed UI component and the page layout builder. Then shortly after, we added 130 currency symbols.

When you're in the cloud, you want everyone to be able to understand your app. That's why we continue to extend our internationalization support.

I told you about these new abilities, but I haven't shown you how they work in a real, live Web application. So let me introduce you to what Alpha Five expert Jim Dusoe built.

Jim developed an application for Woolworks Live, a company that provides image resources to the fashion industry. The website had to operate in English and Japanese. Using Alpha Five's language capabilities, Jim developed the site to seamlessly translate English into Japanese and vice versa for the end user.

Jim shows you how he built the Japanese side of the app, how he's able to make it flip from one language to another, what it looks like from the end user side, and much more. Hit play on the video above and start watching. And if you've already worked multiple languages into your Alpha Five Web apps, send me an e-mail with a demo. We might even feature it on the blog!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

How to use Xbasic to interact with SQL tables

I'm getting into the holiday spirit. Maybe it's the chilly weather up here in New England or maybe someone spiked my eggnog. ;) Whatever it is, I'm in the giving mood. So let me start with giving out a new tutorial my brother Selwyn put together.

If you're working with SQL databases, did you know that you can use Xbasic to interact with the SQL data? Well, you can! In Selwyn's tutorial, he shows you how to use Xbasic to connect to a SQL database and manipulate tables within it.

For example, you can insert, update, and delete records in the SQL table, or issue any SQL command to it. And if you attended the Learn Xbasic class at our recent Alpha University courses, you'll remember learning how to use AlphaDAO in Xbasic to interact with SQL databases.

If you're already familiar with ADO, you'll find some similarities between AlphaDAO and ADO. Although, after watching the videos in the tutorial, you'll come to appreciate how much easier AlphaDAO is to work with. Flip over to the tutorial to see how it all comes together. Enjoy the tutorial as I enjoy some eggnog.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Clifton, err I mean Clooney, wins Best in Show!

It's amazing how loyal you become to the breed you own. As you know, Clifton, a.k.a. my dog and Alpha mascot, is an Irish Setter. So when there's news about Irish Setters, I'm automatically drawn to it. I might be a little late with what I'm about to share, but being the proud owner of an Irish Setter, I'll let my tardiness slide this time.

I was thrilled when I saw Clooney (who bares an uncanny resemblance and name to Clifton), an Irish Setter, win Best in Show at The National Dog Show. I feel like a proud papa. :) Below is the interview after he won. Pay special attention to Clooney's reaction when the announcer asks his handler if Clooney knows that he won the Best in Show. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

TechRepublic's Justin James says Alpha Five 'is a much better solution than Microsoft Access'

Carving out time to conduct a product review can be time and labor intensive for any writer. So when we wait for a publication to release a review of Alpha Five, we hold our breath for quite a while.

Today is one of those days when I'm exhaling after holding my breath for months. Tech Republic's Justin James released his review of Alpha Five Version 10.5 -- and it's a good one.

Thanks, Justin, for taking the time to go through the nitty-gritty details of Alpha Five to give readers an unbiased look at what our development tool is capable of.

If you're already an Alpha Five user, a lot of what Justin talks about will sound familiar to you. And if you're a developer looking to migrate your apps to Alpha Five, Justin does a brief comparison to Microsoft Visual FoxPro, Sybase PowerBuilder, and Microsoft Access.

However, Justin doesn't directly compare Alpha Five with Microsoft Access. But he does agree that when it comes to solving common problems, Alpha Five is the solution to choose. I won't spoil all of his hard work here. Instead, flip over to the review and give it a read yourself.

Friday, December 10, 2010

How to call a SQL stored procedure with arguments

It seems like everyone has their own opinion about using stored procedures. And I'm not here to tell you what's right or wrong. I'm just bringing it to your attention because Alpha developer Bob Moore has created new videos showing you how to call a SQL stored procedure with arguments.

Why would you want to call a SQL stored procedure? Because it offers many benefits, such as reduced traffic between an application and the database server; increased app performance; it's reusable, transparent, and secure; and offers code management and access to expert level SQL programmers for distribution of the programming load. However, some developers argue against using stored procedures because it locks you into a SQL vendor.

If you're interested in learning more about stored procedures, watch Bob's two-part video. Part one covers the client-side JavaScript, the server-side Xbasic, and the T-SQL at the SQL Server. Part two discusses another option for passing arguments from JavaScript to the Xbasic callback function. It also includes a discussion of using Firebug for client-side debugging of Ajax callbacks.

Part one

Part two

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

North Little Rock Police Department stakes out its place in the cloud with Alpha Five

I can't believe it's been almost a year since we introduced Alpha Five Version 10. In that time I've seen some knock-out Web and desktop applications built with it. One of those include the Web app Alpha developer Bob Moore built for the North Little Rock Police Department.

Below is a short video Bob put together demoing his app where potential employees can apply for a position at the North Little Rock Police Department. Bob's application uses a SQL Server 2008 back-end. As you'll see, it includes a complex Grid that uses a Tabbed UI within the Grid quite effectively.

Conditionals are also used to hide and display information that is dependent upon the answers to previous questions in the application. The result is user-friendly navigation. In addition, the police department wanted the printed employment application to look exactly like a previously defined report when it was printed as a PDF.

That included having a fixed number of previous employer detail fields printed out, even if they were blank. Bob had to use a total of three different report layouts that ultimately merged on the fly when the report is generated. This really shows what the Alpha Five report writer is capable of. Now it's time to see the app in action. Hit play below.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Read how one nonprofit is migrating from Microsoft Access to Alpha Five

A few weeks ago, we asked Alan Owen, Managing Director of JA Computer Solutions Ltd (JAC), why he decided to migrate his applications from Microsoft Access to Alpha Five in a podcast. In case you missed it, you can now read the transcript or go back and listen to the interview. In it, Alan also reveals the successes he's had and the road bumps he's encountered while migrating, and much more.

Friday, December 03, 2010

How user-defined Ajax callbacks can add records to a transaction table

If your database application includes a transaction table, you can define a button that lets your end user easily add records from the Grid to the table. This saves your end user from manually entering information into all of the fields in transaction table.

The button is defined using Action JavaScript and choosing a user-defined Ajax callback. Watch the two videos to learn how the Ajax callback adds a new record to the transaction table. The new record in the transaction table is populated with the data from the record selected in the Grid.

Part one

Part two

Thursday, December 02, 2010

New training video for moving Alpha Five desktop apps to the cloud

Jay Talbott is a well-respected Alpha Five developer who has been instrumental in leading some of our recent Alpha University courses. When he wasn't in the classroom, Jay was creating a new Alpha Five video that shows you how to get your Alpha Five desktop database applications in the cloud.

If you haven't been paying attention, I only mention how important Web applications are in every single one of my blog posts! Your customers want their apps in the cloud, so you need to be able to get their applications to run in the cloud. Either get on the bus, or you're going to get run over by it.

The 104-minute video, "Upsizing: Freeing your database from the desktop," shows what it takes to convert a desktop app to a Web app. Jay teaches you how to upsize your database, which includes taking data stored in .dbf files and putting it into a SQL database for better performance and reliability.

In addition, the video covers converting .dbf tables into MySQL, troubleshooting the conversion process, building a Grid Web component for SQL data, using Web components, reporting against a SQL back-end, previewing reports, integrating reports into an application, adding defaults to the Grid, and more.

The regular price for this video is $89, but you can buy it now for just $59. If you do purchase the video and give it a whirl, let us know how moving your desktop app to the cloud went.

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