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Formspider: Dynamic Application Framework

Building a website is both easy, and hard. It’s easy because at the end of the day HTML isn’t that difficult. What’s more, you can skip it altogether and display raw text in the browser without it. On the other end of the spectrum are fully functional web applications. These require HTML, CSS, Javascript, AJAX, server side programming, sysadmin, and approximately two and a half miracles in order to bring it online.

Even with such a lengthy list of required skills, it’s still not that hard to build a site. With a little practice you’ll get the hang of the various constructs and piece them together. Once it’s finally built, you’ll view it in a browser such as FireFox. Just to double check you try it in Internet Explorer or Chrome, and it won’t look right. The windows will be misaligned; some functions won’t work at all. Countless web developers have encountered lack of browser compatibility and had to rework the code for hours on end until all the browser quirks are fixed.

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Due to the complexity brought on by all these factors many a website framework has been born. These tools help automate the redundant parts of web development. For instance many sites have forms and then have the need to verify the information entered in those forms. Frameworks provide prebuilt tools to speed up various portions of web development. These frameworks are most typically language and platform specific. Each lends themselves to a particular purpose. To name a few, WordPress is for blogs and is sometimes utilized as a backbone for more complex sites. Joomla is a more robust and fully featured content management system. Both of these are built on PHP and have a limited range of how and where they can be deployed.

Bypassing this entirely is Formspider (found at theformspider.com). It’s a new framework that takes a revolutionary approach to application development. With Formspider you can build an entire application with PL/SQL. Once set up it’s translated into an application where all the details are filled out by Formspider. What this means is that all you have to do is describe your product with PL/SQL and it takes care of the rest. AND, since Formspider allows you to design the application at such a high level, it’s not limited to creating web applications. Currently you can deploy it to both the web and windows desktop application. In fact, in the future they may build UI libraries to deploy applications on Flash, iOS, Android, Silverlight, or any yet to be released technology that comes along. All from the same PL/SQL code base.

For those who don’t know, PL/SQL is the procedural language for Oracle’s best of brand database. Although the ethic of Oracle’s shrewd CEO can sometimes be a bit suspect, the quality of their flagship product, the database, is not. It’s as reliable as they come for commercial products.

The rich internet applications built with Formspider can have many features. These include basic layouts, forms, and charts. Formspider relies exclusively on AJAX to make database calls. What this means is the page doesn’t reload in order to make changes. Updates to the page are made asynchronously with the database as the user navigates. (The A in AJAX comes from ‘asynchronous.’) This makes for a smooth user experience and professional looking website.

Formspider provides default themes which you can modify. If you prefer you can also upload your own stylesheets to reflect any design you like. Also, the tool is web based, so it’s completely portable. Just to be sure everything was working correctly, Formspider used their own product to build their IDE. This is no trivial task actually. I worked for a company that attempted to use their product for an internal project. It wasn’t long before we were longing for the third party version we were using before.

FormSpider App builder

FormSpider App builder

One other aspect about Formspider is they didn’t forget to charge for it. In fact, by our best recollection it’s the single most expensive product we’ve reviewed. As would be expected by a product born by Oracle gurus, it costs a pretty penny. The fee is based upon the edition of your Oracle Database and ranges from $1000 to $10,000. This is a product for serious development teams. Fortunately, the developer license is free so you can try before you buy to make sure it’s the right choice for your team.

Formspider provides a best of brand cross-platform rich internet application framework. They do all the hard work so you don’t have to. No more studying up on the nuances of getting AJAX calls to work in both IE and FireFox. No more fussing with JavaScript or any of the other code. Just brush up on your PL/SQL skills and you’re all set. Given the likelihood that new versions of the product will be able to make applications for an increasing number of OSes, the one time fee could start paying huge dividends. It can save time during application development and can produce a better product. With Formspider, top notch AJAX enabled websites can finally be built with relative ease.

(Anybody have ten grand they’d like to lend me?)

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