Alpha Software Blog

Alpha and On Device Data

The power of on-device data: Putting instruction manuals, videos, databases and other files onto a mobile device can be quite useful.Putting instruction manuals, videos, databases and other files onto a mobile device can be quite useful. Field workers can get the information they need to perform their job right from their phones without having to leave the site, and without needing to have Wi-Fi or cellular access. However, building apps to load, store, and access these files can be a real challenge for app developers. Fortunately, Alpha has simplified this process considerably, allowing developers to add on-device file access easily with little or no coding. 

Alpha uses a standard, manifest technique to keep track of the names, types, and source and target locations for the files that need to be accessible on the device. The manifest itself is a JSON text file. 


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And while it’s fairly straightforward for developers to create this file themselves, hand-coding JSON files can be tedious and prone to errors. So, Alpha makes the job much faster by providing a powerful tool, built into the Alpha IDE, for creating manifest files. You can even use wildcards to select many files at once. 




Additionally, Alpha can take existing data (from virtually any data source) and use it to create an SQLite database that can be loaded onto the phone and accessed offline.  This allows a worker, for example, to scan a barcode on a piece of equipment and automatically load its maintenance history. Or, it could be used to cross reference replacement parts or to check if a part is in stock. 

In fact, not only does it create the needed files, it can also automatically upload the files and the manifest to an account on Amazon S3 where it can be accessed by the application. (Note: You can put the files on any server, it does not need to be S3).

Alpha also zips your files for you automatically, making it practical to downloaded hundreds, or even thousands of files quickly to a mobile device. 

Of course, creating databases and the manifest file is only part of the job. The other part is loading the assets onto the device and accessing them from the mobile app. Developers usually find this part particularly tricky due to the nature of managing files on a mobile device. (For a variety of reasons, it is much more difficult than managing files on a PC or server.)  Here, too, Alpha makes this easy for the developer.  

All of the coding that is needed to fetch files, delete files, list files and perform other actions is created for the developer using a point-and-click wizard interface called Action JavaScript. This eliminates many hours (sometimes days and weeks!) of JavaScript programming and debugging. 




Not only that, once the files are on the device, there are Action JavaScript wizards for working with the data. In the case of SQLite files, there are suite of actions for perform CRUD (create, read, update, delete) operations and a lot more. 




And in the case of videos, spreadsheets, PDFs and other documents, there is built in action that can automatically find and launch the correct application for the document. For example, for XLSX files, Alpha can automatically look for and launch the Microsoft Excel Mobile application if it is present, and then return the user to the app when they are done. 

Detailed technical information can be found in release notes (as of April 2019), and will
soon be available at

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About Author

Dave McCormick
Dave McCormick

Dave has a long history with Alpha and has a deep understanding of developers and the information they need to make informed decisions. He has developed numerous videos, print tutorials and other materials that make the developer's job easier. Dave joined the company in 1992, and served as support engineer, technical writer, and documentation department manager. Between 1998 and 2005, Dave was at Stumpworld Systems and was product manager for Online Merchant/Online Merchant Gold, which became the best-selling e-commerce application in the U.S. retail market. Prior to rejoining Alpha in In 2006, Dave started A5-Online, a hosting provider for Alpha Five Web applications. Dave received an Award of Achievement from the Society for Technical Communication for the Alpha Five User's Guide in 1995. He holds a bachelor's degree in management information systems from the University of Arizona.

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The Alpha platform is the only unified mobile and web app development and deployment environment with distinct “no-code” and “low-code” components. Using the Alpha TransForm no-code product, business users and developers can take full advantage of all the capabilities of the smartphone to turn any form into a mobile app in minutes, and power users can add advanced app functionality with Alpha TransForm's built-in programming language. IT developers can use the Alpha Anywhere low-code environment to develop complex web or mobile business apps from scratch, integrate data with existing systems of record and workflows (including data collected via Alpha TransForm), and add additional security or authentication requirements to protect corporate data.