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Oracle Application Builder Cloud Service builds no-code apps

Oracle encourages nonprogrammers to try their hand at development with the Oracle Application Builder Cloud Service, where they can use business objects to build no-code Web apps.

Oracle Application Builder Cloud Service is a do-it-yourself platform for creating and hosting Web applications without having to write any code. Oracle ABCS includes tools that enable business users who lack programming experience to build applications and open them up to other users; it also provides the infrastructure for managing and securing both the applications and their data.

According to Oracle, you can create and deploy a complete business application within minutes, using the Web-based ABCS design interface. The interface offers a visual development tool and an application hosting environment that require no software downloads or installation to use. You only need to log into the ABCS site through a supported browser.

With the ABCS interface, you can access existing REST services, build custom business objects and assemble an application using a collection of built-in controls. And while Oracle ABCS is designed to enable code-free application creation, you can also add custom code to the application to integrate more sophisticated features, if your organization has the technical know-how.

The typical workflow for building an ABCS application begins with creating the business objects that define the application's data sources. Next, you build pages that display the business object data in tables or lists. You can also add forms to your pages to allow users of the application to interact with the data.

After the application has been assembled, the final step is staging it for testing and review and then publishing it to a live server. You can also preview it throughout the building process.

Building Oracle Application Builder Cloud Service business objects

Business objects lie at the core of ABCS-built applications, providing access to the data that drives the business processes. There are two types of business objects: custom objects that store specific types of data and objects that access external REST services.

A custom business object provides a way to store data that isn't available through a service, much like a table in a database. You define the fields that make up the data object, assigning an appropriate data type to each field. You can also create child business objects and define relationships between objects.

After you've created a custom business object, you can import data into it from a comma separated values, or CSV, file. At any point during the application development process, you can modify the object's field structure to accommodate changing requirements. Also, forms added to your application let users add to or manipulate the data in the object directly.

Business objects based on external REST services take a slightly different approach. You create these objects from the catalog of Oracle Cloud services available to your identity domain, which is the authentication and authorization infrastructure used to control access to Oracle software as a service (SaaS) offerings. You can create business objects for Oracle services that are part of the same identity domain as your instance of ABCS.

You can also add custom services to the integrated catalog that connect to any REST services built on the Oracle Application Development Framework (ADF) model. Currently, you can't connect to third-party REST services built on a platform other than ADF, although Oracle has said it plans to add that capability in the future.

As with custom business objects, you can define relationships between multiple service-based objects; relationships can also be set up between service-based and custom business objects. In addition, you can add validation rules or formulas to both types of business objects.

Adding pages to an Oracle Application Builder Cloud Service application

After you've set up your initial business objects, you're ready to start creating pages. The ABCS interface provides templates and design patterns for creating applications with a look and feel similar to Oracle's SaaS offerings.

You can use Oracle Application Builder Cloud Service to add as many pages and tabs as necessary to your application -- while keeping usability in mind, of course. To add a page, choose the page type that best defines the page's contents. For example, you can add a Landing page that serves as the application's top-level page, or an Edit page that allows users to work with the data from a particular business object. The selected template provides the initial layout for each page type.

The pages will usually include default components like a header or footer, though that may vary based on page type. After choosing the type and creating a page, add other components by dragging them from the ABCS components palette onto the design "canvas" -- a predefined layout grid -- and positioning them according to the application's requirements. The final version of the page will share the layout and appearance of the canvas.

Table and List are two of the most frequently used components. The Table component displays the business object data in a table format, and the List component displays the data as a list. When you add either type of component, you can associate it with an existing business object or create a new business object for the component. In addition, you can configure the component's properties to refine how the data is displayed.

You can also use the design canvas to add forms and images to your pages or to display collections of business objects. In addition, you can switch from design mode to preview mode at any time to test your application's behavior without leaving the interface.

Implementing an Oracle Application Builder Cloud Service application

The ABCS interface comes with tools for managing data and configuring login security. ABCS also provides the tools necessary to stage your application and publish it to a live server.

Staging an application helps prepare it for publication by providing an environment for testing and review. The staged application comes with a URL that you can distribute to team members for feedback, so they can help you identify where the application can be improved or find hidden issues.

You can repeat the staging process as many times as needed to be satisfied that the application is ready for use. You can then publish the application with a single mouse click. From there, you only need to distribute the production URL to the people approved to use the application.

ABCS makes creating a basic Web application fairly painless. Everything lives in the cloud, so you don't need to invest in your own infrastructure or bring in heavy-hitting development resources unless you plan to do extensive customization. For certain types of applications, this approach could prove a viable alternative to building applications from the ground up.

At the same time, you're locking yourself exclusively into Oracle's services, and, like any cloud service, that comes at a price. Although the initial investment is inviting, you need to look at the potential ROI in the long run. In addition, you won't be able to customize applications to the extent you can if you build them from scratch. Be sure you look at the long-term consequences of using ABCS, not just the immediate rewards.

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