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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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Microsoft Access users no longer have to be frustrated that the path to the web is painful.

The movement from Windows desktop applications to web and browser applications for business started many years ago and has become an unstoppable trend which has only accelerated with the adoption of AJAX, which has allowed web applications to perform with desktop-like speed.


With the broad use of MS Office, Microsoft Access became very popular for building Windows desktop applications. The result of this is that today there exists a large number of companies who have Access applications for the desktop that they now need to move to the web as quickly and cost effectively as possible.

It turns out that Microsoft's solution for moving  Access applications to the web requires either: A) publishing to Sharepoint and even then, there are serious limitations when it comes to reporting and the ability to work with applications that include vba code (which most serious applications include,) or B) using Visual Studio.Net which takes a lot of time and requires a lot of coding!

As a consequence of this, we have seen a very rapidly growing base of MS Access customers adopting Alpha Five v11 because of its ability to build powerful and secure web applications (with reporting, dashboards, mapping, multimedia, scheduling) very quickly compared to Visual Studio.Net and other development options. 

See the outcome (in the chart below) of the survey we ran with Alpha Five v11 customers, where we asked about the productivity of Alpha Five v11 vs other tools they had used in the past for building web applications.


To assist Access customers making the move to Alpha Five v11 we have now created a white paper and provided more information on this page http://info.alphasoftware.com/bring-your-access-applications-to-web-and-mobile-devices

If you need any help in moving your Access application to Alpha Five - please email marketing@alphasoftware.com



Sunday, June 24, 2012

Windows Desktop Applications with Alpha Five v11

Clearly we are living in an increasingly web/browser/mobile oriented world and Alpha Software, as most of you already know,  is focusing a huge effort in this direction. However, some of you may not know that Alpha Five v11 is also able to build comprehensive data-driven applications for Windows as well.

To illustrate this, we would like to share an email we recently received from one of our customers.


I guess I’m an oddball for the Alpha Five community. I’m not a professional developer, I’m an attorney but have some significant programming skills going back decades – I can (rather could) actually program very effectively in C (plus Pascal, VB, COBOL and Fortran) in Unix and VAX environments.

I’m also a director of a small family business which provides finance services in the taxi industry. When I became involved in that business they were using Excel to manage installment payments and insurance premiums – a nightmare of repetitive and error prone data entry.

Thought about using Access to build something more productive and decided to look around online. Found Alpha Five, tried it, loved it bought it. The business now has a fully functional base application which creates credit quotes and agreements (in compliance with law), reads the daily payments received file from the bank and posts them to the customers, and links into the Sage financial package sales ledger. Overdue letters are generated automatically etc. Wealth of reports for cash management, capital utilization  etc.



The “sister” application is a remote package used by insurance brokers to create “on site” credit quotations and agreements for their clients, detail of which are then emailed to the company for import into the application.




Nice position to be in.

Without these two linked applications the business could not grow – it has now grown too much too quickly! Our problem now is not whether we can cope with increased business … but as we are not a bank, how do we fund the huge amount of business we can now process and which we are being asked to underwrite. Nice position to be in.

Am also using it within my “day job” for a variety of bespoke applications associated with contract management and risk analysis.

What do I think of Alpha Five v11?  Overall …. it’s brilliant.

Regards,
Matthew

Friday, June 22, 2012

Product update: Charts, Local Documentation, y mucho más

Today we released what may have been our biggest product update since the launch of Alpha Five Version 11 last October. It includes many new features with benefits for both Desktop and Web developers.

One of the highlights is a new local Documentation Viewer, which allows fast local access to the documentation even when your computer is not connected to the Internet, and the ability to update the local documentation from the master Wiki when it is connected to the Internet. When using the local viewer, you can filter titles using wildcards, search full text using wildcards, search full text with multiple conditions, and browse the table of contents.


This release includes three new Feature Packs: Proximity Search for the Grid Component, a Map Control for the Dialog Component, and Chart Controls for the Dialog Component.


All three are free to subscribers.
  • Grid Component - Proximity Search The Proximity Search Control allows you to easily add a search field to your Grid to find all records within a specified radius of an address (such as 70 Blanchard Rd, Burlington MA 01803) or a partial address (such as Burlington MA). This feature only works with SQL tables that have a Geography/Geometry field.
  • Dialog Component - Map Control You can now put map controls on a Dialog component. The map control object exposes methods that allows you to easily program against the map object. For example, you can center the map, add markers to the map, read the position of markers, etc. You could easily bring up a map control from the item selected from the results of a proximity search. 

    Currently the map control uses Google Maps. In the future, if there is sufficient demand, we would like to add support for other map vendors, such as Bing.
  • Dialog Component - Chart Control You can now add charts to the Dialog Component. This allows the easy creation of dashboards.

    To see a list of all chart types that are offered, click here.

    The basic principle behind defining a chart is as follows.
    • First define the data series on which the chart is based.
    • A chart can be be based on one or more data series
    • To define data series, select the Properties pane and then click the smart field for the 'Data series' property (see below for more details)
    • Once you have defined your data series, add a Chart control to the Dialog. You can add as many Chart controls to a Dialog as you want. This allows you to create 'dashboard' type applications.
    • To add a Chart control to the Dialog, select the 'Chart' control in the list of available 'Dialog Controls'.
    • After you have added the Chart control to the Dialog, click the 'Chart definition' smart field to define the properties of the chart.
This release includes 6 exciting new Subscriber Benefits -- time-saving features that are only available to subscribers. These are

  • Automatically geocode addresses in the data at the same time the record is saved into a SQL database
  • Compute a Geography Field from Latitude/Longitude Values
  • Define an action to display a message that automatically fades out of view over a certain interval. Fade-out messages are ideal for providing feedback to a user to indicate, for example, that some action has been completed.
  • Display a fade-out confirmation message to the user if the data was successfully saved when the user clicks the Submit button in a Dialog
  • Advanced Message Box: When you create an action to display a message box, instead of using the built-in Javascript alert() and confirm() functions, which are very primitive, and do not allow custom styling, you can now choose an advanced option which allows you to create a styled message box that uses the A5.messageBox() function in the Alpha Five Javascript library. Also, when you use the advanced option, you can define custom buttons to appear on the dialog, so you are not limited to OK, Cancel, Yes and No.
  • Defining Javascript using Javascript Actions instead of Writing Javascript Functions - When you define a Javascript function you need to write the Javascript code by  hand. In the Dialog Properties pane, a new property 'Javascript Actions' has been added. This allows you to define Javascript using genies.  Defining Javascript Actions is similar to defining Javascript Functions for your Dialog, except that you use the Action Javascript Builders to write the Javascript code rather than hand-coding it. The Actions that you define here can be called by various event handlers in your Dialog.

Last, but not least, this release includes many Bug Fixes. Despite our push to add new features, bugs that you report and we can reproduce are never neglected, always documented transparently, and often fixed within a day of the report. 


Full details about this update are in the release notes.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A developers journey from Delphi to Servoy to Alpha Five v11

One of the reasons that Alpha Five v11 has built up an enthusiastic following is because we are committed to innovation in an industry that demands innovation.


For example, since the release of Alpha Five v11 about 9 months ago we have already shipped  11 powerful feature packs with 3 more coming within days. All these feature packs are all designed to boost developer productivity. (See below for details on the feature packs.)

The other reason behind the following that has built up around Alpha Five v11 is our focus on customers and making improvements based on real world suggestions that get fed back to us through our customer base.

As I have said before, the best part of my job is talking to customers who are having excellent results with Alpha Five v11 and who are constantly giving us suggestions for improving Alpha Five.  A good example of this is a recent conversation with Frank Bevers who is a developer who works with customers in Belgium and the Netherlands.




                                                                       


Three new Feature Packs shipping soon for Alpha Five v11


Feature Packs now shipping for Alpha Five v11

See videos about each feature pack in our video library.

Image Gallery Component

Easily Add a Powerful Image Gallery Component to your Desktop, Web, and Mobile Applications

The image gallery component is a beautiful, and intuitive interface for displaying pictures in desktop, web and mobile applications. On mobile applications, orientation changes can be detected (and adjusted for) and touch events are supported. The component is smart enough to detect the capabilities of each device, and depreciate features when needed.

See the videos

Video Player Component

Add a Flexible HTML5 and YouTube® Video Player to your Desktop, Web, and Mobile Applications.

This video player makes it a snap to embed HTML5 and YouTube Videos into any kind of application. Video has become an important part of many new applications in virtually every industry, including education, insurance, and the medical field. With the new video component, you can display videos within your applications. And your videos can be hosted from virtually anywhere, including YouTube

See the videos


Google® Map Component

Add Powerful Graphical Information System (GIS) Features to Desktop, Web and Mobile Apps

Alpha Five v11 does the "heavy lifting" for you when it comes to mapping, geography, and graphical information systems. The new Google Map component allows your desktop, web, and mobile applications to link to Google Map web services. You can perform geographic searches, display points on a map, and much more. This makes it easy, for example, to add a store locator to your application, so that people can find the nearest points of interest based on their current location.

See the videos

Calendar Component

Add powerful drag-and-drop scheduling to your desktop, web, and mobile applications.

If scheduling is important in your application, the new calendar component is ideal. It provides an intuitive way to work with events and dates and uses an intuitive calendar interface. (This feature pack also requires the use of a 3rd party component, which is sold separately. For pricing and to order this additional component, pleaseclick here to connect to the Web2Cal! website.)

See the videos


Embedded Calendar Control for Dialog Components

Easily Add a Powerful Calender Control to your Web Dialog Components

This feature pack adds a powerful calendar control to your Version 11 Web dialog components. The calendar can be used as a date picker (as well as a starting and ending date picker) and it can also be used to display events in a easily modifiable calendar UI. You have direct access to a nice selection of both server side and client side events to create sophisticated functionality. (This feature pack does NOT require a 3rd party component to run. It includes everything you need.)

See the videos


Slider Control for Dialog Components

Add Powerful Slider Controls to your Web Dialog Components

This feature pack adds a powerful slider control to your Version 11 web dialog components. Use the slider to set filter ranges and more. Gives your apps cutting edge functionality and form.

See the videos


Search and Navigation for Dialog Components

Easily Add Navigation Tools

This powerful feature pack has two main benefits. First in your data-bound Alpha Five v11 dialog components - you can now easily add a search part. It also adds a powerful way to navigate through your records by using Next/Buttons, or a Slider Control, or via Picking Records from a list, or any combination of the three.

See the videos


Power Search for Grids in Dialog Components

Find and Filter Records in Embedded Grids

The feature pack allows you to create a Power Search module to find and filter records in a grid that has been embedded into your Version 11 dialog components.

See the videos


Live Linked Embedded Grids for Dialog Components

Easily Link Embedded Grid Fields

Linking is like searching, in that it causes the records in the target Grid to be filtered, but has a very important difference - the link fields in the target Grid are automatically set to their corresponding value in the parent component. So, for example, if the embedded Grid is linked on (say) the 'invoice_number' field, all new records that are added to the embedded Grid will automatically have their 'invoice_number' field set to the linking value.

See the videos


Advanced Tabbed Object for Dialog Components

Expose new methods for selecting the Active Pane

The standard Tab control object in the Dialog allows you to group Dialog controls into a series of 'panes'. When the Dialog is run, the user clicks on a tab button to show the corresponding tab pane. However, clicking on a tab button is not the only way in which you might want to change the active pane. With this Feature Pack other methods for selecting the active pane are exposed.

The various ways in which the active tab pane can be selected are:
  • User clicks a tab button
  • Programmatic - some Javascript code is executed
  • Automatic - a client-side 'watch' expression determines which tab pane is active
  • Timer - a timer automatically cycles between the tab panes
You can also use the timer feature to automatically cycle through a series of images.

See the videos


Power Search for Embedded Reports in Dialog Components

Use the Dialog Component to create a 'Search Part'

With this feature pack, the Dialog Component can be used to create a 'Search Part' for a Report so that the end-user can enter search criteria to define exactly which records to display in the report.

See the videos




Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Doing Alpha Five Development in Groups

Periodically, we hear some variation of "Can I work on an Alpha Five project in a group?" The answer is an emphatic "Yes!" To begin with, much of Alpha Five is developed in Alpha Five, and our developers collaborate using a version control system.


Below I've quoted a wiki entry describing the v11 feature that gives all developers the ability to save code in plain text files in the file system, instead of saving code in binary database records.

Working with Version Control


In Alpha Five Version 11 we have made it easy to integrate your Alpha Five coding with external version control systems.

Most version control systems depend on storing the small differences between successive versions of text files for efficient storage. Most Alpha Five artifacts are normally stored in a binary database or a binary file for efficient loading and saving. This has historically presented an "impedance mismatch" between Alpha Five code and version control systems. To address this, we have introduced the option to keep a project's code in an external file system.


Using an external file system dictionary

To convert a code library to an external file system dictionary, give the focus to the Code tab of the Control Panel and select the Code|Convert Library to filesystem dictionary... menu item.

Image

The next dialog to appear will ask you for the target folder and the passwords of any protected scripts and functions.

Image

Press OK and your current library database will be backed up and a new folder will be created containing your code files.

Image

Under the new directory will be two subdirectories containing your resources and scripts, respectively.

Image

You can now commit your files, which are simple text, to source code control.

When you want to ship or publish an Alpha Five application, you can non-destructively convert your file system dictionary back to a library database.

Image

If your functions are contained in an AEX file, it is not necessary to convert the file system dictionary back to a library database.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Add Dashboards and Analytics to your Alpha Five v11 Applications


Since the release of Alpha Five v11 we have had the ability to add charts to applications. With the next update of Alpha Five v11 charting has now been woven tightly into the development tool as a control type in the dialog builder.

The great thing about charting, dashboarding and analytics is that they are visual, so it 
makes sense to show you what is now possible to achieve rapidly with Alpha Five v11 web and mobile web applications rather than describe it.
For more information please click here.
To see a full list of chart types check out this link please.

Just two of the multiple chart types made possible by the new Charting feature pack for Alpha Five V11
I would also encourage you to spend some time going through the comprehensive set of videos for this feature packI think you will find that the feature list is very rich and comprehensive and adds significantly to the power of Alpha Five v11.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Developer's Journey from Visual FoxPro to Alpha Five v11, after evaluating IronSpeed, Iceberg, FileMaker, and Servoy

We are always interested in talking to our customers and understanding the journey they have taken to get to Alpha Five v11.

We have talked a fair amount about Access developers who are adopting Alpha Five v11 because of its power and productivity for building data-driven web and mobile business applications. There are also other groups of developers who are adopting Alpha Five v11 for similar reasons. One of these groups is professional Visual FoxPro developers, and I would like to share (with his permission) a message we received recently from Jaime Ben David, a professional developer in Israel, who outlined his journey in the email below.
Hi Richard: 
I first checked IronSpeed by downloading their Express version. In this version you just have one or two available templates. I tried to build a basic data entry form (i.e., similar to a grid with a detail view), which i achieved, but not as easily as building a grid with a detail view in Alpha Five v11. The resulting form was OK, but a little bit too cluttered in my opinion, and trying to manually modify it was not obvious. I understand this may be doable through .NET editing, but one thing didn't want to have to do was to learn nor use .NET. I then played a bit more with their available options, but all along I had the same feeling of being caged in their rigid templates and display methods, so after one or two days I decided to abandon IronSpeed.
Iceberg is similar to IronSpeed; a little bit easier and also easier to modify, but still too complex to build anything that is slightly different from a basic grid/detail view scenario. I even had an online session with the developer of the tool, a nice guy from Ireland, but after going through all the sessions where he demonstrated his stuff, I realized that there would be a steep learning curve that also involves .net, and the price is even higher than IronSpeed.
FileMaker is a joke. [ed: Jaime's own opinion. Israelis can be harsh.] They don't have any suitable Web development in place, and even their desktop developing platform, is as we say in Israel, is not ay ay ay. [ed: roughly, "not fantastic", or "didn't blow me away"]

Servoy is the only serious development platform I considered at the time. They have a solid platform and are supported by Ken Levy, whom I know personally. He is a genius who at some point was the Visual Foxpro product manager at Microsoft. He  evangelizes for Servoy now. They have a good community, and the company issues new versions in a timely manner. Nevertheless, I followed many discussions of fellow Visual Foxpro developers who made the switch and I soon realized that there would be a steep learning curve as well. Also, the tool is very expensive.
As for Alpha Five v11, I really liked the ease-of-use, the intuitive way in which a complete newbie like me could create an impressive grid/detail view or even a  grid/dialog. Every basic feature I tested just worked, and every advertised feature just delivered. I noticed I could modify the basic templates with Xbasic, which didn't scare me at all -- I see Xbasic as being very similar to the Visual FoxPro language. I am learning HTML and JavaScript, but with the solid foundation I found in Alpha Five v11, I am not scared to try, so now I am "learning while walking" [ed: roughly, "training on the job"] with great success.
I bought Alpha Five version 10 developer version over a year back, but didn't make use of  the tool until after testing all the other tools as described above. Then I bought my subscription right with v11, and when I went through the videos and trainings that come with the subscription, I realized I had enough material and knowledge to start creating applications with Alpha Five V11.

Finally, prior to committing to Alpha Five, I read a lot about how quickly bugs were fixed and about the pace at which new features were implemented, Overall, I have been overwhelmingly impressed by Alpha Five v11.

Warm regards,
Jaime

Thursday, June 07, 2012

New web contact manager template, explained

Those of you who have been actively working with Alpha Five v11 may have noticed that the New Project Dialog includes a new option to create project from a template. One system template has been provided, a web Contact Manager.




The web contact manager template is documented with help, but in addition two videos explain the process of using it. The first video shows you how to create an application from a project template:


The second video shows you all the options you can set in the web contact manager template, and how to use the web contact manager after you've created a copy with sample data included:


Using this template, you can either create a pre-populated contact manager for test purposes or an unpopulated contact manager for your personal or company use. You many create as many contact managers as you want from this template, and customize individual instances as needed.



Using the web contact manager template is one way to go from newbie to success with Alpha Five web applications in a few minutes. If you're just starting to work with Alpha Five, a contact manager built from this template and populated with your company's employees might be a great way to show your boss the power of Alpha Five web applications.

The template creates Access MDB files and uses SQL queries. It is very simple to migrate these files to SQL Server or another industrial-strength SQL database, change the connection string in your production publication target, and wind up with a web contact manager that can easily support your whole department or even your whole company.

You can also enhance your contact manager with additional features and customize its look and feel, since it is built with standard Alpha Five components and styles. If there are features that you'd like to see built into the web contact manager template or additional templates that you'd find useful, let us know: we're always ready to listen to our customers.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Increased Mobile Web Security is the Focus of a New Strategic Relationship Between Alpha Software, Inc. and CPE Interactive, Inc

As we announced this morning, we have formed a strategic relationship with CPE Interactive, Inc., a security training company, focused on mobile web security, in order to help our customers reduce the risk that sensitive business information will be compromised if and when mobile devices are lost or stolen.

Contact me by email at richard@alphasoftware.com, by Skype at richard-rabins, and by phone at +1 (617) 838-4488 if you'd like to discuss security training related to Alpha Five-based mobile web applications.

Full information is contained in the press release on PRNewswire.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Mary Meeker's "eye-popping" annual trends re internet and mobile trends and re-imagination hits the web.

As many of you know, Alpha has spent many years and many millions of dollars investing in building a poweful and highly productive platform for the rapid creation of web and mobile applications.

Why are we so fixated on this mission? 

Quite simply, the answer is that this is what our customers are asking for. Namely a great development platform that will let them build the next generation of web and mobile applications in the shortest amount of time and in the most cost effective way.



So it came as no surprise to read reports of the presentation given recently by Mary Meeker (the high profile analyst) at the Wall Street Journal's "All Things Digital Conference" that helped validate our decision to focus on this mission which will help ensure that our customers are extremely well positioned for the future which is taking place now! 







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