Alpha DevCon Engineering Roundtables

Alpha Anywhere Version 4.3 Key Features

The release of Version 4.3 includes new features in the UX (including a new Control Bar Builder), Better Security, More Data Sources, Faster Development (with Low Code) and other features as well.

Security

Along with the security system and tools already built into the software. Alpha Anywhere now includes TSL/SSL Drivers for SQL Server, MySQL, Oracle, and MariaDB to encrypt/decrypt between the server-based, application layer and the backend SQL database. This is ideal if you are hosting the application server and database server in different data centers or clouds.

In addition, Version 4.3 now supports HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) to protect against protocol downgrade attacks and cookie hijacking.

Version 4.3 has earned an A+ rating from Qulays SSL Labs.

Database Options

When you install the Alpha Anywhere Developer, two new, lightweight database engines are locally installed automatically:

The first is REDIS - a very popular database for storing name/value pairs, working with queues, and many other use cases. Xbasic now has a Redis client object that allows you to interact with Redis databases. For more information on this feature, see the documentation.

The other is SQL Server LocalDB. This means that you are able to start building applications that use a SQL database, even if you don't have access to a SQL database of your own.

UX Improvements

The new ControlBar control for UX components includes a powerful builder for control bars, menus, and disclosures. It was used in conjunction with the new Alpha Style CSS to create the new Northwind Sample Application - available now on GitHub.

ControlBar Control and ControlBar Builder

The primary use case for a ControlBar is to define the content that appear in a UX component's panel headers and footers, but they can do a lot more than that. They can be used to open search boxes, menus and disclosures to create efficient, elegant, and effective user experiences.



ControlBar Controls are Built with the powerful ControlBar Builder shown below.



For more information see the Control Bar documentation.

SVG Icons

SVG icons have several important advantages over traditional bitmap icons. Namely, they are much lighter weight than bitmaps, they scale to any size and look crisp at any resolution. While the same advantages are also true of font icons, which Alpha Anywhere has supported for some time now, SVG icons are easier to work with than font icons.

An additional benefit of SVG icons over font icons is the ability to support colored icons. With a font icon, you can specify a color for the entire icon - but not for different aspects of the icon. In other words, a font icon is always green, red, yellow, or whatever color you specify. Whereas an SVG icon can be mostly green, red, yellow, or whatever color you specify for the 'fill' and 'stroke' color, but certain parts of the icon can be hard-coded as a particular color.

The Alpha Style CSS Template

Alpha Anywhere includes a variety of stylesheets for adjusting the look and feel of your applications, including a new one simply called "Alpha." The Alpha stylesheet is designed for a clean modern look across all devices and platforms, and it's used to create the all new Northwind Sample application.

The style sheet is designed to work with the classes in the UX builder and to be used with the new SASS Variable editor.

SASS Variable Editor

The SAAS Variable editor quickly adjust the color palette of an entire applications. Instead of hunting down a particular class in a stylesheet and manually adjusting it, the SASS Variable editor allows you to change groups of controls at once.



Plus, your settings are remembered, so you can update Alpha Anywhere stylesheets as they are released without losing your color palette settings.

Deployment Features

Alpha Anywhere has two new ways to deploy applications. The first is the new PhoneGap Shell V2 for testing apps, and the new App Cache, which is a simple way to deploy applications via the device's browser - but still works when the device is offline.

PhoneGap Shell Version 2 For Test Deployments

The PhoneGap shell is a PhoneGap application that allows you to load in UX components for testing without the need to rewrap the component in PhoneGap. By using this method, you save a great deal of time that would otherwise be spent rewrapping your application, downloading it to your mobile device and installing.



This new version is packed with improvements, including:

  • A Cleaner look - achieved by using ControlBars to implement the shell component.
  • Full screen when running app - The Back and Previous buttons are hidden by default and are shown on demand by tapping on a small icon in the lower right corner of the screen.
  • Multiple server address - You can now use the same shell with multiple servers. Previously you have to build a shell for each server as the server address was hard coded into the shell. Now you can specify as many server addresses as you want and then select which address should be active.
  • Test server address - You can now test if the server address you selected is valid. It is important to know if you have specified a valid server address or else the shell will not be able to load components.
  • Edit component names - After you enter a component name, you can edit the value. In the old shell you could not edit values.
  • Scan values when filling in forms - The shell has two forms that need to be filled in - when adding a new component, and when defining a new server address. In both of these forms you can press a Scan button to scan a QR code that encodes the value to be entered into the form. To create the QR codes, go to the UX component, Click the Menu button and select the PhoneGap shell QR codes... menu item.
  • See list of PhoneGap plugins - The Settings screen menu allows you to select a command that shows the list of plugins that the shell has loaded.
  • Android back button - full support for the Android Back button. For example, if you press the back button while on the screen that shows your running component, you will return the shelll home page.

The Application Cache - Offline Mobile Apps Without PhoneGap

The Application Cache (an HTML5 feature widely supported by various browsers) allows you to build applications that are loaded into the browser and can continue to function even if an Internet connection is lost.

After the application loads for the first time, all of the files (such as the CSS, Javascript, and images) referenced by the application are cached in the browser and an internet connection is not needed to reload the application subsequently.

If the application is updated, the updates can be downloaded and again cahced in the browser. This happens when the application is reloaded and an internet connection is detected.

Rapid Development / Low Code Features

Version 4.3 introduces a slew of new features to speed the creation of business applications. Some of these include low-code/no-code Action Javascript for Google Address Autocompletions and for sending text messages via SMS. There is also a new PhoneGap Plugin Manager for adding and keeping track of PhoneGap/Cordova plugins. Plus it's now much easier to save and reuse List Controls.

Google Address Auto Complete

Google offers an API called Autocomplete for Addresses that you can now add to your applications to give them a type-ahead-search behavior.



The address that is returned can automatically be parsed and mapped into other fields in your app. And you can do all this without coding, thanks to a new genie.

PhoneGap Plugin Manager

The new Plugin Manager makes it quicker and easier to work with plugins that are not already listed in the Alpha Anywhere PhoneGap Builder. With it, you can include any publicly available PhoneGap plugin within a PhoneGap Project as well as add, edit and delete the PhoneGap plugin resource definitions.

Action JavaScript for sending SMS messages (via Twilio)

In cases where your applications needs to be able to send text messages, a new Action Javascript action lets you use Twilio API without writing any code.