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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Feature Peek #25: Save the date, pick the time

No, you haven't been invited to a party, but you have been invited to this three-part feature peek on the new date and time picker in Alpha Five Version 11!

In the first video, the demonstration is inside the dialogue component, but everything Selwyn will show you can also be done in the grid component. When Selwyn hits the first drop down menu, you'll see that it will prompt you to enter a date on the calendar and a time on the clock.

There's one main internal component that allows this feature to work, and that's the format string that you enter. This determines whether you want to display the date and the time, or just one, as in previous versions of this feature. Selwyn will show you both examples of the format string.

In design mode, under controls, you'll see Selwyn configure this feature by specifying the properties. He can chose between entering his own code or staying with the global default that's been predetermined. Towards the end of this video, Selwyn gets into some more advanced options, such as showing and hiding the days of the week.

In in the second video, Selwyn continues to explore the properties and gives you some advanced options for your date and time picker. These tips include allowing users to set whether it's a date, time, or date and time picker; high and low dates; disabled dates; OK and cancel buttons; and customized masks. All of these will be shown as Selwyn explains them while alternating between working preview and design mode. 

The final video wraps things up with JavaScript functions, particularly when specifying a high date or low date in the builder. In design mode, you can select either the start or end date, and then go into the properties window for specifications. For example, Selwyn targets the low date, and selects "function get Low Date," which will bring him into the builder displaying the JavaScript function.

Hit play to see that there's no slim pickens in the Version 11 date and time picker!

There's nothing like sleeping with a friend ...

Get your mind out of the gutter ...

What were you thinking???

Would I post something like that???


Of course I would! 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Honk if you like Alpha Five! eTruckBiz did

I always enjoy featuring a new Alpha-holic on our blog, and today, I'm shining the spotlight on Jeff Walczak. He's an Alpha Five user who wanted me to know about the impressive website he's built for his business, eTruckBiz, using Alpha Five.

Jeff's website
eTruckBiz is a portal that gives contractors, owner/operators, and small fleet owners mobile access to their business data.

I appreciate positive feedback from any user, but there's something special about hearing someone say that they aren't a professional developer but were still able to create a high-performance, productive website for their business -- which is just what Jeff told me.

I wanted to hear more, so Jeff produced a screencast that let me take a deeper look at what he's accomplished.

I wanted to share this with you today.
Take a look at Jeff's screencast to see that you don't have to learn multiple coding languages or go back to school to create a successful website.

Feel free to email Jeff with any questions! Thanks for sharing Jeff!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Alpha Five compared favorably to ColdFusion by users on LinkedIn

The other day, I made my way over to the "Alpha Five group," on LinkedIn, a place where Alpha-holics can unite to discuss and share all things Alpha. While I was there, I read a discussion between a few of my colleagues and friends comparing ColdFusion to Alpha Five.

They raised key similarities, differences, advantages, and disadvantages of both platforms from the user's point of view. Here's a copy of the thread:
Alan Singer: As a "novice" to RAD platforms and in the interest of being able to answer the question if I am asked .....Coud I request some informed input please..I am Interested in comparing and contrasting Alpha 5 to Cold Fusion HAs anyone used both and what are the key similarities, differences, advantages, disadvantages?Cold Fusion is is said to have been "....originally designed to make it easier to connect simple HTML pages to a database- by version 2 (1996) it had become a full platform that included an IDE in addition to a "full" scripting language. As of 2010 (?), versions of ColdFusion (purchased by Adobe Systems in 2005) include advanced features for enterprise integration and development of rich Internet applications. "
Heman Smith: The ColdFusion environment is more like Visual Studio & .Net than AlphaFive. ColdFusion is still a coding/scripting environment predominantly, not a RAD tool per se. It IS much faster to develop in than .Net or php or other coding environments, but you can't use it to create an application without coding, even if you're using Dreamweaver as the WYSIWYG development front end. Alpha Five is a much more complete application development tool set for anyone wanting accelerated development of database driven web-based apps. I've used both. I managed a team that did a major corporate portal in ColdFusion, coupled with and Oracle backend. Eight years ago. If I would have had Alpha Five back then we could have done twice as much in half the time.
Alan Singer: Thanks Heman. Very helpful and useful answer. Hit the spot for what I was seeking! I am evaluating Alpha 5 to use as a basis of a major product development - in two versions - a customer-hosted web app and an alternate variant being a "multi-tenanted" - hosted in the cloud application - and not just a single instance custom application - what comments do you have for me in that regard? 

Heman Smith: AlphaFive can be used to develop both. Most of that decision is an architectural and security issue, not the tool itself per se. (IMHO). AlphaFive handles both very well. I've invited some people at Alpha Five who are more familiar with using AlphaFive for a true SaaS offering of single-instance, multi-tenant, than I am. But I've noticed earlier elements about doing that in their forums. I expect they'll chime in before long. :-)
Dmitri Dumas: HI folks. Just a question here. I do A5 desktop apps. If I want to go web apps, can I combine the entire A5 desktop/webb into 1 desktop shortcut insted of having a shorcut icon for desktop apps and another shortcut for web apps? 

James Talbott: You can certainly launch the web app from a button in the desktop (using a hyperlink to a URL). Opening a desktop app from a web app is much more challenging.
So there you have it folks! This is what makes social media so powerful. If you're already a member of the Alpha group on LinkedIn, don't be shy and share! If you're not a member, what are you waiting for? Join today and let's keep the discussion going.

Alpha Five Version 11 Feature Peek # 24: Toggle Visibility

Some words are just fun to say, and "toggle" is one of them. But I swear -- I didn't decide to share this new feature in Alpha Five Version 11 just so I could use the word "toggle." OK, maybe I did. But stay tuned anyway.

In this new video, Selwyn discusses how to use action JavaScript to add toggle animation to any arbitrary container or div in a component in Version 11. This will work for both a dialogue and grid component, but Selwyn's going to use a dialogue component for his example.

The video starts in working preview, where he's got a button and div already set up, along with a container towards the bottom of the screen. Right away, he'll use the buttons to toggle the visibility of both, so you can see what your finished product will look like.

After switching from working preview to design mode, you'll need to pull up the list of controls to get to your list of buttons. Clicking on any button from that list will generate a corresponding JavaScript window, where you'll find the brand new option labeled, "toggle visibility of a container or div with animation."

After selecting that, Selwyn will click on "edit action," which will bring him to a window labeled "toggle visibility." This window is where you'll chose the speed and style of the hide/show animation.

Selwyn will take you through all of these customization options. Hit play on the video below to make sure you are able to pick the exact animation that you want!


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Alpha Five Verison 11 Feature Peek #23: To err is human, to replace divine

Everyone makes mistakes, but in Alpha Five Version 11, you can search for and replace them! This next video will show you how to build a search and replace feature into your grid with Version 11.

When the video starts, Selwyn's example grid is already set up, complete with a button labeled "search and replace," which he previously defined. Clicking that button opens up a search and replace area, showing you exactly where to type in what you want to search for and what you want to replace it with. F.Y.I -- All of the buttons that Selwyn is working with have been set up with action JavaScript.

Personally, I was a big fan of Selwyn's example of this in working preview, but I'm a little biased. He searched for "Microsoft" and replaced it with "Alpha Five."

Anyway, you're going to need to know how to enable this feature, so Selwyn takes you into design mode to the "free form edit region," where most of this development takes place. Once you're there, you'll find a simple HTML table containing the input control. Here's where you'll make both the search and replace features functional. You'll also use that code to make some changes to the animation, and to specify the rules of your search and replace.

We are excited about this feature because it is so easy to customize. You'll be able to choose your own prompts and alter the appearances of your buttons. But I don't want to give it all away here! Dive into the video to hear the rest.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Alpha Five Version 11 Feature Peek #22: Just because it ain't broke doesn't mean you can't fix it

There's an old saying that claims, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Well, we heard that right before we started to work on Alpha Five Version 11 ... and completely ignored it. When it came to our auto-suggest and edit combo, we broke it, fixed it, and made it better. Let me show you what I mean.

First up is auto-suggest. The new feature here is adding multiple values to a field. You might recognize this from Gmail. When you begin to type a contact's name in the "to" line of your message, you are provided with a list of matching suggestions. Google also provides the comma that separates each address, so you can enter more than one.

Selwyn starts this video with instructions on how to enable this feature. In design mode, you'll see a small dialogue box that says "send to," which identifies the function of the dialogue. But if you switch over to working preview, you'll see that it doesn't allow for multiple values. Going into the auto-suggest builder will reveal that there are other properties that can make it happen.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Alpha Five Version 11 Feature Peek #21: Alpha Five's improved auto-suggest control can read your mind

We've just added a new trick to the old auto-suggest feature within the grid and dialog components of Alpha Five Version 11. But before I show you more, I want to warn you that things might start to get a little eerie.

Version 11 is now able to finish your inquiry in a search field by displaying the results you were looking for before you've even finished typing. But there's no crystal ball involved here, it's just Version 11 pulling from the server. It might not be magic, but the accuracy of this auto-suggest feature is hard to believe.

Selwyn gets right down to business in this short and to-the-point video, which begins in working preview. His example is a common, first-name search. He types a letter into the search field, and Alpha Five retrieves suggestions from the server.

But it's not just the first letter of each word that you'll see suggestions for. You can enable a "contains" search, in which Alpha Five produces matches containing whatever you typed in somewhere in the full word.

So, say you can't remember if a person's last name is "Jackson" or "Johnson." (Don't you hate when that happens?) Well, with Version 11, you can just type in "son," and let the software jog your memory.
Selwyn will run you through a quick how-to, which includes getting into design mode, designating which field you want searched, and specifying the "look up definition" in the auto-suggest builder window.

In fact, I think it might be the easiest configuration of any new feature we've posted. The whole thing makes for a pretty neat trick, so from now on, you can start calling Selwyn and I, "The Ringling Bros.!"


Monday, August 15, 2011

Back to school with Alpha Five! Alpha Five v11 and IIS and .Net Support

It's that time of year again. September is just around the corner, and even though I'm not going "back to school," the mindset is contagious and I'm in the mood to spread some Alpha Five knowledge!

Class is now in session with Professor Kurt Rayner, and today's lecture will be a prep for Alpha Five Version 11 on support for .Net with a bonus lesson on the application server for IIS 7. Kurt tackled these topics at our UK Developer Conference, and he's put together a screencast of both presentations.

The first screencast covers our new feature in Version 11 that is dedicated to support for .Net. He'll go over why we made the decision to incorporate .Net, what Alpha Five services you'll find for .Net, and its benefits.

Alpha Five Version 11 Feature Peek #20: Let's play hide and seek

No, I'm not talking about the children's game, I'm talking about a client-side show/hide expression! And we know that this will be useful, because it was generated in response to an Alpha developer who wanted to design this exact grid.

So forget about searching through rows and rows of data -- we're going to show you how to create a grid that only shows data in the current row. There's two ways to do this, and Selwyn has a video to explain each method.

Video one will start you in design mode by choosing an option under "fields." This is where you'll be selecting the only field that you want to be displayed. In display settings, Selwyn will show you how to define your client-side show/hide expression. Here, you want to enter a JavaScript function created by Alpha Five called "is current row."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

CTOEdge and Alpha Five talk HTML5

I'm not a doctor, but lately I've been prescribing Alpha Five's remedy for developer burnout, open standard platforms, to anyone who needs it! This time, I revealed an active ingredient in our remedy, HTML5, with Mike Vizard of CTOEdge.


The article, Unleashing the Power of HTML5, discusses the central platforms we feel developers will need to master in order to achieve one universal developer environment. Jump over to CTO Edge to get the full story.

Alpha Five Version 11 Feature Peek #19: The alpha male of all mapping

If you look up the word "alpha" in the dictionary, you'll find a definition like this:

Being the most prominent, talented, or aggressive one in the group. Clifton is an alpha male.
Just kidding, Clifton isn't there. But our Google Maps feature in Alpha Five Version 11 should be. Don't believe me? Take a look at the jam-packed feature peek with a series of four videos dedicated to it that we posted recently. But we just couldn't get enough, so we want to share the next feature.

This video will demonstrate how to complete searches that automatically load results in proximity to your specified radius, and then display them visually. When the video starts, Selwyn will already have it set up to show his example: closest airports in the area. But, he'll take you into design mode and then map properties to show you how he generated the results in ascending order.

When you check to make sure that your search preference (ascending or descending order) has been implemented, notice the "order by" clause in blue hyperlink-style font between the Google map and the toolbar with the search results. You'll see the portable geography syntax, which makes this possible. Go ahead and use it as a reference point if you're not sure your search has been set up properly.

It pops up automatically, but if you need more details head to design mode, then into the grid component to hit the sequel query to see how it's done in the code. By the time Selwyn gets through the full video, you'll see the execution of the full search. In the far right of the toolbar, you'll see the exact distance of the locations in ascending or descending order.

This example will be in ascending order, measured by meters. It's a pretty easy feature to configure for something so useful -- all it takes is a simple click in the properties tab. But as you know, I'd never make you take my word for it, so make sure to give this video a look!

Order by Distance

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Alpha Five Version 11 Feature Peek #18: What can you do with fifteen minutes and one line of JavaScript? Build a location finder on the web - something that would take days or even weeks with other web development platforms!

Developers, tell me if this sounds helpful: An application with a map showing the user important geographical points within their current location. This type of application is useful and convenient, but would take days of coding and weeks of learning multiple languages to create.

Until the September release of Alpha Five Version 11, that is. With the feature we are about to debut, you'll be able to create an application just like that in fifteen minutes, using only one line of JavaScript. It's just another way that the new grid component in Version 11 will provide practical solutions to everyday problems.

In the first video, Selwyn sets the scene with a simple scenario of a search for the closest ATM branches in the his area. As he types in his location, the map re-centers on it and the closest ATMs appear in the sidebar. This is how it will look to users of your applications.

But to get there, he must first head to the design mode of a pre-existing grid to select that there will be a search component, and that the search will be for locations. He clicks to select both these settings, as well as the choice of "map" under control type. As he starts out, the grid won't look like a Store Finder app that you see in the beginning of the video, but if you prefer it, that layout is available in design mode under the template settings.

The second video picks up with Selwyn in working preview making sure that the design has complete functionality. He changes the prompts to be as specific as possible. By making the changes that Selwyn demonstrates in this video, you'll be able to center the map on your location, keep the prompt open, and execute a search. Everything here is done in search properties under the design mode.

Video three opens with more customization options for your grid, starting with choosing the location of the toolbar. This video works a lot in the map properties window, and it's a great way to familiarize yourself with the different choices that you'll have for your grid.You'll also get a peek at the builder window to see all the properties that you'll be able to customize, including search type, search results, map customization, and more. For example, Selwyn is building a grid that will return his search results in radius, so he needs to enter that he wants the results to be within a 10-mile radius of the starting location.

The final video is a post script to the series, and wraps everything up by addressing how to style the sidebar that will display your search results. To do this, you'll head back into design mode, but this time you'll need to work in "fields." Here you'll be able to choose the settings that will help you get the style that you're looking for.

With a series of four videos, it's impossible for me to tell you everything that you need to know about this new feature here, so make sure to take a look at them yourself. And while you're watching, keep in mind that it takes the same amount of time to watch the videos as it will to actually create this grid in Version 11!

Alpha Five Version 11 Feature Peek #17: Unconditional masks: You provide the conditions, we’ll provide the masks

In the video featured below, Selwyn demonstrates how you can create client-side conditional masks in Version 11. He demos the functionality in the new dialogue component, but everything that you're about to see will also work in the grid component.

Masks are a great tool to ensure that you format your data correctly, but to fit each developer's needs we've made sure that you can customize exactly what goes into the fields. In the video, Selwyn has his working preview up so you can see the two fields he's working with.

The first step is to define a mask by heading to design mode and selecting a mask under the option, "client side properties." When you enable editing to start defining your mask, the mask builder will suggest that you use our predetermined masks with choices such as phone number, Social Security number, or a zip/postal code.

Selecting one of these won't make the mask conditional, and who defines themselves by Social Security number or postal code? You're going to need a mask that allows you to enter letters and numbers, so you can provide a full address. So let's get conditional.

Once you're back into design mode, go right back to where you started when defining your mask, only this time go ahead and specify "conditional" in the mask builder. Now that you've made your mask conditional, it's time to specify what gets passed into it.

To do that, you need to select a JavaScript Function back in design mode to see that function's prototype. In that code, all the properties will be laid out and you'll be able to tell how your fields will accept and reject data.

To further customize, just copy and paste that code to the Javascript window to dive right in and make all your mask preferences become reality! Make sure to watch the full video to get more tips on creating unconditional masks.

Unconditional masks 

developerFusion gets a dose of Alpha Five's remedy for developer burnout

All the Alpha-holics out there know how dedicated we are to delivering the ability of "build on the desktop, deploy everywhere." It must be a good idea, because the folks over at developerFusion gave me an opportunity to share my view with their readers in a recent article on developer burnout.

Are you feeling burned out? Give the article a read to see if you fit the mold. And after you do, put down the Pepto-Bismol and Excedrin! The cure is here and there's no prescription required.

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