My Favorite APEX Applications

I have been fortunate to have clients that allow me to work with Oracle Application Express. Fortunate for them, because the tool enables me to produce production applications faster and lighter-weight (pure HTML, no download, less system-administration overhead, less IT maintenance). Fortunate for me, because I enjoy working with the tool.
In general, I enjoy learning; I enjoy the challenge of a new puzzle, of a new tool to learn the ropes of. I believe APEX is one of those tools where one can do just about whatever one needs with it, by getting a bit clever in telling APEX how to produce a page. The cleverness comes in designing the overall application flow, in designing the APEX page flow, in figuring which components ot use where, and in figuring how best to implement business rules. Yes, in general this is the challenge with any web application written in any tool. With APEX, it’s just a bit more fun.

~ My Favorite Applications

I am happy to have written many APEX applications through the years, but some stand out for various reasons of technical challenge, large or small, and personal interest. The names are modified to protect client interests.

Days at Sea

– A fairly simple APEX app on the surface, this application got DAS calculations correct after several high-visibility failed attempts by other more expensive contractors) and included a flexible, extensible, system to allow the application to declaratively grow and adapt to changing regulations. The PL/SQL behind the scenes and APEX to pull all into simple, maintainable interfaces made for delivery on time. Key factor in this project was the team – 3 persons put their heads together and made it work with APEX. A big win.

Interlab Quality Control

– Consolidation of laboratory statistics into an enterprise database,plus a series of complex quality control statistics, presented in a series of customized reports and charts. Moving this medical corporation’s quality statistics from MS Access/Excel – and awesome app in itself – is a big win for the client. Additional phases in progress and more reports and charts are developed. Hmm. D3 or FOT in the future?
Key fun features: XSL-FO templates for color-coded PDF output that matches the color-coded online interactive reports, some neat data loading challenges, and an automated scatter-plot slide show to replicate (improve on) an in-house quality display.

Proficiency Management

– A system for collection, review, tiered approvals and notification of proficiency management information. Automated data loads, automated notifications and a complex set of business rules made development fun and deployment satisfying.

Critter Information Database

– A true migration from a fully-licensed Discoverer installation to BI in APEX. Still in use today, with another migration of a sister Discoverer installation in progress this year. APEX 5 makes this migration so much easer, and the resulting app will have more BI features at less development cost. Non-confidential and confidential users and authorizations schemes in APEX and in the database structures contorl who sees what. Key fun features: PL.SQL Pivot queries and interface customizations to get a BI “look” to the tool.

Permitting and Landings Applications

– This series of applications, completed over several years, marked migration for Oracle Forms and Reports to APEX, enabling the agencies to retire costly Forms and Reports licenses, streamline deployment (no more Java Applet!) and reduce resource costs for development and maintenace. Now these same agencies are upgrading to mobile application and adding more complex features – a positive example of long-term planning and a successful complete migration to APEX and mobile technologies.

Inspection Database

– A set of two applications, one for automated loading of standards data from various regulating agencies, one for collection, consolidation and edit of inspection reports. Key fun features Online editable “report” to replace MS Word document edits, and XSL-FO templates for PDF version of the final report. Fun in progress on this project!

~ It Takes a Team

It’s not all me ~ every great application has a great team behind it. Along the way I have learned immeasurably from:
– The APEX community – I feel the most open and sharing user community there is,
– The fabulous clients I have worked with (rather than for) through the years, and
– The magnificent managers I have been lucky to have who guided me, challenged me to grow, and had faith in me when I did not have it in myself.

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