My OpenWorld 2008: 25 Set

Written by Paulo Vale on Saturday, September 27, 2008

The day started too early after the big party the night before. It was that last day of OpenWorld 2008 and there were lots of people going home.

Session 1: Dispelling myths about ApexJohn Scott

I surely didn’t expect to see a full room, being this session at 9 AM and having the big party the night before. I guess Jes is even more popular now that he has his own book :) I bought the book but didn’t have the chance to read it yet, but judging by the index I think it’s worthy to buy it.

I found this session particularly interesting. It wasn’t a technical session with development tips but was very useful for companies working with customers that are a little afraid to go for APEX.

The session started we an original set of slides that John asked the audience to read loud. It was a fun moment.  Then there was an interesting timeline animation with the history of APEX.

Basically John introduced some slides with common statements on APEX alleged weaknesses. Questions like “Is it a rewrite of WebDB?” or “Is it supported by Oracle?” or even “Is it just an Excel replacement.

I sure want a copy of that slides :)

Session 2: Building a Web 2.0 Interface with Oracle Application Express - Mark Lancaster

With this presentation, Mark Lancaster explained some tricks on how to integrate ExtJs with Apex, taking Apex to the next level in terms of Web 2.0 interface. You can find his application and see the nice interface by yourself at

For the OpenWorld closing there was the “It’s a Wrap!” party by the beautiful Yerba Buena Gardens. Time for the last drinks and food at Openworld and a nice chat with Roel Hartman, Francis Mignault and Patrick Bonneville.

The day finished with a nice dinner in an Italian Restaurant at Fisherman’s wharf.

My OpenWorld 2008: 24 Set

Written by Paulo Vale on Friday, September 26, 2008

It was a big day… Larry Ellison’s keynote with the X thing , my presentation and the Appreciation Event.

I also had the opportunity to have preview demo of APEX 4.0 features at the Demo Grounds.

Session 1: Soup-to-Nuts RAD development using Oracle SQL Developer and APEX – Mike Hichwa, Kris Rice & David Peake, Oracle

I had lots of expectations for this session because of the new SQL Developer data modeling feature. I think it´s a feature that we all are waiting for. There was a small demo on that in this session and I quite liked it.

The big question was: will SQL Developer replace Designer? The answer was no, because this is not exactly the same as Designer, but I’m feeling that a lot of people will leave Designer :)

Session 2: Building commercial SaaS (Software as a Service) applications with Apex

This time I wasn’t on the audience side, but on the stage along with representatives of other companies, some of them large companies with large projects built in APEX.

On the audience we could see many people thinking in starting doing business with applications built with APEX, which was nice. It turned out to be very good to share our experience with each other with different methods of approaching customers, building and securing applications.

This was a very interactive session with people asking a lot of questions and I think it went quite well since I had some positive feedback.

At the end of the night I went to the Appreciation Event in the Treasure Island. And that was really such a big event. People, food, drinks, music… It was fun.

My OpenWorld 2008: 23 Set

Written by Paulo Vale on Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The first session of the day was schedule to 11:30 AM. I had some free time that I used to get around and see what was happening.

I went to Moscone North and after blogging a bit on the couches, went to the Unconference section and then the bookstore. I couldn’t find John Scott’s Pro Oracle APEX book, but later at night he told me that the book was there, so maybe I’ll go to the bookstore again tomorrow, if I have the time. Then I went to Moscone South into the exhibition hall, just for a really quick visit.

Session 1: Writing custom authentication scheme for Oracle Apex – Raj Mattamal

Wow... Raj Mattamal must be the fastest speaker at OpenWold :)

His session was around getting custom authentication to work between workspaces.

First he started by quickly explaining the authentication methods provided be APEX. Then he focused on the custom authentication to provide a method to maintain sessions between applications in the same workspace using a cookie. This was a single APEX instance approach that explained the way page sentry function works.

After that Raj explained how he managed to have something like a single sign-on feature across different workspaces and logging out from each individual application.

I really enjoyed this session and the theme was also very interesting.

Session 2: The power of APEX repositoryPatrick Wolf

Patrick Wolf made a very original presentation. Slides were very nice with animations and strong pictures, and there was that moment with the lights off and sounds of birds singing, like if we were in the Garden of Eden :)

The presentation itself was about playing with APEX repository: the dictionary views, the applications and workspace metadata and the logging/monitoring.

Patrick talked about the advantages of using the APEX repository for tasks like: quality checks, application documentation and application sitemaps. Then he introduced his Apex Essentials, which is a tool for application quality check. I’ve tried this tool myself and I can just advice you to do the same because it will help you detect common application errors.

Then he talked a bit about his known ApexLib project, which is a tool that adds some functionalities that APEX doesn’t support like: cascading LOVs; browser checks; validations for date picker; tabular forms validation; etc.

The session finished with Patrick talking a little about monitoring application activities.

Session 3: Building large commercial applications with Oracle DB 11g and APEX – Dennis Vanill and Eric Scholer from PAETEC

With this presentation with could see a fine example of how APEX can manage with large projects. They have migrated from a 14 years old application with almost 800 databases. A big project!

They have also developed something that they call Pinnacle APEX Framework to customize their application actions and help with repetitive tasks when developing.

Session 4: Zero-cost business intelligence using Oracle DB 11g and APEX 3.1 - Jim Lancer, Paetec

Essentially this was a demonstration of capabilitiest that can be found in Interactive Reports and Flash Charts and how they can help analyze enterprise data. PAETEC also added some customizations to get the most of these functionalities.

Finally I had a decent night of sleep. I think the beers at Apex meetup on the end of the night helped a little :)

My OpenWorld 2008: 22 Set

Written by Paulo Vale on Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Today I have changed my agenda and attended two sessions that weren’t initially in my schedule. The first was the one presented by Dimitri Gielis about working charts in APEX and the second one was about mashups and integration with APEX by Simon Boorsma.

Before that I went to Moscone North to watch a bit of the keynote. You can’t believe the number of people that were there! The following picture it's outside the room, next to some big screens.

Session 1: Advanced charting with APEXDimitri Gielis

The presenter tried to make this session the most interactive possible with some funny slides and he managed quite well to do it. The session idea was to show that when using flash charts in APEX, in what concerns customization, you are not limited to the options presented on the chart properties page. You can customize your charts even more if you analyze and modify the XML behind it.

Dimitri made live demo of things like making drilldown charts and reports, protecting the links with checksum, adapt the chart scale, add copyright text, change labels orientation and other tricks.

At the end, he announced that his company has a partnership with to provide an upgrade kit to Anycharts version 5 for the APEX 3.1. Has you all surely know, actual APEX version uses Anycharts 3 when you create a flash chart from the traditional wizard and uses Anycharts 4 when you create a chart from an Interactive Region.

He got lots of questions and the time flew away. So, he had no time to explore the final idea and the advantages of having Anycharts 5.

Session 2: Converting from Oracle Forms to APEXDavid Peake

There is phenomenon called APEX buzz. You’d be impressed with the number of people in the room witch never had seen APEX before. I’m sure they all were Forms people… I can tell that, beyond the obvious, by the questions asked. From that point of view this was an excellent marketing session for APEX, with David using and abusing of interactive reports features.

I have myself a background on Oracle Forms too, and when watching that live demos, I was thinking in how impressed I would be if I didn’t knew APEX before. Also, David has great skills as a public speaker.

The presentation was based in a featured expected for the next APEX 3.2 release, which is a tool to import Oracle Forms .fmb files to APEX. With the demo we saw two Oracle Forms .fmb files being imported to APEX and transformed into web forms interface.

As David kept saying, this is not a “silver bullet” solution and it’s not also a Forms emulator. Each conversion will need hours of additional work after the import, but this tool is meant to help with the first steps. But again, Oracle Forms is not going away, so you should only considerer the change if you really have a business need.

There are however several advantages on moving to APEX, and David Peake referred to some of them like: the modern web 2 computing; out of the box functionalities like Interactive Reports and Flash Charts; easy skill transition for Form developers; and of course the unbeatable price (it is a no cost database feature).

I didn’t count the number of questions coming from the audience, but it was by far the most participative session I attended until now.

Session 3: Apex Mashup – Simon Boorsma

One of the advantages of APEX is that it’s easy to integrate third party functionalities like mashups. A mashup is obtained collecting data from different sources and combining them into a unique result, like for example google news does.

In this session, Simon Boorsma showed us nice examples of mashup integration with APEX. He uses google maps and amazon store APIs to collect information into an APEX page. He also made an example of using dapper to get flickr photos.

Session 4: Web 2 development with APEXCarl Backstrong

This was by far, the most technical session until now. Carl talked about the best way to debug javascript and Ajax, combining two indispensable tolls: Firefox and Firebug.

He worked a lot of interesting examples with Ajax, like getting data from the database, asynchronous posting with apex.ajax, the use of arrays and of course JSON.

By night, party with OTN night at Hilton Hotel. Also, a little jump into InstallFest with Unbreakable Linux and Oravle VM. I got one of that t-shirts with the penguin on the back for you João Oliveira ;).

My OpenWorld 2008: 21 Set

Written by Paulo Vale on Monday, September 22, 2008

Today I had the chance to attend 4 sessions. Two of them were Hands on Labs from Oracle Develop. Also, it was nice to put some faces in the names I’m used meet on the net. I met Carl Backstrong, Joel Kallman, David Peake, Dimitri Gielis, Francis Minault, John Scott and Patrick Wolf.

Session 1: Hands-on Lab: Extending the Oracle Application Express Framework with Web 2.0 - APEX Development Team

There was a full room of interested audience attending this session. I guess this topic of using Javascript and Ajax is the hardest part for a PL/SQL developer who starts using APEX.

The session consisted in following step by step tutorials to perform tasks like changing values in form elements before submitting the page, creating client side validations and enabling/disabling form elements, among others.

The good news is that this and every Hand-on Lab tutorials will be published on OTN some weeks after the conference at, and believe me, there are some nice tricks you can use to upgrade your applications.

Session 2: Using Oracle Database 11g and Oracle Application Express to Change Business Practices and Realize ROI - Anton Nielsen, Concept 2 Completion; Diana Suteu, Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare

I liked this session very much. Anton Nielsen, along with Diana Suten explained how they implemented in a short period of time (one month I think) a solution for subscribing insurances over the net.

They used agile methodology taking advantage of the client human resources to get the project done in such short time. Soft requirements definitions redefined over the project, prototyping and testing onsite and even letting the client employees to change themselves some parts of the application like forms and reports labels.

This was possible taking advantage of some of the APEX features like having a web based interface allowing development anywhere and having super users being able to act as developers.

Session 3: Go global with APEXJoel R. Kallman

For me, this was the best presentation of the day. If you are thinking in having your applications available in more than one language and have the opportunity to attend this session in some other event, do yourself a favor: don’t miss it.

In a very interactive session with risky live testing, Joel Kallman showed us how to translate an application, changing language and altering numbers, currency and dates format.

Joel also revealed some of the features – globalization related – expected for the APEX 4.0 release like having options to define application timestamp format and application timestamp with time zone format, a modern popup calendar using jQuery and using client time zone.

I wish I had seen this presentation some months ago…

Session 4: Hands-on Lab: Creating "High-Fidelity" PDF Reports with Oracle Application Express - APEX Development Team

This was another Hands-on Lab session, where BI Publisher was integrated with APEX to generate complex PDF reports including charts and using custom made templates. An impressive demonstration of BI Publisher capabilities, but being such an expensive product it is very difficult to make a competitive APEX application using it.

This tutorial will also be available on OTN at

After the sessions I was so tired due to jetlag that I decided to go for a little rest at the Hotel. I felt a sleep and missed the blogger meetup.

Time for a little visit to Welcome Reception Party at Howard Street tent and Yerba Buena Gardens and the day was over.

One year blogging

Written by Paulo Vale on Sunday, September 21, 2008

Yes, that is right. This blog is one year old.

I thank all of you out there for coming around, reading what I want to say about APEX. Thanks a ton. I hope you will stick with me for the next year too.

Top 10 of most visited posts:

Check all checkboxes
Javascript Calendar Integration
Colorful web forms
Javascript Tooltip Integration
Substitution string and SQL Developer
Populate date field using javascript
Nice filter region template
Translating internal messages used by APEX
Turn Report into PPR Report
A real live APEX application

Most commented posts:

Javascript Tootip Integration
A real live APEX application
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San Francisco

Written by Paulo Vale on Sunday, September 21, 2008

I’m in San Francisco for the Oracle OpenWorld 2008 where I’ll be participating in one of the official sessions under the title “Building Commercial Software-as-a-Service Applications with Oracle Application Express”.

I’ve arrived yesterday around 6:30 PM after a tiring 18 hours long trip. I’ve started at Oporto Airport where I took a plain to Lisbon, then Philadelphia and finally San Francisco. As you can imagine, I’ve arrived completely exhausted.

It gets dark really soon in San Francisco. I took the BART to get to the city centre around 7 PM and it was completely dark outside.

After checking with the hotel, I took a short walk just to feel the city atmosphere and have a quick meal. The first impression I had was a nice, clean, organized, big city. Many people walking in the sidewalks, speaking numerous different languages. I’ve stopped some people to ask for directions and no one seemed to be from San Francisco… I guess San Francisco beyond an American city, it’s a World city. I’ve also noticed a bad thing: homeless people checking garbage cans and asking for money in the streets.

Today, the jetlag effect made me wake up at 2 AM. I forced myself to sleep a little bit more and managed to sleep until 5 AM. Considering that yesterday I woke up at 5:30 AM to start the travel and went to bed at 6:30 AM the next day (10:30 PM local time) I’ve been more than 24 h awake, excluding two or three small periods on the plain.

I have a full day with lots of sessions to follow and with the blogger meetup at the end of the day.

Keep checking this blog. I’ll try blog everyday during the OpenWorld.

Get server URL in Apex

Written by Paulo Vale on Monday, September 08, 2008

Some time ago, I had this requirement to send to the application end users, links to specific pages passing some parameters.

The problem was obtaining the full URL including the server's name and port where APEX was running.

The OWA_UTIL package contains utility subprograms for getting the value of environment variables. Specifically the OWA_UTIL.GET_CGI_ENV function returns the value of CGI environment variables, like REQUEST_PROTOCOL, HTTP_HOST, SERVER_PORT and SCRIPT_NAME, this last one to get the mod_plsql cartridge and the database access descriptor name.


You can quickly test these values creating a PL/SQL Dynamic Content region like this:

Now to complete the URL you just need to append the well known f function with the right values. In case you have forget, here is the Apex f function URL Syntax:

This blog in a cloud

Written by Paulo Vale on Friday, September 05, 2008

After reading this post by Jake Kuramoto, I was curious to see how Apex Notebook blog looks like in a word cloud. Here is the result:

Wordle is a service for generating word clouds from text sources like blog feeds. The words that appear more frequently in the source text are bigger in the final image.

Back to real life

Written by Paulo Vale on Monday, September 01, 2008

After 15 well deserved :) days of vacations in the sunny Algarve (south Portugal) I'm back to work. It is hard when I think that just two days ago I was at those wonderful beaches, eating fresh sea fish...

However, not everything went fine :( I just had one of the major sports disillusion, provoked by a bad referee decision.

I've just noticed that while I was away some things happened in the APEX world,  starting with the release of APEX 3.1.2 patch. Judging by the number of fixed bugs I think it is worthy to apply the patch. There are already reports saying everything went fine applying the patch.

A new version of OTN forums came out (again) but unfortunately there are still some problems. Fortunately there are people who can help us deal with some issues like the look and feel.