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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Monday, January 31, 2011

Alpha Five add on: Alpha Five Documentor for desktop applications

I told you I would start telling you more about the Alpha Five add ons, so let me start fulfilling my promise. I'll begin with the Alpha Five Documentor.

This add on is a handy tool that lets you inspect and print the structure of your tables, field rules, scripts, and functions.

The documentation can then be e-mailed or saved as a Microsoft Word document, PDF, plain text file, or it can be printed or previewed on the screen.

Essentially, the Alpha Five Documentor documents the objects on the Alpha Five control panel and its component data fields or Xbasic code.

With its global search capability, it's simple to find the name for any data field, layout object, index, script, and so on, in your database.

It's a great way to keep your work organized, and a powerful tool for figuring out someone else's work. If the Alpha Five Documentor is an add on you'd find useful, you can buy it from the Alpha Five product store for $49. And if you already own it and have been putting it to good use, tell us about it in a comment on this post.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Back to basics: Susan Bush schools you on AJAX

We interrupt our usual blog post to hype a great new Alpha Five book. Back in October, Susan Bush told you all about her new book, "Alpha Five Made Easy." She also agreed to share some excerpts from her book and how-to tips. Today Susan is bringing it back to basics.

She'll tell you all about AJAX from her book, "Alpha Five Web Applications Made Easy, The Basics and More for Version 10.5." New comers to Alpha Five will find Susan's guest post to be very helpful, so make sure you bookmark it. So I'll step aside, and let Susan take it from here.

We haven’t touted AJAX in a while, but if you are new to Alpha Five, you gotta know about it! Are you wondering what all the fuss is about AJAX?

What can it do for you and why you should be so delighted that Alpha Five gives it to you at no extra charge? I'll tell you all you need to know.

The best part is that, once you understand how AJAX enhances Web applications, you can forget all about it because it's automatically added to your Web components.

That leads us to the next question for newcomers to this amazing and easy-to-use software. “What is a Web component?”

These remarkable features -- unique to Alpha Five -- make it easy for programmers and non-programmers alike to create sophisticated Web apps. That’s right, you don’t have to know JavaScript or any other programming languages. However, you can do even more if you are familiar with them, but there is more built-in to the software than most average users will ever need.

And that brings me to my favorite question, “How can I, as a non-programming business owner, create a Web (or desktop) database?” I love this question because the answer is so simple, “Get Alpha Five!” These questions and more are covered in my book.

And you can get the answers and a taste of what they offer for free. First, if you haven’t already done so, you can get a free 30-day trial of Alpha Five Version 10.5. Then go ahead and download a free sample of the Introduction, Table of Contents, and Chapter 1 of "Alpha Five Web Applications Made Easy, The Basics and More for Version 10.5." You'll see the pieces come together in my step-by-step book.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Roll out the red carpet for Alpha Five add ons

You might be asking yourself, what's an Alpha Five add on? Isn't that the same as an Alpha Five feature pack?

Let me clear this up for you. Feature packs are collections of features that let you extend the capabilities of Alpha Five Version 10.5. Add ons are plug-in type applications that you can add to the Alpha Five control panel.

They're particularly useful for sending broadcast e-mails, reports, and analyzing the structure and content of your Alpha Five projects.

We have six Alpha Five add ons that help you do all of this. Let me introduce you to them:

Over the next few weeks I'm going to tell you all about the juicy benefits these individual add ons bring to your Alpha Five applications. Bookmark the add ons tag or keep your eyes peeled to the blog to stay up to speed.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Staying happy and healthy with a canine companion

I've told you about my "bring your dog to work" philosophy and how it can strengthen business relationships. But did you know it could also be good for your health?

Well, you don't have to necessarily bring your dog to work, just owning a dog will do the trick (pun intended). Dr. Dawn Marcus highlights the health benefits of owning a pup on, as well as how they can reduce migraine triggers.

According to the post, Clifton is not only helping me build business relationships, but he's helping to keep me healthy and migraine free. But trust me, this new perk in no way influenced him being hired as Alpha Software's Director of Sniff Testing. It's just another reason why he's my best friend. :)

Dr. Marcus points out a number of other benefits dogs can bring to your life, so I encourage you to flip over and give it a read. And if your dog has helped make your life a little healthier and happier, tell me about it in a comment.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Alpha Five's multilingual support is paying off

It's that time of the year when we at look stats, reports, pie charts, you name it, to see what worked well for Alpha Software in 2010. Some people might feel overwhelmed by this data, but I love picking it apart and diving into what the numbers really mean.

By doing this, I discovered an interesting fact about Alpha Five customers -- they're all over the place! When I was reviewing where traffic was coming from on Alpha Software's website, I was happy to see that a lot of developers overseas were finding their way to our home page.

Out of all the visitors to our website, 66.8 percent are from the U.S., while 10.2 percent are from the U.K. The remaining 23 percent came from Canada, Australia, India, South Africa, Philippines, Netherlands, and Italy.

I was pleasantly surprised at how diverse our users are, yet I can't say I was shocked. Alpha Software does have offices in the U.K., Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Poland, and South Africa. So our reach has always extended far beyond our Burlington, Mass. office. However, maybe this uptick in international users is due to our enhanced multilingual support. ;)

Thanks to our home and international customer base! Salamat, grazie, dankie, and dank u!

Monday, January 17, 2011

How to build an Ajax Web application in Alpha Five: "The Tutorial, Volume II" released

With the release of Alpha Five Version 10 almost a year ago, we spent a lot of time in 2010 developing supporting material for it. Dr. Martin Heller joined the Alpha Software family to help us with it, and in the process wrote white papers, tutorials, books, developed Alphapedia, and much more.

But just because 2010 is over, it doesn't mean Martin is slowing down. I'm thrilled to introduce you to Volume II of his "Alpha Five Version 10.5 Web Applications: The Tutorial."

Back in March we released Volume I. It taught you how to create Ajax Web grids against SQL databases, without programming. It was a huge success. So we're following it up right where Martin left off.

The newest volume will teach you everything else needed to create Web applications with Version 10.5, including A5W pages, Tabbed User Interface and Page Layout Builders, Linked Grids, and basic reports on the Web.

Step-by-step, the 257-page book walks you through building more sophisticated pages and interfaces. Plus, it includes hundreds of screenshots. See for yourself, you can download the first 36 pages for free.

If you like what you see, you can buy the PDF download for only $39. Or, if you want a printed copy, you can get that for $49, and you'll still get the PDF. Here's a look at the table of contents:

Chapter Four: A5W Pages
What We'll Learn
Before We Begin
What Is A5W?
Creating Blank A5W Pages
Creating A5W Pages From A Layout Template
Editing A5W Pages
Importing Html Layouts
Adding Components To A5W Pages
Adding components in WYSIWYG view
Adding components in source view
Adding components with third-party page editors
A5w Genies
Background fill
Cascading selects
Message Box
Finding Items In The HTML Editor
Inserting HTML Elements
Using Tables
Using Html Forms
Using CSS Style Sheets

Chapter Five: Tabbed User Interface and Page Layout
Tabbed User Interface Builder
Building a simple tabbed navigation interface
Customizing the Tabbed UI container page
Using containers to organize your buttons
Using other design elements
Exploring Tabbed UI button/hyperlink properties
Nesting Tabbed UIs
Page Layout Builder
Page Layouts versus Tabbed UIs
Building a simple Page Layout
Page Layouts versus A5W pages
Combining layouts
Using layouts in tabbed UIs

Chapter Six: Linked Grids
Linking And Filtering Grids
Row Expanders
Linked Content Areas

Chapter Seven: Basic Reports
How Reporting Works
Defining A Data Source
Options For Designing A Report
Introducing The Report Editor
Using The Quick Report Genie
Quick Tabular Report
Quick Repeating Form Report
Quick Groups with Totals Report
Quick Summary Report
Editing A Generated Report
Designing A Report From Scratch
Parameterizing a Data Source
Running A Report From A Web Page
Report Version Control

If you decide to buy the book, send me your feedback and let me know what you think. Even better, send me a demo of the app these books are helping you build. We might even feature it on the blog!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Taking Alpha Five to the streets

Check out the plates on Steve Wood's ride. Yes, this is Steve's actual license plate. When this image showed up as Steve's new avatar on the Alpha Software message board, he confirmed it was the real deal and not a Photoshop job.

I'm a little jealous that Steve has this before me. Maybe I need to take a trip to the Massachusetts RMV today and customize my own Alpha Five license plate. ;) Thanks Steve for sharing this photo. And if you're in California and see this license plate, make sure you honk!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Alpha Software goes to the dogs

We made the official announcement today in a press release that Clifton Rabins, my dog, is Alpha Software's newest hire. After accompanying me to the Alpha Software offices most days, we decided to put Clifton's natural talents on the books! Read on to find out what role Clifton will play as Director of Sniff Testing. Now Clifton can contribute to the bacon I bring home throughout the year. ;)

One-year-old male Irish Setter charged with evaluating each new version of Alpha Five and ensuring it passes the sniff test

BURLINGTON, Mass. -- (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Alpha Software is going to the dogs with its newest hire. Over the past year, the company has responded to increasing demand of its Alpha Five Web database development platform and changes in the marketplace with several strategic additions to its staff. Today Alpha Software is proud to announce a doggone good hire: Clifton Rabins has been brought on as Director of Sniff Testing.

Clifton joined the Alpha Software family in 2009 and became eligible for employment when he reached the one-year mark—or would that be the seven-year mark? Anyway, in his new role, Clifton will be the final step in Alpha Software’s rigorous quality testing process. Finished code will be presented to Clifton for a sniff test. If he wags his tail and licks the USB stick, the software will be ready to ship. However, if he pushes it away with his nose, it will be put back in the quality testing process for some serious debugging.

In addition to his sniff-testing responsibilities, Clifton will ensure that no competitors get near the development team while they’re working on proprietary Alpha Software intellectual property. He’ll also help sustain the company’s internal green initiative by making sure no pizza is wasted during meetings.

Up until now, the sniff testing program has been led by Dave McCormick, Director of Communications. However, in a blindfold test it was recently discovered that Dave could not smell the difference between a potato and an apple. Therefore the decision was made to remove sniff testing from the scope of his responsibilities and provide that to an actual canine. As most readers probably know, canines are ideal for sniff testing because their sense of smell is 100 times greater than a human being. Also, when the job opening was posted internally, Clifton was clearly panting for the job. We decided to throw him a bone and hire him.

“Woof,” says Clifton Rabins, when asked about his feelings on his new job.

Richard Rabin, Co-Chairman of Alpha Software, agrees: “We’re tail-wagging happy to bring Clifton on board. We look forward to him helping us maintain the utmost quality in Alpha Five. While other application development products might truly stink, our customers can rest assured that every version of Alpha Five will smell and perform great.”

Clifton is the most recent in a string of hires recently made by Alpha Software. For example, Martin McSweeney was hired in October to lead Alpha Software’s business development efforts in the U.K. He’s been providing support and resources to developers in the U.K. and Europe who are migrating from alternative database system to Alpha Five. Dr. Martin Heller joined the company in February as VP of Technology and Education. Since then, he has expanded the level and quality of resources available to Alpha developers with innovations such as “Alpha Five Version 10 Web Applications: The Tutorial,” several white papers, Alphapedia, and more. Jeff Kalwerisky joined Alpha Software in 2008 as Chief Security Evangelist and has been counseling Alpha Software’s customers, VARs, and partners worldwide on application security, compliance, privacy, and governance.

For reporters interested in interviewing Clifton, please contact Richard Rabins at We can set up video or in-person interviews at any dog park in the Boston area.


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

for Alpha Software
Alicia Buonanno, 610-228-2096

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Drum roll please: Introducing the Alpha Five developer subscription plan

We created our Alpha Five Version 10.5 features packs to give developers the ability to pick and choose what capabilities they wanted to add in their applications. However, after talking to some Alpha Five developers, we discovered that they might want all of the products as they're released. Well good news. You can have your cake and eat it too!

We decided to create an easier, more cost-effective way to ensure that every developer always has a full, up-to-date suite of Alpha Five products. That's why we're introducing the Alpha Five developer subscription plan.

Here's what you get during your 12-month subscription.

  • Alpha Five Version 10.5, which includes the developer, runtime, and application server licenses. 
  • The complete collection of Alpha Five add-ons, feature packs, books, videos, and webinars.
  • Every Alpha Five product released after is automatically sent to you at no additional charge.

If you already own Alpha Five Version 10 or Version 10.5 you'll get just the products listed above that you don't have. You'll also receive products in the Alpha Software catalog as they're released, which will include Alpha Five Version 11 this year.

When you subscribe your plan will start immediately and run for 12 months after Alpha Five Version 11 is released. Here's how to get started.

Subscription with Alpha Five Version 10.5: $1,899
Subscription without Alpha Five Version 10.5: $1,499

This is a substantial amount of savings over buying these items separately, even when you take into account coupons and promotions. So if you're ready for us to start sending you links and license numbers instead of e-mails promoting new software, subscribe today.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

How to write custom Ajax callbacks in Alpha Five

When you're building a Web application, you might encounter a tricky situation when you want to prompt your end user for confirmation of an action. This involves writing a custom Ajax callback. But it also involves the client-side and server-side, which means you have to break the Ajax callback into multiple callbacks.

To help you get out of this jam, Selwyn takes an in-depth look at writing custom Ajax callbacks. To demonstrate, he put together a series of videos that show how a record in the Grid can be deleted. Before the record is deleted, a callback is made to the server to see if the end user is allowed to delete the record.

If the end user is authorized, then custom SQL commands are executed using AlphaDAO. You'll then see how to prompt the end user for confirmation after it has been determined that the end user is allowed to delete the record.

As you can see, there's a constant back and forth between client-side and server-side. Anything that's done on the server-side is done in Xbasic, and anything that's done on the client-side is done in JavaScript. Watch the videos to see the Xbasic and JavaScript behind it, how the callback is divided, and how the confirmation prompt is executed on the client-side.

Part one

Part two

Part three

Part four

Part five

Part six

Part seven

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