Development Tool Gets Integrated Java Module

As the demands placed upon enterprise application developers grow, it's not surprising that template-based technology has found a niche in the AS/400 market. With the latest incarnation of its Productivity Series 97, michaels, ross & cole ltd. (mrc; Lombard, Ill.) adds a Java module to its thin-client rapid application development tool suite.

When used to generate Java code, Productivity Series 97 Release 8 enables application developers to integrate AS/400 data with Web features such as e-mail, images and links, without the developers needing expertise in programming Java code.

"A lot of people may be reluctant to try out Java, especially those who can't program in Java," says Tracy Paulauski, director of communications for mrc. "When you're generating Java applications with our tool, the applications are generated into an HTML page, which can serve as a container for Java code."

Using mrc's Productivity Series' Open Template Technology (OTT), Productivity Series also provides users with access to the source code of the applications they are developing, through modifiable templates.

"The tools cater to two types of users," Paulauski points out. "The first is the programmer or developer who is responsible for generating reports and applications on the AS/400. He might currently be hand-coding all of the RPG so that maybe the dumb terminals can have these applications available. He ends up doing a lot of redundant coding. With our tool, a programmer can eliminate the redundancy. He can make the adjustments he wants to make. We give him the source code so he can still go in [and make specific modifications], but we can automatically generate those applications for him."

With the Java-generating capabilities of Productivity Series, programmers are no longer required to learn Java or Visual Basic. As a result, companies do not need to hire independent consultants to gain Java or Visual Basic programming expertise. "In addition, RPG programmers can use Productivity Series within their existing green-screen environment to generate Visual Basic and Java applications without knowing a single word of either language," Paulauski says.

The second type of Productivity Series user to benefit from the product's latest enhancements is the actual end user, who can now use the tool from a familiar Windows environment. "In some cases, IS has a large backlog of applications because of the demands placed on the department," Paulauski says. "With Productivity Series, users can develop their own applications. They can use our tool to generate an application that will pull certain data for them, when they need reports generated, for example."

Productivity Series 97 also enables businesses to make AS/400 data available to their users within a Web environment, while maintaining a seamlessly integrated Web site. HTML output can be created containing user-defined, mrc-generated Java applications. The HTML document can then be enhanced to incorporate the style of the organization's Web site, using images and logos, backgrounds, fonts, colors and style sheets.

Additionally, mrc's OTT allows the developer to modify the HTML template, so the same features can be included for every Web page, according to Paulauski. The end result is a Web-ready document, seamlessly integrated into an Internet or intranet site, with a Java application that provides sub-second access to AS/400 data.

Current mrc Productivity Series customers are entitled to an automatic upgrade to Release 8, which was introduced on June 1. With Release 8, the Java capability is now integrated directly into the product. Previously, Java had been available as an add-on module.