Friday, May 30, 2008

Rave Review from Bangkok Post

This Wednesday, then I opened my morning paper I was pleasantly surprised to find that Thailand's largest newspaper had done a review of dbQwikSite by their resident Web Design columnist. It's quite a positive review so I thought I would share it with you.
Read the full review here. (updated link Jun 9 2008)

Here are a few kudos from the article: (in the event that the above link gets "retired")
I do not normally get excited about a code generation tool but I have watched this local product evolve and it just keeps getting better.

Remember this is a local Thai product that rivals the bigger US equivalents and is of course a lot less expensive
If you are looking for a deceptively inexpensive web site builder and don't want to pay someone to build one for you then I recommend that you try dbQwikSite.

If you are wondering: No I'm not on the board or payroll - this is just a great product.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Smart XSL Snippets: Mini Code Generators

Today we released dbQwikSite By most counts, this is a simple maintenance release but hiding in the list of updates there appears one rather mundane looking item entitled “xsl snippet support”. Looks pretty small and simple on the surface, but this single new feature infers some pretty powerful implications. It means that you can make mini-code generators inside the dbQwikSite generation framework.

Let’s take a closer look at this feature. We call it XSL code snippets. What it means that in any of the 150-plus custom code insert points found in Developer Edition, you can write an XSL(T) template. But this is not a template transforming xml data to format HTML in the browser. These XSL templates work a code generation time and they work against the XML of your project. This is really cool, because it means that you can access all the design information stored in your project model to generate code snippets. It takes a bit of time to wrap your mind around the concept but once you do the implications are quite interesting.

Let’s step back a bit. Let’s say we are working with Developer edition, which in itself is very powerful. What we can do is add in new script code to enhance our generated pages. We can do all kinds of neat things by typing in “static” script syntax into insert points / events. Ok, so we can understand adding code snippets to our pages. But what about a “smart snippet”? One that can write the code snippet for you. One that can know about other pages in your project, one that can react to the design setting contained in your project model. That’s exactly what the XSL snippets offer. And when you think about it, that’s exactly what the dbQwikSite code generation engines does, translates your design setting to code. But what’s extra cool about the XSL snippets is that it is you who defines what is to be generated, rather than the code generation engine itself. Now, that’s pretty advanced flexibility, and you won’t find this type of power in any competing tool. If you are lucky you may get “events” and then only a handful at best. With dbQwikSite you get over 150 “events” and you get smart snippets that can actually generate code themselves.

So why would we ever write a smart snippet. There are a number of situations that make smart snippets indispensible. The first one that comes to mind is to be able to have code snippets that is “project aware”, for example you may want to create code that adds new page flows, but without the names of the other pages, you could not so this, smart snippets can gather information from the project XML. Another situation is to make a snippet that is settings aware, for example you want it to create code differently if the page is secured or not, or if the group has a shopping cart. These are examples where smart snippets can outperform their “static” counterparts. You can write snippets that are not project specific, they are generic and self adjusting between projects. Another example could be a multi-scripting language snippet. For example rather than writing two snippets, one in ASP and one PHP and maintaining, managing and distributing both snippets, you have only one smart snippet, that automatically detects the generation language and inserts the correct language syntax.

Granted, writing smart snippets may not be for everyone. You can get along quite well inserting ordinary “static” script code into your insert points. To write a smart snippet, you need an understanding of the project XML and XSL as well as the code that you want to generate. But if you are into these technologies, you may be interested in a few of the details of the mechanics of XSL smart snippets. To create a smart snippet, you do as you would for any other kind of code snippet. But instead of typing in script syntax you type in an XSL template, and check the box that says this is a XSL snippet. During code generation, your XSL is executed and the output is placed into the insert point that invokes the snippet. Your snippet is passed the entire DOM of project XML, as well as two parameters. The two parameters are the Page ID and the Item ID (when applicable), giving you the context of the call to your XSL. You can easily work your way through the DOM to access Groups, Pages and other project objects to produce the code syntax you need.

That’s it, one small item in a maintenance release, the gives you an extremely powerful capability, a capability that you won’t find elsewhere. And even if you are not up to writing your own smarts snippets others will write and share smart snippets and you can benefit. This is yet another way that we are providing ways for the user community to contribute to the development of dbQwikSite. With our first step about a year ago providing an XML project model, to support for user defined project reports, addition of a plug-in architecture, user definable payment processing page generation, code snippets and now smart snippets. You can look forward to dbQwikSite becoming more powerful and more flexible with every release.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Web Developer Edition Now Available

dbQwikSite Developer Edition is now available for download. Developer Edition makes its debut as part of the release of 5.3. In a nutshell, Developer addition let’s you add your own custom code into your website projects. The concept is simple, but the ramifications are profound. It means that you can now extend and enhance your generated pages. Developer edition opens the door to a realm of possibilities.

I have been pushing for Developer Edition for almost a year now. I knew that I wanted it, I knew that it would be kewel (cool). What I didn’t know was exactly what it meant to web developers and web designers until I started testing it. It was like having my hands untied, or taking the rev limiter off your sports car. Now, I could do things that I had seen on other sites, but were beyond the capabilities of code generation.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the other editions of dbQwikSite, and every time I use them I am grateful that I don’t have to hand code thousands of lines of code. I always amazed what I can do in 10 minutes with this software. But, being the overachiever I am, I always want more! More features, more cool stuff, more flexibility. That’s exactly what I got with dbQwikSite Developer Edition. To date, I had to wait for the developers to have the time to code new features. I know from emails of our users that I am not the only one that wished that we could provide features faster. With Developer Edition, the game changed overnight. The only one that was holding back features was me, not the developers. I wanted graphs, I added graphs! I wanted conditional highlighting, I added conditional highlighting! I wanted a search on the data lists page, I added it! You get the idea, I am sure. It was instant gratification. It was the freedom to do much, much more without giving up all the “cushy” benefits of my beloved code generator.

Here is a copy of the promotional video I made to introduce Developer Edition.
The quality a bit blurry here, there is bigger one on the home page of dbQwikSite

If I have caught your interest, then you likely want to know more about what’s inside the new edition. Developer looks the same as other editions. What’s new is a “In-line code editor”. When you are working with a page, you click the “custom code” option in the popup menus. What you see is the generated source code. Inside the code, there are input boxes we call “insert points” in which you can type your own custom code. There are over 150 of these insert points at key places in the processing. Some are “events” like “after open dataset” and “on focus” of a control. Others do not related directly to an event, but more to places in code where you may want to add your own code, an example is “CSS Includes” it is not an event, but you may wish to include your own CSS files at this point in the source code. As you may have gathered, there are insert points for both client and server side scripting.

Besides the code editor, there are several reports designed specifically for web developer in mind edition such as the custom code report. You don’t need to hunt through each page looking for custom code in your project. Just run this handy report, and you’ll know exactly what custom code you have in your project. Another powerhouse feature is a complete custom code versioning mechanism built right into dbQwikSite. Every time you modify a custom code block, a new version is saved into your project. You can use the Version Management Interactive Report to view a complete history of your custom code blocks. What’s more, you can even “revert” back to previous versions if you discover you somehow messed things up along the way. Behind the scenes there have been some changes to the way pages are generated to allow better control of presentation by JavaScript. Ids are assigned to page elements; the contents of the page are now embedded in layout matrix of divs that let you insert content around generated elements. Variable name abstractions have been added to let you code using variable names that are readable and do not get changed when you do design changes.

If you want to give developer a try, you need the new executable program file. To get the most recent exe new users can download PE and existing users can run live update. All editions let you preview Developer’s entire user interface. If you want to test drive the code generation, just run in Full Trial mode. Upgrade pricing is available to all version 5 users. Details can be found on the web site.