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Wednesday, January 11, 2017PrintSubscribe
Announcing COT v9

We are pleased to announce that the new year brings about an all-new version of Code On Time, called COT v9. This product will come in three flavors: Code On Time, Cloud On Time, and Cloud On Time Private Edition.

The new version brings a unified development environment directly into your application. Users with development privileges will be able to activate the Project Designer from within the live app. The Project Explorer will be displayed alongside application pages and will synchronize itself with the currently visible content. Changes to the project will be reflected instantly in the presentation. The Project Designer communicates with the backend, implemented differently for every flavor of COT v9.

The “Code On Time” flavor of v9 will interact directly with the application generator that you are familiar with. The app generator will run in a batch mode in response to developer actions. Application code will be created, generated, and modified in the exact same fashion you are used to. Visual Studio IDE will be launched when you need to see a C#/Visual Basic business rule, or would like to see the source code of the project. The source code is stored on your computer. You can use your own version control system. You can work with any supported database engine. You will install COT v9 on your computer. The price for Code On Time edition of v9 will remain the same as the current shipping version of the product. Licenses will continue to be perpetual. Active customers will receive “Code On Time” flavor of v9 as a regular product update.

The “Cloud On Time” flavor of v9 will interact with a hosted version of the application generator. Applications and data are stored in the Microsoft Azure Cloud. A built-in Database Designer will be used to create database tables and views within the live app. Developers will be offered a choice of SQL, JavaScript, and Email business rules. “Cloud On Time” does not require installation, and works on any web-enabled device. A monthly subscription fee is based on the number of developers and the number of records in the database. A free trial will be available.

The “Cloud On Time Private Edition” flavor of v9 will interact with a hosted version of the application generator installed on the customer premises. This product is targeted towards privacy-conscious customers with a need for rapid application development. It will be possible to create business rules with C# or Visual Basic to extend applications. The product will be sold with a perpetual license with 6, 12, or 24 months of updates.

Applications created with COT v9 support code-free integration with Google Apps and popular content management systems, such as SharePoint or DotNetNuke.

Rapidly build universal business apps on any device, and in any environment.

Modal login form with three external login options.

Split view displayed on Suppliers page created with Code On Time.

Context panel with new material icons in application using Touch UI.

Image headers and form action bar in Categories form.

Modal page sliding when opening additional pages.

Modal page with mini sidebar.

Pricing for “Cloud On Time” and “Cloud On Time Private Edition” will be announced soon.

We are estimating that COT v9 will become available in March-April of 2017.

We know that many of you awaiting anxiously for the next product update. Release 8.5.12.0 is expected to arrive very soon, and brings many features of COT v9 into your hands. Please stay tuned.

Friday, November 13, 2015PrintSubscribe
Introducing Model Builder

Yoga aficionados will testify that the world looks quite different if one masters the position known as a “Headstand”. The point of view changes, and interesting ideas will rush to one’s head when Up is Down and Down is Up. 

That is exactly what we have done with Code On Time application generator.  We have turned a few things upside down.

The fundamental principal of the product has been based on the premise that a foundation of a line-of-business  app can be automatically constructed by application generator from a selection of database entities and subsequently refined by a developer. Think of it this way – you buy a fully furnished apartment, move in, and start redecorating. But there is also a large group of people who will prefer to decorate their apartment from scratch.

The next release of application generator is introducing a new development workflow based on a new built-in tool called Model Builder. The purpose of this tool is to enable fast construction of line-of-business apps from scratch by building out a model, one database entity at a time.

New Development Workflow

Let’s consider how the process is changing when building a classical Northwind sample. First, a developer sets up a database connection for a project.

Database connection configuration in Code On Time application generator.

Next, a list of database entities is displayed on the Data Model & Business Logic page of the Project Wizard. This list includes database tables and views.

A list of database entities in a Code On Time project wizard.

The developer selects a desired entity to be added to the project. The Model Builder window is displayed.

Model Builder displays configuration of Products entity in a line-of-business application created with Code On Time.

Application generator automatically constructs the data model for Products entity by linking in Suppliers and Categories tables and borrowing their identifying fields CompanyName and CategoryName.

Developer adds Country column from Suppliers table to the model to complement supplier information and selects Data tab to preview the output. Previously, application configuration has been performed on top of the baseline model constructed by application generator. It was relatively difficult to select tables joined in the table query. Model Builder enables direct and effective participation of the application developer in the construction of the baseline models. Model Builder allows visual configuration of virtual primary keys and foreign key relationships.

'Raw Data' view of the model output in the Model Builder of Code On Time application generator.

The developer can review the raw output of the model. They can also activate the “end user view” of data with labels instead of field names. Primary and foreign key fields are hidden and data format strings are applied to field values when “Raw Data” option is unselected.

'End User' view of the model output in the Model Builder of Code On Time application generator.

The data model for Products is acceptable.  Developer saves the model and proceeds to generate the app.

A  model of Products entity is defined in an app created with Code On Time.

An application with a new menu option Products is now displayed in a default web browser.

Physical implementation of the model in an app created with Code On Time application generator.

The process can be repeated multiple times until the model is refined to perfection. Display labels, field names, data format strings, sort order, and calculated fields can be defined directly in the model with inline editing and instant data preview. More than one model can be defined for each database entity.

Model Options

The “Options” tab of Model Builder provides a collection of quick configuration options for the model. The upcoming release will introduce a handful of options to enable quick selection of supported view styles, default view style, and a few more.

We will provide hundreds of quick configuration options to speed application construction with an open API that will enable 3rd party developers to create custom configuration wizards for private consumption and for commercial use in the follow-up releases.

Project Designer remains to be the primary tool when it comes to further project customization. Model Options will equip the baseline model with large chunks of pre-defined functionality, which may reduce and sometimes eliminate the need to use the Project Designer.

Model Query

The live preview of data is based on the query constructed from the visual model of an application entity.

Query of the Products model in Code On Time application generator.

Sample Data Models

This is the model of OrderDetails entity of the Northwind sample.

Model of OrderDetails entity in the Northwind sample created with Code On Time application generator.

Mouse over a table to see direct connections highlighted with the primary database table/view of the model.

Visual relationship tracking in the model of OrderDetails entity in the Northwind sample created with Code On Time application generator.

This is the model of JobHistory entity in HR, a sample database well known to Oracle developers.

Model of JobHistory entity in the HR sample created with Code On Time application generator.

User Interface Changes

All fields of the entity model are included in grid1, editForm1, and createForm1. Data Sheet view style with horizontal scrolling of columns is introduced in Touch UI for that reason. We expect this view style to be included in the “Model Builder” release 8.5.6.0.

The pages are not configured as master-detail by default. The developers will have the option to set unlimited levels of master-detail relationships manually, which is available in the current version of Code On Time.

We are also introducing a brand new data field type called “DataView”. Any entity can have a collection of DataView fields defined in its options or in Project Designer. A relationship between the data model of a DataView field and its owner must be configured. Grid, Data Sheet, and List view styles will support expanding and collapsing of rows to show linked data, which will enable creating unlimited levels of table-in-a-table presentation.

The form views will also support “data view” fields and display linked child rows within the form boundaries in both Desktop and Touch UI. The form views will support the flow of categories creating new columns and new rows.

The new field type will be recommended as a primary method of configuring master-detail relationships. It uses exactly the same master-detail features that were a part of apps created with Code On Time from its inception. A little bit of JavaScript magic is the only ingredient that will significantly enhance presentation. 

Tight coupling of master-detail relationships expressed as “DataView” fields will also make the following possible:

  • Efficient offline data caching and persistence with easy configuration
  • Hierarchical presentation of data with unlimited depth
  • New data access objects with child records
  • Drag & drop linking of child data rows with master rows by end users

Legacy Development Workflow

If you do plan to try the “Headstand”  Yoga position, then you better make sure that you are not going to break anything! Applications created with previous releases will not be affected. Model Builder will be available in Project Wizard but its use will not be required.  Model Builder is an optional tool in the legacy projects.

Only the new projects will require explicit definition of models for database entities. We are confident that if you try the new development workflow then you will love it! A simple switch in the project configuration file will make it possible to have the legacy development workflow activated for any new project should you feel an instant dislike of visual data modeling.

Inline editing capabilities make it very easy to assign custom field names, labels, and display format strings in Model Builder. This feature is intended to replace the need for Tools for Excel.

Why?

Why are we making these changes given the extensive roadmap for 2015/2016?

The two primary goals in the near future for Code On Time is to support offline mode of operation for generated apps and to provide a completely online development environment called http://cloudontime.com.  We have found it to be difficult to implement master-detail offline editing with the current page-based relationships between data views. It also difficult to build an online database app without seeing the data model as a diagram. New “DataView” field type addresses the offline editing issues with unlimited depth of master-detail levels.Visual Model Builder is a tool based on HTML5. It is actually taken from Cloud On Time code base. This will ensure to seamless transitions from online to desktop development.

We are also experiencing a significant level of interest from former IronSpeed developers who are used to the “page generation” concept based on numerous configuration options instead of a more holistic approach exercised by Code On Time. Model Builder and model configuration options are introduced to appeal to broader group of developers while simultaneously increasing value for the existing customers.

Availability

The next release will have the version number 8.5.6.0 and is expected to go out by the end of November 2015 or in the early December 2015. Full support for Visual Studio 2015 and latest Azure SDK  will be included.

Buy Code On Time application generator now and be ready for tremendous productivity improvements when a prompt to install the next release is displayed!

Open a support ticket to request a presentation and see the new features in action!

Friday, September 4, 2015PrintSubscribe
Iron Speed to Discontinue Operations

We were surprised to learn that Iron Speed, Inc. has decided to discontinue operations. The primary reasons were cited by the company CEO as “expense of litigation with patent troll” and “product sales have been severely impacted”.

Iron Speed has always been a product that generates a large number of data input forms from database tables. These data input forms were based on aging Web Forms technology virtually abandoned by Microsoft. The fact that “product sales have been severely impacted” indicates the possibility of IronSpeed going out of business even in the absence of litigation.

Code On Time has been focused on generating custom premium database applications with a solid extensible architecture. Our own Data Aquarium Framework and a concept of a data controller make it possible. We are inviting all Iron Speed customers to attend a live WebEx presentation of Code On Time. We will show you amazing Touch and Desktop UI in action, perform live project modifications, and answer any questions you may have. Open a support ticket to request a presentation.

Our Technology

A data controller defines an entity with a data model expressed as a collection of fields. Individual views describe presentation of data, while actions and business rules define the built-in and custom application behaviors.

Code On Time application generator is a single executable program for Microsoft Windows that allows creating custom software projects. The intended operator of the application generator is a software developer, who has designed a database and wishes to create a custom application source code for it. Several project types are supported and differ by deployment model of the source code “written” by application generator.

Premium database applications created with Code On Time may include content pages and data-aware pages.

A typical use case of the application generator would be the following: a software developer starts the application generator, selects a database for the project, and chooses to create the project source code without data controllers or to have data controllers configured from the database.

  • A project without data controllers must be populated with pages and controllers manually. A data controller can be configured to consume data from external web services or file system. The developer may also create a custom SQL statement to configure a controller.

    Use this option if you are developing an application on top of stored procedures or web services.
     
  • A project may have data controllers configured from the database tables. Application generator will de-normalize existing table relationships and define a singular entity that presents a user-friendly logical view of data. De-normalization of relationships is mandatory for a premium application.

For example, a database may define three separate tables to persist products, categories, and suppliers. The table of products would reference categories and suppliers via a numeric values instead of including the name of category or supplier information. Application generator will configure a data controller for products by “borrowing” fields from categories and suppliers.

The application generator has completed its work after the source code of the project has been generated.

The application developer needs to publish and deploy the source code to a web server to see the generated application in action. Microsoft IIS or IIS Express web server is required for an application to come alive.

End user must operate a web browser to access an application deployed to a Microsoft web server. All major web browsers are supported.

Non-human agents can also interact with the application data controllers via REST API if the software developer configures this type of interaction.

If the database has changed, then the application developer will have to update data controllers and produce a new source code for the application. The old application will have to be physically removed from the web server and replaced with the new published application.

Applications created with Code On Time are not able to detect changes in the database schema. Changes in the database schema will either render application inoperable or remain invisible, depending on the nature of database modifications.

An application created for one database is unique and will not work with a database that has a different schema.

Database metadata with information about tables, columns, and relationships is not included with the published application. Metadata about the database is not used by the application when serving requests from web browsers or external non-human agents.

Fundamentally our application generator is an automation tool for software developers that provides a service of writing the source code of custom line-of-business applications.

Microsoft Visual Studio can be used to customize generated source code.

Introducing Universal Database Browser

The claim of patent infringement against IronSpeed, Inc. mentioned above is based on the patent with the following abstract:

Computer software for, computer apparatus for, and a method of automatically generating a user interface for a relational database comprising extracting schema information from the relational database and automatically generating corresponding schema and user interface metadata, storing the metadata in a repository, and automatically developing from the metadata a user interface appropriate to the relational database.

The first reading of the abstract will certainly cause anyone familiar with software development to scratch their head. There are virtually no applications that do not rely on a database in some way. Databases can be found in computer gaming, accounting, word processing, anti-virus protection, health care, package delivery - you name it. There is virtually no application code that does not rely on user interface metadata generated by computer software in some shape or form. How could this generic idea be awarded a US patent?

The second reading of the abstract will show that the word “code” is not mentioned at all. You will not find the word “code” in the claims section of the patent either. So if it is not about code generation then what does “automatically developing from the metadata a user interface appropriate to the relational database” mean?

A thorough reading of the entire patent and review of 87 illustrations will reveal that it does introduce a rather neat invention in the form of a Universal Database Browser.

  1. The invention includes a utility that we shall call Metadata Extractor. The purpose of this utility is to convert information about tables, columns, and relationships between tables into user interface metadata.
     
  2. The main component of the invention is the utility that we shall call Universal Database Browser. This browser interprets user interface metadata and displays data input forms at runtime.  
     
  3. The invention also makes provisions for the possibility of enhancing user interface metadata with custom scripts containing business rules and triggers.

Database administrator will utilize Metadata Extractor to produce and refresh user interface metadata after each round of database schema changes. User interface metadata about the database is stored in a central location.

An instance of Universal Database Browser is deployed to a computer of each end user. Browsers are configured to access the central location of user interface metadata files.

End user starts her Universal Database Browser and chooses metadata retrieved from the central location by database name. The browser will display a menu of available entities. A list of data rows is displayed after entity selection has been made.

End user can activate a data entry form for any row. She we also see a collection of directly linked child records. For example, if an order is selected then a data input form is displayed for that row along with linked data tables.

Any child record or entity can be promoted to become a focus of Universal Database Browser. The browser is the sort of a looking glass that is being moved by end user from a data row to the row’s linked entities in various directions.

Universal Database Browser also supports an interesting concept of “search path”, whereby search operations are traveling connected data entities to help locating data.

Note that Universal Database Browser is a smart software capable of interpreting user interface metadata to provide all of these capabilities to the end user. Not a single line of code has to be written. The browser is the embodiment of the central idea expressed in the summary of invention:

“It is the primary object of the present invention to provide a method and system by which data entry forms for relational databases may be generated dynamically at run-time without the necessity of writing computer code to accomplish this task.”

The invention is certainly worthy of finding a venture capitalist willing to fund it or maybe having a “Kickstarter” project started.

We believe that it is not possible to provide a truly premium database application experience with such a literal interpretation of database information. End users do not see their data in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th normal forms. The real-world data is inherently de-normalized and shall be presented as such.

The invention will find traction among database administrators and software developers who need a “native” look at data in its fully normalized glory.

Code On Time vs. Universal Database Browser

Please note that the terms Metadata Extractor and Universal Database Browser are used in an attempt to simplify references to the ideas expressed in the patent.

It is our opinion that Code On Time code generator and Universal Database Browser are two different animals. Let’s compare the two.

Does Code On Time perform substantially the same function as the invention?

Code On Time is designed to assist developers in writing source code for their line-of-business application. The invention is intended to eliminate any need to write source code. The answer is a resounding “no”! Our very name, “Code On Time”, seeks to imply that code is in our DNA.

Does Code On Time function in substantially the same way?

Our code generation product does not serve the same function. Code On Time produces source code, while the invention eliminates source code. The answer is “no”.

Does Code On Time yield substantially the same result?

Code On Time produces source code for an application developer. This developer will compile and publish this code to a Microsoft web server. Any web browser or non-human agent can make requests to interact with the application. The invention produces user interface metadata, and interprets this metadata as data input forms to the user. Again, the answer is “no”.