Monday, October 19, 2009

Oracle Application Express Forms Converter Book

On my way back from Oracle OpenWorld I finally found some time catching up on some of the books about Oracle Application Express, and took a closer look at the “Oracle Application Express Forms Converter” book, written by Douwe Pieter van den Bos. I think this book should be really useful for any customer considering converting their Oracle Forms applications to Oracle Application Express. It’s well written and well structured. I liked the fact that a good portion of the book is dedicated to actually understanding the reasons for moving to a more modern technology like Oracle Application Express, understanding the functionality of the original Forms application and the conversion process as well the architecture.

When we developed the Forms conversion utility in Oracle Application Express we knew that we wouldn’t be able to create a magic box, which would convert 100% of the original application, or in some way would emulate Forms in a different environment. So we spent a good amount of time implementing features to track, review and annotate all components of the original Forms application, while providing automatic conversion of components that have an equivalent component in Oracle Application Express. This ensures that all components of the original Forms applications are accounted for. The book nicely outlines how to make use of these project-tracking features, starting with deciding which components to convert, assigning developers to different modules, and annotating and tagging the different part of the imported Forms application meta data. The actual conversion process is explained clearly, including preparing and optimizing the imported Forms application definition, preparing and refining the application model and generating the actual Oracle Application Express application.

Just about the only part where I’d like to see some additional details in a future edition of the book would be the chapter about reviewing and customizing the generated application. In most Forms conversion efforts, this is probably the part where most time is being spend on, so it would be nice to see some best practices, learn more about what to do with components that were not automatically converted, etc.

The book concludes with a section on “Delivering your Application”, stressing the importance of user acceptance and training. This is a critical part of any conversion project, especially when the user interface of the new system is significantly different from the previous system. I recommend anyone interested in converting Oracle Forms to Oracle Application Express to read this book.

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