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This technology preview release does not represent any commitment that this functionality will be delivered in a supported product. We are looking for feedback on the features shown and described in this tech preview, and we're looking for input on the value of this functionality to IBM customers. We invite you to add comments to this page with your feedback. Thanks!
For slides with description and screenshots of this technology preview, see this attachment: IBM WebSphere Portlet Factory Application Builder.pdf
For questions or comments on this topic, please post a comment using the "Add a comment" link at the bottom of the page.
Business and Technology Challenges
Business users operate in increasingly competitive and globalized environments that demand immediate and dynamic business responses to exploit and counter emerging opportunities and threats. Requests for the applications and technologies enabling dynamic business responses often go unfulfilled as technology organizations are already overburdened with far more work than existing technical resources have the capacity to deliver. Business users in turn leverage quasi-technical departmental resources to create applications to address application and technology demands independently of the technology organization utilizing tools, infrastructure and security mechanisms that do not meet established technology standards. As the importance of these applications grow from simple point solutions to critical business process enablers the technology organization is tasked with maintaining, supporting and modernizing the application for enterprise usage.
Key Business Value Propositions
IBM WebSphere Portlet Factory Application builder provides business users and technology organizations with the following benefits:
- Increases business agility for exploiting and countering emerging opportunities and threats
- Helps resolve technology organization resource constraints by extending application creation capabilities to business users
- Minimizes technology organization application conversation costs when transitioning from departmental to enterprise usage
Overview of features
With Application Builder, you can create new database list and multi-page form applications directly from the WebSphere Portal interface in a browser. You simply add the desired application template to a page, then click through a wizard to configure the application.
The Application Builder tool is built entirely on WebSphere Portlet Factory builder and model technology. This tech preview focuses on database list and forms functionality. However, the technology is extensible and can support building any kind of application.
Key features in this tech preview release:
- Custom portlet applications can be built entirely from within Portal, running in a browser
- Create and deploy nice-looking CRUD (create/read/update/delete) and multi-page form portlets using database lists for storage
- Create database lists from spreadsheet or by specifying field names
- Select from application templates for common list application types, then customize to meet specific needs
- Enable event source support to fire Portlet Factory client events to other portlets
- Enable live name support for person card display for registered Portal users
- Simple install and deploy: just install one portlet WAR on any Portal 6.1.5 server.
Database lists can be created in a few different ways:
- You can import a spreadsheet and automatically create a database table based on the columns in the spreadsheet.
- You can specify the columns you want in your database list.
- You can start with one of the predefined templates, such as "contact list" or "task list," and you can customize the list of fields.
Application Builder is built on the Portlet Factory framework, leveraging all of Portlet Factory's model and builder technology and runtime framework. This provides some very important benefits and features:
- Generated code can be further customized in the Portlet Factory IDE. Applications built through the browser interface can be brought into the Portlet Factory IDE for additional customization by developers. This means that when particular applications become more widely used and critical to the enterprise, they can be seamlessly moved into the hands of IT for complete customization using the full range of Portlet Factory capabilities. Note: For this tech preview, this capability is only available internally for IBM users.
- Extensibility. The available application patterns and templates can be easily extended using Portlet Factory models and builders. Templates can be created for any kind of application, implementation any horizontal or vertical functionality. Note: For this tech preview, this capability is only available internally for IBM users.
- Proven performance and scalability. Portlet Factory is a proven, mature, scalable framework that has been deployed in mission-critical applications for large customers and is proven to have good performance. Each Application Builder portlet runs as a Portlet Factory model.
You can download the Application Builder portlet WAR from the following link. See below for installation instructions.
The Application Builder can be installed on WebSphere Portal version 6.1.5 or 18.104.22.168. Other versions of Portal may work but have not been tested. Application Builder automatically generates a Derby data source and data tables which are used for list storage, so there is no special database requirement or setup involved.
To install Application Builder, simply install the Application Builder portlet WAR file into your Portal server:
1. Download the Application Builder WAR.
2. Go to Portal's Portal Administration tools by logging into Portal and clicking on Administration.
3. Under Portlet Management, click on Web Modules
4. In the Manage Web Modules area click on the Install button.
5. Browse to the WAR file location and select the WAR file, click Next, then Finish.
At this point all of the Application Builder templates and the Application Builder Management Console will be in the list of Portlets you can add to a page.
Creating a portlet using Application Builder
Here are the steps to creating a custom portlet based on one of the templates:
1. Create a portal page and add one of the Application Builder templates to the page. You can find all the Application Builder templates by searching for "App Builder" in the available portlets. Each of these portlets is a template you can use to create a particular type of application. See below for a list of the available application templates.
2. Once the portlet is added to the page, it will display a screen with a field where you can enter your new portlet's title. Type in the name for your new portlet and select "Begin."
3. The first time you do this you'll see a screen where you must enter the Portal user's ID and password. This is needed to configure the Derby database, and you will never need to do this again. Enter a valid Portal user name and password then click OK. This will create a sample Derby database for use with Application Builder.
4. You will now see the wizard steps for creating and customizing your new portlet. The exact steps depend on which application template portlet you selected. You can navigate through the wizard steps by clicking on the list of steps at the left or by using the "Next" and "Previous" buttons.
5. When you are done working with the wizard steps, click "OK" to save and view your customized portlet.
6. If you want to make additional changes to the portlet, select the "Edit Shared Settings" option from the portlet's menu. This will display the wizard steps again.
Note: If you have previously installed the Application Builder then first follow the uninstall steps below to remove the existing Application Builder setup.
Application template types
Here are the application templates available in this tech preview release:
- Create List from Imported Spreadsheet: This is used to create a list application from a spreadsheet. It creates a database table, with columns taken from your spreadsheet columns. The database table is populated with data from the spreadsheet. In the first wizard step you will upload your spreadsheet. You can then customize the application using the other wizard steps.
- Create List: This is used to create a new database list with fields that you specify in the first wizard step.
- Use Existing List: This builds an application using an existing database list. The database list can be any of the lists you have created using Application Builder.
- Contact List: This is a template for a contact list application, with suggested fields and UI configuration. You can customize the list of fields and the UI to meet your needs.
- Task List: This is a template for a "task list" application, with suggested fields and UI configuration. You can customize the list of fields and the UI to meet your needs.
- Multi-page Input Form: This lets you build a multi-page form application, such as you might see for registering for a conference or submitting feedback on a product. This is used with an existing database list created using one of the templates that creates a new list (such as "Create List from Imported Spreadsheet" or "Contact List").
Using the Application Builder Management Console portlet
Note: The first time the Application Builder Management Console portlet is used you will have to configure the database by clicking on the Porlet Menu down arrow icon in the upper right section of the page and clicking on Configure. Define the Portal user's ID and Password then click Ok.
In addition to the template portlets, Application Builder includes a management console portlet. This portlet can be used to view, edit, and test any of the applications you have built with Application Builder. Each Application Builder portlet you create has its own Portlet Factory model file on the server. You can open any of these models with the management console and make changes if you want.
You can also use the Management Console to create special "Lookup Table" models. These are used to create lookup tables that be referenced from the "Define Field Settings" step of any application model. You can create these lookup table models by using the File New command and selecting one of the following options:
- Dynamic Lookup: This is used to create a lookup from a column in an existing database list. Select the database list, then specify the column for the lookup. You can optionally specify a different column to use as a label display.
- Static Lookup: This is used to create a lookup list with some predefined choices.
There are also some sample models provided with Application Builder. You can open and run these using the Management Console. Here are the provided sample models:
- Sales Opportunities: This uses a sample database list "Opportunities" which tracks sales opportunities. You can view, update, create, and delete records in that database list.
- Sales Opportunities Form: This is a multi-page form application for adding a new record in the Opportunities list. Once you have submitted the new record, you can use the "Sales Opportunities" sample to see the list including the new record you created.
- Sample Lookups: This model is not an application. It is a model containing some predefined lookup tables that can be used from the "Define Field Settings" step in any model.
Sample data files
The attached sample spreadsheet file opportunities_sample.xls contains a list of fictional sales opportunities and can be used with the "Create List From Spreadsheet" template. Simply save this file on your computer, then point to the file in the first wizard step of that template.
Uninstalling Application Builder
Steps to uninstall:
1. Using the Portal Administration console uninstall the existing Application Builder WAR file (Administration-Portlet Management-Web Modules)
2. Using the WAS Administration console delete the CloudscapeProvider resource (Resources-JDBC-JDBC Providers)
3. Stop/Start the WebSphere Portal
Limitations of tech preview
Here are some known limitations of this tech preview:
- There is no user interface for deleting database lists.
- All user-created application models are deleted if you update the Application Builder portlet WAR.
- When running on IE 6, the form area of wizard steps is small and has a scroll bar.
- When a data source is created, it uses the current deployed WAR location as the Derby file location. If you uninstall and reinstall the WAR you will need to delete the data source (using WAS admin) as described in the uninstall steps.