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Oracle Scene

Oracle Scene

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Published by roel.hartman1230
My article in Oracle Scene summer 2009 about Forms to APEX conversion.
My article in Oracle Scene summer 2009 about Forms to APEX conversion.

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Published by: roel.hartman1230 on Jun 30, 2009
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 AUK Oracle User Group publication
 Why convert to APEX?
 Just to be clear I emphasise that, at thismoment, Oracle has announced no plansto de-support Oracle Forms. Indeed thisyear Oracle will release the long-awaited  version 11 of Forms. Therefore thethreat of the end of support is no reason tosay goodbye to Forms. But Forms is based onasomewhat outdated client-server technology from themiddle of the eighties. In addi-tion, Oracle Forms uses a Javaapplet instead of HTML and so is not consistent with themodern approach to Webapplications. Furthermore,because Forms uses a Javaapplet, it is not suitable fordeploying an application (orpart of one), for example, for on-lineshopping or order tracking to users outsideacompany’s network. APEX on the otherhand uses HTML and JavaScript, and socan run in a browser without the need for alarge (initial) download and imposes asmaller burden on the client.Conversion to APEX offers themodernisation of an application withinnovative features such as Flash Chartsand Interactive Reports. An additionaladvantage is that the knowledge and skillsto develop APEX are already available in aForms development shop: like Forms it hasadeclarative way of development and isSQL and PL/SQL-oriented. And – as an additional advantage – APEX is free (or, as Oracle likes to call it, it is a
 no-cost database feature
). And that allowsyou to save around $ 5000 per year onmaintenance fee for the Forms and ReportsServer, and about $ 1200 per year perdeveloper on the licenses for the Internet Developer Suite.
 What does the Forms to APEXconversion offer you?
 The Forms conversion provides a rapid launch of a modernisation project. Apart 
APEX3.2: The Oracle Forms toAPEX conversion
by Roel Hartman, Logica
ersion 3.2 of Oracle Application Express (APEX) is the most recent  version of this successful Web-based Rapid Application Development tool. A key new feature is the ability to convert Oracle Forms (and Reports) to APEX pages.
from the PL/SQL in triggers and programunits, APEX converts Forms componentsautomatically to APEX components. The differences between the two tools suchas the difference between PL/SQL and  JavaScript, means it is almost alwaysnecessary to manually add or change code.Obviously business rules which are imple-mented in the database means less PL/SQLin place in the Forms and that simplifies aconversion project considerably. Thisapplies not only to a conversion to APEX,but also to a conversion to other web tools,such as ADF.In order to assess the impact of aconversion project, you can use APEX toidentify the PL/SQL code in the Forms. And you can easily monitor the progress of the (manual) conversion to the APEX equivalent. The conversion uses the same wizards asthe manual build of an APEX application. Therefore the result of a conversion project is similar to manually built APEX application and is just as easy to maintain.
How does the Forms to APEXconversion work?
First, you need to convert the OracleForms – and their menus, templates and libraries – to XML. This can bedone using the Forms to XMLUtility: frmf2xml.bat, a DOSbatch file, which is a standard part of an Oracle DeveloperSuite installation.In APEX you have to create anew workspace, and link thedatabase schema of theapplication to it. After logginginto the new workspace in APEX, there is a link on themain page: Application Migrations.Previously,this link was only used whenconverting MS-Access applications, but now the conversion of Forms is added tothat menu. After clicking on that link you create a new  Migration Project and the first XML file canbe uploaded to the project. Subsequently,you upload all the other XML files to the
Conversion is supported from Forms version 9i upwards.
Figure 1: Flow Chart Forms to APEX conversion
“...the result of a conversion projectis similar to manually built APEXapplication and is just as easyto maintain.”
Scene Issue 38 Summer 2009
project. Unfortunately, at this moment it isnot possible to upload a zip containingmultiple XML files or the contents of anentire directory in a single upload. The XML files are loaded into a number of internal APEX tables and analysed. APEX presents the result of that analysis using thestandard features of the InteractiveReports. Within APEX you have insight inthe definition of each Forms component,such as a block, item, trigger, record orLOV group. To support the conversionyou can make an annotation for eachcomponent, containing a comment or aparticular point of interest. The ability totailor the conversion process is currently limited to: marking a component as “not applicable”, changing the query of a block and customising prompts. Now you can generate the APEX application. The generator transforms aForms block to one or more APEX pages.It uses several criteria such as the numberof blocks in the form and the presence of relationships between the blocks, the num-ber of records that’s displayed and if insert or update is allowed, to determine whetheran APEX Report, a Report and a Form oraMaster Detail-page is created. Thisprocess uses the same Create Application Wizard from the previous version. At thispoint in the conversion process, you canadd or remove pages (which you can alsodo after the final generation). Making somesmall adjustments in the layout you’ll havean APEX application that shows a highdegree of similarity with the original Formsapplication (see Figure2for a converted master-detail screen).
Figure 2: Conversion result
In addition to the CRUD functionality, APEX converts LOV’s and creates validations for numeric, date and mandatory fields.In the current version it is only possible toconvert a whole Migration Project –acollection of Forms – to an APEX  Application. This means that you need toconvert all Forms of an application at once(although you can come up with a workaround involving copying pages).In terms of project management, especially  when dealing with a large number of Forms, that is not the preferred method.It would be preferable to convert Forms inchunks to an APEX Application. Thisfeatureis on my wish list for APEX 4.0.
“In addition to the CRUD functionality, APEXconverts LOV’s and creates validations fornumeric, date and mandatory fields.”
T  E   C  I     C  A  L  

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