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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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Alpha Five Version 11 does the Metro UI

Well, in all honesty, that headline is a bit of an overstatement. The truth is, one of the new things you'll see in the upcoming Alpha Five is the ability to do mobile apps just as well as the ones that use the iPhone or the Android UI. However, one developer hasn't been waiting. He's been using Version 11's mobile capabilities to deliver the Windows 8 Metro experience today. And you can too.

The app was built by one of our newest Alphaholics, Robin Bennett, director of the U.K.-based Start Software with the help of his colleagues Ricky and Dan. When it was finished, they sent us a screenshot.

We've profiled Robin before, but in case you missed it, his company worked predominately in Microsoft before adopting Alpha for its web apps. So he has some great insight when it comes to the comparison between Microsoft and other development platforms.

The app was created for one of Robin's clients, Countrywide Group, a national legal services and investment company. It's where users go to see the status of their payments, check on their orders, view their client list updates, and contact the office quickly when needed.

The dashboard you see below serves as the homepage, and each tile is live to SQL data. Just like any app, clicking on them brings up the information that the user is looking for in the form of the grids, dialogs, or whatever else is required to complete the relevant action.

Take a look here:


It looks just like a Windows 8 app. We wanted to share this with our developers because it shows that not only can you get the functionality of a Windows app with Alpha, but the same look as well. And we're always trying to get developers to step outside of the so-called Microsoft box.

There's more to come from Robin. In May, he'll be giving a presentation entitled "How I became an Alphaholic," at the U.K. Access User Group National Seminar. And keep an eye on us for future announcements on Version 11's Metro experience.

Friday, January 27, 2012

More proof that we gave you the easiest way ever to win an Asus Transformer Prime or iPad 2!

A couple of weeks ago, we wrapped up our commenting contest by picking our winner, Richard Polits. As promised, Richard received his choice of prize, the Asus Transformer Prime this past Friday.

Richard let us in on the big moment when he unwrapping his Asus, and gave us a little more background on himself and his experience with Alpha. Take a look at the un-boxing video here:



We love how Richard got into specifics when he spoke about his trial with Alpha, because that's the reason we created a contest for new developers only -- to strengthen the Alpha community with a variety of feedback. Thanks, Richard! Enjoy!

Want to hear what the rest of our entrants think are the most important features in a universal development platform? Stay tuned, because we're at work analyzing all 300 answers that we'll be breaking down here on the blog.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Jim Dusoe weighs in on Computerworld's "The New Rules for Enterprise Apps"

Computerworld recently took the opinion of our own Jim Dusoe when it comes to enterprise apps. Reporter Minda Zetlin wrote a feature piece, "The New Rules of Enterprise Apps," on what it takes for companies to generate relevant and user-friendly apps, and Jim was among the experts she interviewed for the article.

Jim speaks on the importance of real-time data and data visualization, and his opinion joins others from around the industry.


Take a look at the full article to hear the rest of the "new rules for enterprise apps."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The art of web scaling

Talk to any business person and they'll probably tell you that there's no such thing as too much web traffic -- everybody wants more. That is, until their site crashes because it can't scale.

To help developers and their clients alike understand the intricacies of web scalability, our own Martin Heller,Vice President of Education and Technology, penned a two-part series for TechNewsWorld that dives into web scalability and how to maximize it. The first part of the series ran yesterday, so we waited until the conclusion was up this morning to share it with you today.

Part 1: What It Means and How to Get There 


Part 2: The Metrics of Measuring


Thanks to TechNewsWorld for featuring Martin's thoughts. Did these articles help give you a better understanding of website scaling? Let us know in a comment!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Why a Microsoft Access shop chose Alpha for its web application development

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: The feedback we get from our developers is our secret weapon. Compliments and complaints alike pave the way for the next version of Alpha.

Robin Bennett is the director of Start Software, an award-winning, U.K.-based software development company that trades in a variety of industries. Currently, it is the U.K.'s leading software developer in the asbestos consultancy market, and it is in the process of developing and managing projects that have a web element to them. Robin is a self-proclaimed Microsoft Access developer and supporter who started recently with Alpha Five Version 10.5, so I was really curious to see how Alpha has been working out for him. After we spoke, Robin allowed me to share his findings here.

Although Start Software is traditionally a Microsoft shop, Robin and his team found that Microsoft Access just didn't fit the bill when it came to all of their web-based projects. They were also facing a major SharePoint integration at the time, so it didn't take much to decide to look for another development platform.

"So it's the web that's really changed things, and although we've been really happy with Microsoft Access as a desktop development platform, when most of our systems that we're developing needed to be web enabled, actually it just wasn't doing it for us at all. But really when Access 2010 required the use of SharePoint for its web development work, that was when I started to look around for a better product for targeting the web," says Bennett.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Alpha psychology: Simplifying parent-child relationships

If you've just arrived here from Google, let me give you this disclaimer: This is not about your mother. 

Master-detail relationships (also known as parent-child) are central to the majority of data-driven applications, so it was an obvious target for improvement when we started Alpha Five Version 11.

In our earlier versions, you can model master-detail relationships using multiple grids. You'd have one for the master and one for the detail, and then you'd embed the detail grid into the master. This works, but it has its drawbacks. A major one is that you would have to use multiple submit buttons -- one for each grid.

We needed to create one screen for the developer that looks exactly like your invoice (or whatever else you're looking to build) with a single submit button that allows you to enter or edit the data as a single, logical form. Now, with Alpha Five Version 11, you can create web-based screens that look exactly like the forms that you have in mind.

The new dialogue's single submit button will automatically save data to the master table and every detail table at once, all wrapped into a single transaction. And the best past is: No coding is required on your part!

Monday, January 09, 2012

Proof that we gave you the easiest way ever to win an Asus Transformer Prime or iPad 2!

We tapped into the developer universe last month to get an answer to a question that's been on our minds since we started working on Alpha Five Version 11: What are the most important features in a universal development platform?

We wanted honest feedback that we've never heard before, so we decided to ask non-Alpha developers for their two cents by inviting them to answer our latest commenting contest. The contest drew in a whopping 300 developers! The answers were thought-provoking and gave us a lot of ideas on how to keep improving Alpha Five.

Since the contest closed, we've been compiling the data, so stay tuned here for a full analysis of the responses.

The winner, who we picked randomly in the video below, will take home his choice of one of the hottest tablets on the market today, the iPad 2 or the Asus Transformer Prime. Can't take the suspense anymore? Click the video below to see who's taking home the prize!

Friday, January 06, 2012

Alpha Five Version 11 Feature Peek #33: Eliminate vacant values by calling a dialogue component from a grid

In this video, Selwyn talks about calling a dialogue component from a grid, and then passing that information from the dialogue back to the grid. This is a design patent that's common in Alpha Five Version 11, so we're happy to be giving it a feature peek debut.

Selwyn has constructed a simple example grid to get us started. It consists of a list of customers, showing their first and last names, as well as a customer ID number. By pressing the open dialogue button to the right of each name, you'll be able to open a dialogue in a drop-down window and enter a specified value. Then, clicking the set value in grid button will allow the value to be automatically entered into the current row of the grid.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Alpha Five's best feature: Your feedback baked in

We consider one of our biggest strengths here at Alpha Software to be our active and involved customer base, or as we like to call them, Alphaholics. There's a couple of places you can find Alphaholics. The best place is our message board. If you're not signed up, we encourage you to check it out. It's a great place to find ideas and support while building your apps. You can also find them in our LinkedIn group.

Our Alphaholics work frequently with us by offering their suggestions and ideas that are designed to make Alpha Five the most productive development tool that it can be.

Most recently, we received a request from a very skilled and talented developer, Vaughn Seward, who runs a mid-sized development company in Canada. He has been shifting his development work from Visual Studio .NET to Alpha Five.

Vaughn's a great example of the customer base that I'm always raving about. He brought a problem to our attention, described it in detail, and then gave us some great feedback to let us know the outcome.

I'm going to let Vaughn tell you about his relationship with the Alpha Five team in his own words:

In building Alpha Five grids, we have frequently come across parent-child situations where a field value in the row on the parent grid is required to be available in the child grid. Such as, the filter in a drop-down on the child grid needs to be based on a field from the parent record, a field in the child record needs to be defaulted to a field value from the parent record, and a validation or hide/show decision needs to be based on a check-box from the parent record.
We have found that these and other cases can be handled in a number of different ways by including JavaScript in the child grid, or by creating and passing session variables. When a session variable is used, it has to somehow be created just prior to the calling of the child grid. Because of the timing between what happens on the server and what happens on the client side, it is not a simple matter to make this work.
I therefore recently created a small sample application and sent it to Alpha that showed one way we were currently solving the problem. I wasn't satisfied with our current approaches because they involved making unnecessary Ajax callbacks to set session variables, or subject to possible race conditions if a button was clicked to open a child component before the callback to set the session variable had completed.
The developers at Alpha looked at my test case and came up with an idea for a new feature that they could add to the Action Javascript Builder for the action which opens a child Component. Alpha's solution solved our problem perfectly (see video M41).
I was impressed with the way in which Alpha carefully listened to the problem we were trying to solve and came up with a solution that addressed our specific needs which should also be of widespread interest to all developers.
One of our developers just had the need to use the session-var-setting enhancement. After asking him if setting up session variables was any easier now, he replied: "Yes, I love it."
And there's more where that came from -- I receive emails like this on a daily basis. It means that our Alpha developers are constantly thinking about how we can improve. And as a co-chairman, what more can you ask for?

Thanks again to Vaughn for letting us share this!

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