Monday, November 09, 2009

Oracle Application Express Forms Converter Book - Review

As I promised earlier I should write a review of the Oracle Application Express Forms Converter book by Douwe Pieter van den Bos. I finally found the time to work it doesn't take that much time, because it is "just" 150 pages thick (or thin).
The book contains 8 chapters, in which the reader is guided through an Forms2APEX conversion project from start to finish. It starts of with "Understanding your Project" (1), wherein understanding the reasons for conversion as well as the functionality of the Forms application is stressed as important, because these will influence the way you'll solve things in the APEX application. One or more examples should have been useful here.
The next chapter, "Preparing your Forms Conversion" (2), covers the creation of XML files from the source files. BTW, not only Forms, also "Reports" are - briefly - touched (and can be converted as well). Also different ways of creating a target database are mentioned (but IMHO you usually can just re-use your current Forms development environment).
Chapter (3), "Create your Forms Conversion Project", covers the next step in the project: uploading the XML files and understanding the Project Overview Page.
The next chapter is about "Planning your Project" (4). It shows how you can dive into the different components (blocks, triggers and what's not), and how to use the Annotations, Tags, Assignments and Applicablity to estimate the work you've done and still have to do. That last one is rather difficult, because only the number of objects-to-do are counted - and, as we all know - that doesn't tell you everything about the time needed to accomplish things. But it might help you in planning and monitoring the project.
Chapter (5), "Getting your Logic Right!", is probably the key-chapter of the book. The difference between Original, Enhanced and Custom Query is explained in detail. Alas one line "Implementing the business logic is done post-generation, execpt for some Post-Query triggers" says it all... I now the conversion utlity is not a silver bullet, but some examples on how to convert Forms logic to the APEX equivalent would have been a very useful add-on!
Chapter (6) covers "Generating your Application", and doesn't tell anything new if you're already an APEX Developer (actually there is nothing more to tell about it than what covered here).
"Reviewing and Customizing your Application" is the penultimate chapter (7). It handles tweaking the generated LOV's, Titles and how to create a Validation based on what was an WHEN-VALIDATE-RECORD trigger in the Form.
The last chapter (8), on "Delivering your Application", discusses (very briefly) how to create an Application Export and import that in a Test-, Acceptance or Production environment. No specific Forms2APEX stuff.

All in all it is a good book when you need an overview of the steps you have to take for converting an Oracle Forms application to APEX - more on a Project Management level than a Developer level. If you really need to get your hands dirty and do the actual conversion yourself, this book is just the beginning of a great adventure...
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