Friday, November 09, 2018

How do I add an image to a page in Oracle APEX?

Preface:  Many blog posts about Oracle APEX seem to cover a new feature or something rather obtuse & complex.  The sophisticated blog posts have little relevance to someone who is completely new to APEX and Oracle Database.  Having worked with APEX since 1999, it's always difficult for me to put myself in the shoes of a brand new student of APEX.  When I interact with people new to APEX, I try to look at APEX through their eyes, and listen to what they find confusing.  Sometimes, it's completely obvious to me and, at the same time, completely vexing to them.  Thus, this will begin a series of blog posts how to perform very common tasks in APEX.  It will be boring for the experienced user, but hopefully helpful to the APEX developer in training.  And separately, we will also strive to make APEX simpler and easier to understand, so that blog posts like this one become unnecessary in the future.



Gerald Venzl, a highly respected Oracle Database product manager, was recently participating in a hackathon with a team of people, and they were using Oracle APEX as part of their solution.  They produced a QR code for the URL to their app, they saved this QR code image to a local file, and they wanted to include the image on a page in their APEX application.  As Gerald stated, it took more than 30 minutes for this learned and competent group of people to figure out how to do this.  This is not a criticism of Gerald and his colleagues, it's a criticism of APEX.  Gerald and his team were expecting a simple upload to a page item of type Image and they would be done, right?  Well, not so simple.

This blog post is not intended to cover the case where you have images in BLOB columns in a database table (we'll cover that in the future), or the case where the image can already be referenced via a URL.  I am presenting the simple case of you having an image on the file system on your local computer, and you want to reference it in your APEX page.

From a high-level, the steps are:
  1. Upload the file as a static application file.
  2. Using the HTML IMG tag, reference the static application file in your application.


Now, for the more detailed explanation.

Before you can reference an image in your APEX application, it has to be in a location which can be "served" by your Web server.  With APEX, you have access to the back-end Oracle Database, but you don't have access to the Web server file system.  Fortunately, there is an easy way to upload the image into the Oracle Database and have it served by your Web server when used within an APEX application.  These are called Static Application Files.

The steps are really quite simple:
  1. Edit your application in the Application Builder
  2. Click Shared Components
  3. Click Static Application Files
  4. Click Upload File
  5. Choose the file from your local computer
  6. Click the Upload button




In the picture above, this is the list of Static Application Files in the APEX Application Builder, after uploading file Three_Stooges.jpg.  Under the Reference column, there is the string #APP_IMAGES#Three_Stooges.jpg.  This is how you can reference the file when used in an HTML context in your APEX application.  This reference means nothing when used outside of an APEX application.  When someone is running your application, the APEX engine will replace the substitution string #APP_IMAGES# with an absolute URL reference to an embedded REST endpoint which will return the stored image.

To reference this image in your application, you just need to include a reference to it from an HTML IMG tag on your APEX page.  This image reference would have to be entered into the attributes of your APEX application wherever it's appropriate to embed HTML.  This includes the headers and footers of page regions, templates, and even the Source attribute of certain region types.  An easy way to get started is to reference an image in a region of type Static Content.

As an example, edit a page in Page Designer.  In the gallery at the bottom of the page, drag a region of type Static Content onto your page.  In the Source attribute of this region, enter the HTML string to reference the image:

<img src="#APP_IMAGES#Three_Stooges.jpg">

Obviously, reference your file and not the name of the file in my example (Three_Stooges.jpg).  Save your page and run.  That's all there is to it!






One last point.  If you do have access to the web server file system, and you wish to include static file references in your application, then definitely put them on your web server file system and simply serve them from there.  It will always be more efficient to have these served by a web server instead of having to fetch them out of the database.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Automating service creation in Oracle APEX

Oracle Academy is a division in Oracle whose mission is to advance "computer science education globally to drive knowledge, innovation, skills development, and diversity in technology fields."  The programs that Oracle Academy offers are free to accredited secondary schools, technical/vocational schools, and two and four-year colleges and universities.

Oracle Application Express (APEX) has been hosted by Oracle Academy and used for many years to facilitate the delivery of curriculum for database design and programming, SQL, PL/SQL and even APEX.  To facilitate their business requirements, they had custom extensions written (in part, by our team) into the core APEX product.  But this type of solution becomes difficult to maintain, because every release of APEX requires migration and rewrite of these custom extensions.

A number of months ago, I met with the Oracle Academy team to try and encourage them to move the service creation of APEX workspaces into their own custom interfaces.  I told them that everything is provided to easily and programmatically create APEX workspaces, create database users (schemas), create administrators and developers within each workspace, and even pre-load APEX applications and custom database objects in each workspace, at the time of service creation.

Naturally, they asked for an example script to accomplish all of these tasks, which I authored and shared with them.  Because this type of logic is very relevant for many other purposes, e.g., testing, continuous integration, DevOps, I wish to share these same annotated scripts here.  If you are someone who has been using APEX for 10 years, you won't learn anything new here.  But for those just getting started with APEX, I hope you find it fruitful.

Starting with an empty Oracle database, the requirements are to develop a single script which will:

  1. Create a tablespace (storage) for each workspace
  2. Create and associate multiple database users (schemas) with each workspace
  3. Create an APEX workspace
  4. Create an administrator and developer account in each workspace, restricting the access of each developer to only one of the schemas mapped to the workspace.
  5. Create custom database objects in each schema
And here we go...
set define '^' verify on
set concat on
set concat .

Rem
Rem    Title:  Demo_of_Provisioning.sql
Rem
Rem    Description:  This script will demonstrate use of all of the APIs and SQL statements necessary
Rem                  to create tablespaces, data files, database users, and APEX workspaces.  From this
Rem                  example, it is assumed that the Academy team will be able to develop their own custom
Rem                  provisioning process and no longer rely upon custom extensions to the 
Rem                  Oracle Application Express software.
Rem
Rem    Notes:  It is assumed that this script is run as user SYSTEM.
Rem
Rem
Rem    MODIFIED   (MM/DD/YYYY)
Rem    jkallman    08/19/2018 - Created


column foo1 new_val LOG1
select 'Demo_of_Provisioning_'||to_char(sysdate,'YYYY-MM-DD_HH24-MI-SS')||'.log' as foo1 from sys.dual;
spool ^LOG1

timing start "Create demonstration tablespaces, schemas and workspaces"


--
-- Predefine the path used for tablespace datafile creation.  If you're using Oracle Managed Files
-- or grid infrastructure, then this isn't necessary and you'll remove the 'datafile' portion of 
-- the CREATE TABLESPACE statements
--
define DATAFILE_PATH='/u01/app/oracle/oradata/'


--
-- Step 1:  Create the Tablespaces
--
-- Since Oracle Academy will want to group multiple database users/workspaces into a single tablespace, we'll need to
-- first create the tablespaces, and then the database users in step 2
--
create tablespace OACADEMY_DATA1 datafile '^DATAFILE_PATH.iacademy_01.dbf' 
 size 50M autoextend on next 50M maxsize 2G extent management local 
 autoallocate segment space management auto;

create tablespace OACADEMY_DATA2 datafile '^DATAFILE_PATH.iacademy_02.dbf' 
 size 50M autoextend on next 50M maxsize 2G extent management local 
 autoallocate segment space management auto;



--
-- Step 2:  Create the Database Users (Schemas)
--
-- It's up to you how you wish to group database users/schemas into different tablespaces.  
-- You can do it by total number or free space or ratio of users to tablespaces.  It's all up to you.
--
begin
 -- DB users in DATA1 tablespace
    execute immediate 'create user OACADEMY_DB10 identified by "' || sys.dbms_random.string('X',30) || 
                      '" default tablespace OACADEMY_DATA1 quota unlimited on OACADEMY_DATA1 temporary tablespace TEMP account lock password expire';

    execute immediate 'create user OACADEMY_DB11 identified by "' || sys.dbms_random.string('X',30) || 
                      '" default tablespace OACADEMY_DATA1 quota unlimited on OACADEMY_DATA1 temporary tablespace TEMP account lock password expire';

 -- DB users in DATA2 tablespace
    execute immediate 'create user OACADEMY_DB20 identified by "' || sys.dbms_random.string('X',30) || 
                      '" default tablespace OACADEMY_DATA2 quota unlimited on OACADEMY_DATA2 temporary tablespace TEMP account lock password expire';

    execute immediate 'create user OACADEMY_DB21 identified by "' || sys.dbms_random.string('X',30) || 
                   '" default tablespace OACADEMY_DATA2 quota unlimited on OACADEMY_DATA2 temporary tablespace TEMP account lock password expire';

end;
/



--
-- Step 3:  Create the APEX Workspaces
--
-- Create the APEX workspaces and associate a default schema with each
--
begin
    apex_instance_admin.add_workspace(
     p_workspace_id   => null,
     p_workspace      => 'OACADEMY1',
     p_primary_schema => 'OACADEMY_DB10');
end;
/

begin
    apex_instance_admin.add_workspace(
     p_workspace_id   => null,
     p_workspace      => 'OACADEMY2',
     p_primary_schema => 'OACADEMY_DB20');
end;
/


--
-- Step 4:  Add additional schemas to the existing workspaces
--
--
begin
    apex_instance_admin.add_schema(
     p_workspace      => 'OACADEMY1',
     p_schema         => 'OACADEMY_DB11');
end;
/

begin
    apex_instance_admin.add_schema(
     p_workspace      => 'OACADEMY2',
     p_schema         => 'OACADEMY_DB21');
end;
/


--
-- Show a quick summary of the workspaces and schemas
--
column workspace_name format a50
column schema         format a40
select workspace_name, schema from apex_workspace_schemas;



--
-- Step 5:  Create an administrator account and a developer account in each worskpace
--
--
begin
    -- We must set the APEX workspace security group ID in our session before we can call create_user
    apex_util.set_security_group_id( apex_util.find_security_group_id( p_workspace => 'OACADEMY1'));

    apex_util.create_user( 
        p_user_name               => 'BOB',
        p_email_address           => 'bob@bob.com',
        p_default_schema          => 'OACADEMY_DB10',
        p_allow_access_to_schemas => 'OACADEMY_DB10',
        p_web_password            => 'change_me',
        p_developer_privs         => 'ADMIN:CREATE:DATA_LOADER:EDIT:HELP:MONITOR:SQL' );  -- workspace administrator

        apex_util.create_user( 
        p_user_name               => 'JUNE',
        p_email_address           => 'june@june.com',
        p_default_schema          => 'OACADEMY_DB11',
        p_allow_access_to_schemas => 'OACADEMY_DB11',
        p_web_password            => 'change_me',
        p_developer_privs         => 'CREATE:DATA_LOADER:EDIT:HELP:MONITOR:SQL' );  -- developer

    commit;
end;
/

begin
    -- We must set the APEX workspace security group ID in our session before we can call create_user
    apex_util.set_security_group_id( apex_util.find_security_group_id( p_workspace => 'OACADEMY2'));
    
    apex_util.create_user( 
        p_user_name               => 'ALICE',
        p_email_address           => 'alice@alice.com',
        p_default_schema          => 'OACADEMY_DB20',
        p_allow_access_to_schemas => 'OACADEMY_DB20',
        p_web_password            => 'change_me',
        p_developer_privs         => 'ADMIN:CREATE:DATA_LOADER:EDIT:HELP:MONITOR:SQL' );  -- workspace administrator

    apex_util.create_user( 
        p_user_name               => 'AUGUST',
        p_email_address           => 'august@august.com',
        p_default_schema          => 'OACADEMY_DB21',
        p_allow_access_to_schemas => 'OACADEMY_DB21',
        p_web_password            => 'change_me',
        p_developer_privs         => 'CREATE:DATA_LOADER:EDIT:HELP:MONITOR:SQL' );  -- developer

    commit;
end;
/

-- 
-- Show a quick summary of the APEX users
--
column workspace_name           format a30
column user_name                format a20
column email                    format a25
column is_admin                 format a10
column is_application_developer format a10
select workspace_name, user_name, email, is_admin, is_application_developer from apex_workspace_apex_users order by 1,2;


--
-- Install custom database objects in each schema by simply running one more SQL scripts.  Note that the
-- script below is something that you author and maintain.  It will do all DML and DDL you have in it,
-- and we simply iterate through the schemas and run the script each time.
-- 
alter session set current_schema = OACADEMY_DB10;
@custom.sql

alter session set current_schema = OACADEMY_DB11;
@custom.sql

alter session set current_schema = OACADEMY_DB20;
@custom.sql

alter session set current_schema = OACADEMY_DB21;
@custom.sql

timing stop
spool off


And to complete the lifecycle, I also authored a simple SQL script which will cleanup everything created above - removing the APEX workspaces, database users and tablespaces.
set define '^' verify on
set concat on
set concat .

Rem
Rem    Title:  Demo_of_Cleanup.sql
Rem
Rem    Description:  This script will cleanup all objects created by script Demo_of_Provisioning.sql
Rem
Rem    Notes:  It is assumed that this script is run as user SYSTEM.
Rem
Rem            **** THIS SCRIPT IS DESTRUCTIVE **** - It will drop tablespaces, data files, workspaces, schemas, etc.
Rem
Rem
Rem    MODIFIED   (MM/DD/YYYY)
Rem    jkallman    08/19/2018 - Created


column foo1 new_val LOG1
select 'Demo_of_Cleanup_'||to_char(sysdate,'YYYY-MM-DD_HH24-MI-SS')||'.log' as foo1 from sys.dual;
spool ^LOG1


timing start "Remove all workspaces, schemas and tablespaces"

--
-- Step 1:  Remove the APEX Workspaces
--
--
begin
    apex_instance_admin.remove_workspace(
        p_workspace      => 'OACADEMY1' );
end;
/

begin
    apex_instance_admin.remove_workspace(
        p_workspace      => 'OACADEMY2' );
end;
/



--
-- Step 2:  Drop the database users
--
--
drop user OACADEMY_DB10 cascade;
drop user OACADEMY_DB11 cascade;
drop user OACADEMY_DB20 cascade;
drop user OACADEMY_DB21 cascade;



--
-- Step 3:  Drop the tablespaces 
--
--
drop tablespace oacademy_data1 including contents and datafiles;
drop tablespace oacademy_data2 including contents and datafiles;

timing stop
spool off

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

In the British APEX Community? Then UKOUG Tech18 is where you need to be!


In 2003, even before Oracle APEX had a real name (even before HTML DB), I had the good fortune of presenting APEX at the UKOUG Tech conference in Birmingham, England.  I was with my good friend Sergio Leunissen, the original Product Manager of APEX.  Tom Kyte had kindly given us a few minutes on stage during his session to present Project Marvel.  We were able to demonstrate marvel.oracle.com, a free, browser-based, hosted, multitenant, declarative (low code) development and runtime environment.  This ultimately became today's https://apex.oracle.com, which gets just around 2,000 new signups every week!

Later that day, I also distinctly remember talking with an Oracle sales rep from the UK.  I had explained that there were plans to include APEX (née Project Marvel) with Oracle Database and not charge any additional fee for it.  He told me he thought it was a big mistake that Oracle wasn't planning on charging a customer for use of APEX, and unless there was a cost associated with it, there would be no perceived value and no one would use it.  Here we are 15 years later.  The industry has changed in extraordinary ways, and APEX and the APEX community continues to grow and expand at an accelerated rate.  And in 2018, when everyone expects tools and frameworks to be "free", I remain convinced that we made the right decision to include APEX with Oracle Database and not make it a for-cost option.

I am looking forward to returning to UKOUG Tech18 this year, where a lot of the original APEX community outreach began for us.  Some of my favorite customers are in the United Kingdom, and I've known and worked with a large number of them for many years.  The fine folks at UKOUG have graciously given me the opportunity to present the APEX Community Keynote on Monday, December 3, 2018.  It will be "Oracle APEX: State of the Union", and this will be a presentation on both what is happening for APEX inside of Oracle and also across the APEX community globally.  We will be in Liverpool Sunday through Wednesday, and we look forward to meeting as many customers as possible.  You have a story to tell and we'd like to hear it, and how we can help.

See you in Liverpool in December 2018!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Jürgen Schuster: APEX Distinguished Community Member



I just got back from the ODTUG Kscope18 conference in Orlando, Florida where, once again, the global APEX community descended.  During the Sunday Symposium at this conference, I had the privilege of honoring Jürgen Schuster, who has been the catalyst and engine for so many positive things in this wonderful APEX community.

For the past few months, I was unsure of what words I could use to introduce this award to Jürgen, which accurately and humbly conveyed the breadth of his impact.  But the words just came to me late one evening in early May, and I used them almost verbatim during the Sunday Symposium.  I would like to share these words here, for everyone else in our global community to appreciate the impact he has had, along with the sacrifices he has personally made.

To quote Jürgen: live APEX and prosper.




ODTUG Kscope18 Conference
Sunday Symposium, June 10, 2018

The APEX Community is awesome, and it's awesome to be here and be a part of this conference. This is my 12th Kscope and I firmly believe that this is where the APEX community really got its start. Additionally, some of my greatest friends in the world are in this room, and I’m really grateful to be here.

There are really so many people who have made this community special:  from the many plug-in developers, people who record training videos, members who write blog posts and books, create presentations with technical content and share them, manage and organize meetups, organize entire conferences or technical days or user group meetings or organize tracks at Kscope!  There are those who create Web sites: builtwithapex.com, translate-apex.com, for example. There are open source sites dedicated to APEX and the Oracle Database. There are testing frameworks and security analysis tools.  And the list goes on and on.

Many of these people who have worked so hard on all of these contributions are here in this room today. But among the many people who have given of their time and talent to the APEX community, there is one person who stands out. And I have two words to describe this person: passionate and selfless.

This person has spent a lot of time and a lot of their own personal money to carry the message of APEX across the globe.  It's pretty extraordinary.

I'm sure everyone is going to know this person when I start citing some of their amazing work.

I’m sure you've seen these coveted APEX stickers before. It was the genius of this person to create a sticker for the APEX community. And instead of using some low-quality, cheap-looking, shoddy sticker, he opted for something classy, high-quality, enduring. At a personal cost of more than $1 per sticker, this person has supplied them and shipped them all over the globe to anyone who asks.  At his own personal expense.

The next challenge? This person, with the help of others in this room, created apex.world - the APEX community site - being your one-stop portal for all things related to the APEX community - Slack channels, jobs, plug-ins, news, newsletters, awards, tweets, and more.  There are more than 3,300 members today on apex.world.  It’s the central starting point for the APEX community.

How many of you know how to create your own podcast and host it on iTunes? I don't. Neither did this person. Out of his own pocket, he paid a professional to educate him and show him everything you need to know to prepare and publish on iTunes. And since that time, he has recorded, edited and published 20 episodes of the Oracle APEX Talkshow.

The contributions go on - ODTUG APEX On Air Webinars, APEX Meetup organizer, he created a web site dedicated to APEX dynamics actions, and on.  And almost all of these contributions has cost him his own money and he’s done it for no real personal gain.

Remember the two words I started with:  passionate and selfless.

The person I’m proudly referring to is Jürgen Schuster, an energetic and passionate freelance consultant from Munich Germany.  We wanted to recognize Jürgen and his many generous contributions to the community.

Please join me in congratulating Jürgen Schuster, as we proudly honor him with the first ever APEX Distinguished Community Member Award.




Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Is APEX Suitable for an Enterprise Setting?

The APEX 18.1 release has significant new capabilities to consume a variety of remote data sources, from ordinary REST data feeds to ORDS-based Remote SQL.  Up until APEX 18.1, database links were the predominant way to access remote data sources, and of course, database links don't exist in the cloud.  Improvement in this area has been a core focus of ours for APEX 18.1.

A long-time Oracle tools analyst and consultant recently published a backhanded compliment to APEX.  In a blog post, he said:
"Among Oracle tools, APEX has been the old-school, monolithic holdout, together with Oracle Forms. Much modern application architecture is based on REST web services, and other Oracle tools like JET, VBCS and ADF have long had the ability to consume and/or produce REST web services."
Before I go on, let's correct a few points.  Firstly, APEX has long had the ability to produce REST and consume both REST and SOAP Web Services for years.  I know, because I authored the first support for SOAP Web Services for APEX in 2002.  Also, you can't produce REST with JET.  It's a toolkit.  There is no back-end data store, no ability to "host" a REST Service.  The JET product managers themselves use RESTful Services from apex.oracle.com when doing their demonstrations of JET!  Lastly, Oracle JET was released in October 2015 and ABCS (now VBCS) was first announced in June 2015.  If that constitutes "long had the ability", then so be it.

So back to the statements - old-school, monolithic holdout.  Not modern.  In response to Morten Braten (a luminary in the APEX community), this consultant replied that "monoliths are rarely a good choice in an enterprise setting."  In response to my request for a definition of "enterprise setting", the consultant kindly authored a blog post stating why monolithic tools are bad for the enterprise.

One of his arguments against an APEX architecture is that "data must be committed to the database before it can be seen by anybody else", which I think is an odd conclusion to reach.  Last time I checked, most business applications deal with data.  And 30 years from now, the interfaces and access methods to your data will change 10 times, but you will still have...your data.  As long-time APEX expert Billy Verreynne ranted in 2005, "What does any business application deal with? DATA! That is the core. That is what drives the business. Applications come and go. Data is forever. Where does the data live? In the database. The database is the core. The database has been that since the 80's. Is still that. Focus on the core. Design for the core. Leverage the core."

I often tell people that the intersection point with APEX and many other technologies is the Oracle database - it's a wonderfully rich, very capable database and application development environment.  It's an engine with interfaces, just like the many boxes this consultant showed in his enterprise architecture diagrams.  Concurrency, transactional integrity, durability - these problems were solved in the Oracle database many years ago.  And as a bonus, you get zero latency data access for free!  Committing data to the database before it can be seen by anybody else should be considered a feature and not a deficiency.

Back to the term "enterprise setting", every enterprise, large and small, has a variety of application needs, from tactical to enterprise.  You could consider it on a scale like this:


At the bottom of the scale are completely simplistic, tactical applications.  These would be very easy to build, low in complexity, developed by one or two people, and often with a finite lifespan.  These are often opportunistic applications.  At the opposite end are enterprise applications.  These have large teams (10, 20 or more developers), a project manager, a dedicated budget, are high in complexity (and cost), and are truly mission-critical to the enterprise.

On this scale, where would APEX be an appropriate fit for a certain class of applications?  This is where I believe this consultant and I differ.  I believe APEX is ideal for the bottom 90% of this scale.  Sure, APEX can be and is used by customers for large ERP, HR and CRM systems serving thousands of end users, but the sweet spot for APEX is in the bottom 90% of this application scale.


Every enterprise has "gaps" in their corporate systems.  Oracle, "the information management company ©" has gaps.  I see it every day.  No corporate system or enterprise system can solve all problems for all business needs.  And the question is, how will you solve those problems, or will they remain unsolved?  Corporate architects prefer to have a blessed, supportable technology stack, but that stack is often times unapproachable to most developers.  Why do you think Excel has proliferated in the enterprise and continues to do so today?

The enterprise architecture that this consultant espouses is most likely perfect for legitimate enterprise applications.  But at what point on the scale is that architecture and associated technology stack unnecessarily complex or too costly for more tactical applications?  How many truly enterprise applications are there in an enterprise versus non-enterprise?  10 or 20 or 30 enterprise applications, versus hundreds if not thousands of non-enterprise applications?  I'll gladly pitch the benefits of APEX to solve the bottom 90% of this scale and the thousands of application needs which every large enterprise has.

At Oracle, I see this bottom 90% being solved with APEX every day, from applications which track hardware allocation & utilization to applications designed to manage the collateral associated with blockchain use cases to applications for submitting questions to the payroll team - the "bottom" 90% is very large, and the question is, how will you solve them?  With paper?  With a spreadsheet?  Or with a proven, scalable, low-code framework on the Oracle database that takes care of all of the important aspects of Web app development and lets you focus on the business problem to be solved?  That, my friends, is APEX.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

The top 3 reasons to attend malagAPEX!


The explosion and adoption of Oracle APEX continues across the globe, and clear evidence of this is the introduction of not one but two new all-APEX conferences.  At the end of May 2018 is the latest APEX conference, malagAPEX.  If you're looking for an opportunity to get connected with the growing APEX community, this is an excellent place to start.

Here are the top 3 reasons why you should consider attending malagAPEX:

  1. The collection of speakers they have assembled for this conference is extraordinary.  They are all highly-respected and well-known luminaries in the Oracle APEX and Oracle application development communities.  Many of them are Oracle ACEs, recognized experts by Oracle and community champions.  Appdev is what they do for a living, and they will share their real-world experience with you.
  2. The agenda and topics covered at this conference are cutting edge - cloud, Docker, machine learning, Oracle JET, REST and more.  And of course, there will be plenty of APEX too!
  3. The location is breathtaking.  For those who may not be familiar with Málaga (or if you're American!), it is located in southern Spain, in Costa del Sol (Coast of the Sun) at the northern side of the Mediterranean Sea.  It will be beautiful, sunny and hot.  After the winter many of us recently endured, it sounds idyllic.

As I recently posted on Twitter this past week, one of the best things about APEX is...the APEX community!  Others have told me this, and I believe it too.  A community member Denis Savenko recently blogged about his first time experience in the Oracle APEX community at a new conference, and he said "awesomeness was in the air - everybody was extremely positive and ready to share their thoughts when it came to a discussion of any sort of a problem. I met a lot of interesting people from different countries, improved my professional contacts list dramatically and also had a chance to speak to really important people."  I can't state it any better than that.  This is representative of the awesome Oracle APEX community.  If you're looking for an opportunity to get plugged in, consider malagAPEX.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

APEX Alpe Adria - A New APEX Conference That You Should Attend



Have you heard of APEX Alpe Adria?  It's the latest "All APEX" conference, joining APEX World and APEX Connect as high-quality conferences dedicated to Oracle APEX developers and related technologies.

APEX Alpe Adria is a very modestly-priced one-day conference occurring on April 20, 2018 in Graz, Austria.  The list of speakers that they have organized is unbelievably impressive - they are all very knowledgeable & experienced, as well as very polished presenters.  All presentations will be in English.  Also, the evening before the conference, there will be an Ask an ACE session, where you can ask any question to a panel of highly experienced Oracle ACEs.

APEX Alpe Adria is the creation of three different Oracle partners, Dario Bilić from BiLog d.o.o., Aljaž Mali from Abakus Plus d.o.o., and Peter Raganitsch from FOEX Gmbh.  As Peter told me, they are not organizing this conference for commercial purposes.  Instead, their primary goal is to bring a high-quality dedicated APEX conference to a region where there is significant demand.  And they've developed a 100% APEX Conference - everyone and everything is driven by Oracle APEX:  the conference Web site, abstract submission, abstract voting, the back-end administration apps, everything.  The conference is already a great testament of what is possible with the Oracle Database & Oracle APEX.

While the location primarily caters to Austria, Slovenia and Croatia, the appeal stretches far beyond the immediate region.  As you can see in the map below, Graz is a short 500 miles (1.5 hour flight) from many places in central Europe.  And even though it may be a bit longer to travel for those outside the circle, I'm hoping that this conference will attract many of our other customers and partners from Eastern Europe and the Middle East.  Tickets have already been sold to conference attendees from Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, United Kingdom, Croatia, Macedonia, Russia, Slovenia, and the USA.  If you want an easy way to get connected and immersed into the global APEX community, please attend APEX Alpe Adria.  It's that simple.

Patrick Wolf & Christian Neumueller from the Oracle APEX Development team will be joining me to kick off this inaugural conference and show our support for this growing APEX community.  We hope to see you there!


Wednesday, February 07, 2018

How do I Refresh a Region or Report after a Dialog is Closed?

I was going to write this blog post back in December 2017, as this question comes up frequently.  And even though there are numerous examples available in the Sample Database Application and other sample applications, and it's even in the documentation, the solution still isn't always readily apparent.

I received this question from an internal employee today:
"When I edit the page and update the row and save and close the modal page, existing report doesn't refresh the page with revised value.   It was working on another page, but not working on this new page (I built last week).  Couldn't find a way to refresh it as soon as I close the modal window with saved data."
He has a report and a form in his application, and the form opens up in a modal dialog.  He simply wants the report on the parent page to refresh after the modal dialog is closed.  Simple, right?



For anyone well-versed in APEX, you'll find this blog post superfluous.  But for everyone else who is looking for the quick explanation, as I've received this question 3 times in the past couple months, here it is.

  1. On the report page, create a new Dynamic Action and enter the following attributes:
    • Name: <provide a meaningful name>
    • Event: Dialog Closed
    • Selection Type: Region
    • Region:<choose your report region>

  2. Select the True action of the Dynamic Action and enter the following attributes:
    • Action: Refresh
    • Selection Type: Region
    • Region: <choose your report region>

That's really all there is to it.  If you have multiple regions on the parent page, you could add multiple True actions for the dynamic action.  If the triggering event of the modal dialog is a button instead of a region, you could specify that as your Selection Type for the triggering event.  If there are multiple regions on the page which could open the modal dialog, you could even use a jQuery Selector and reference multiple elements as your Selection Type for the triggering event. 

For example, if you're converting a non-modal form and report to use a modal form, and you wish to refresh the report after the modal dialog is closed (after creating a new record), you'll need to associate the triggering event with the button.  The steps would be:
  1. On the report page, create a new Dynamic Action and enter the following attributes:
    • Name: <provide a meaningful name>
    • Event: Dialog Closed
    • Selection Type: Button
    • Region:<choose your button, for example, your Create button>

  2. Select the True action of the Dynamic Action and enter the following attributes:
    • Action: Refresh
    • Selection Type: Region
    • Region: <choose your report region>

You should get this behavior out of the box when creating an application with a report and form, or adding a report and form to your application.  But if you're manually adding components, then it's really quite easy and straightforward to add this functionality to your APEX app.

If you install the Sample Database Application, you'll find numerous examples of this dynamic action refresh operation after the close of a modal dialog.  And it is briefly documented in this tip.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

APEX World 2018: Het gaat los!

While we're delighted that there are more APEX-focused conferences springing up around the globe, there is one conference that started this trend, and that is...APEX World.  Thanks to the foresight of the Dutch Oracle User GroupRobin Buitenhuis and Oracle ACE Learco Brizzi, APEX World was started 9 years ago, with the primary purpose of bringing together the growing APEX community in the Netherlands.  Since that time, it has grown into a premier conference for the APEX community in Europe and beyond.

When I first had the opportunity to present at APEX World in 2014, it was a one-day event in the quaint city of Zeist.  Since that time, APEX World has blossomed into a large, international, multi-track 2-day conference with more than 400 attendees expected in 2018.  Even better, the conference itself is on board the cruise ship SS Rotterdam, which is very historic and beautiful.  The theme of this years conference is "A Deep Dive into Low Code", and it will be on March 22nd and 23rd in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Four members of the Oracle APEX product development team will be at APEX World 2018 - John Snyders, Anthony Rayner, Shakeeb Rahman and David Peake.  We are all very open, we would love to understand what you're doing, and we also want to learn how we can help you be successful.  I encourage you to come to this great event and join the large and growing international community at APEX World 2018.


Infographic from APEX World 2017.  2018 will be even bigger and better!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Who used apex.oracle.com in 2017?

A number of years ago, I provided statistics on the geographic distribution of people who used the free, evaluation service for Oracle Application Express at https://apex.oracle.com.  I did this in 2008, 2009 and 2011.  It's time for an update.

I've included a graphic of the top 30 and the full report below, and here are my observations:

  • Since 2008, the number of visitor sessions to apex.oracle.com increased 280 times! That's not percentage, but times.  Percentage-wise, that's 27,985 % growth from 2008 to 2017.
  • In 2008, there were 1 or more visitor sessions from 122 countries/territories.  In 2017, that number increased to 212 countries/territories
  • The USA, India and United Kingdom remain in the top 3.  But the UK is barely hanging onto the #3 position.
  • Colombia vaulted from #11 in 2011 to #6 in 2017.  Bangladesh jumped from #26 to #14.  Japan jumped from #19 to #9.  Wow!

Usage of apex.oracle.com doesn't necessarily translate into usage of APEX.  These statistics are only a measurement of who is logging into apex.oracle.com - the actual usage of APEX is far greater.  Also, I fully anticipate the comment "...but as a percentage of population size, our country has the top usage in the world!" (here's looking at you, Netherlands).  But just because someone's country has declined in the rankings doesn't mean that APEX isn't growing there....it's just growing in other countries too!

Lastly, the statistics presented below are sessions, not to be confused with activity.  At the time of this writing, there are 36,133 workspaces on apex.oracle.com.  In the past 7 days, there were 4,643,958 page views, and 1,808 new workspaces requested and approved.

Not only is usage of APEX growing on a global basis, but that growth is accelerating.





Monday, January 15, 2018

The top 5 reasons why you should submit an abstract for APEX at the Great Lakes Oracle Conference (GLOC)

APEX Developer Day at Great Lakes Oracle Conference 2017

The Northeast Ohio Oracle User's Group (NEOOUG) is easily one of my favorite user groups on the planet.  They've been graciously hosting me at their user group events since 2004 (when I first gave a demonstration on Oracle HTML DB 1.5!).  They are a large, active and passionate user group.  In the past 14 years, I've seen them grow from simple user group events to "Training Days" at the Cleveland State University campus to a nicely sized regional conference named Great Lakes Oracle Conference.

If you're into Oracle APEX, either on-premises, or in the Oracle Cloud, I encourage you to submit an abstract to speak at the Great Lakes Oracle Conference.  Here are my top 5 reasons why you should strongly consider this:
  1. There is a real hunger for Oracle APEX content at this conference.  There are countless customers in the immediate region who use Oracle APEX.  Last year, they had the first ever Oracle APEX Developer Day in advance of the conference, and it was sold out (100 attendees)!
  2. It's the largest Oracle user's conference in the Midwest US.  It draws people from all over Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky and Pennsylvania.  There will be over 500 attendees at the conference in 2018.
  3. The Great Lakes Oracle Conference routinely gets world-class speakers from all over the world, both Oracle employees and Oracle ACEs.  As a speaker, you would be able to attend any session in any track.
  4. There are numerous tracks at the Great Lakes Oracle Conference, including APEX, Oracle Applications, Business Intelligence, DBA, Database Developer and Data Warehousing.
  5. Cleveland, Ohio is on the North Coast of the US.  There, you can visit Great Lakes Brewing Company, Market Garden Brewery, Platform Beer Company,  and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

I come across so many people who say "why would anyone want to hear me talk about that?"  From case studies to lessons learned to best practices in your environment, it's all interesting and valuable.  Not everyone who attends the APEX sessions at GLOC are experts, so entry-level sessions are also welcome!

I encourage you to submit an abstract today.  The deadline for abstract submission is February 2, 2018.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Can you use Oracle Database Unified Auditing with Oracle APEX?

A customer asked me this morning:

"Can we monitor the table access from an APEX application?"

This is a security-minded customer, who was also interested in the use of Oracle Database Vault to help protect unauthorized access to personally identifiable information which would be maintained in their database tables.  The only access to these tables would be through their APEX applications (for now), and they wanted to be able to monitor access to these tables.  While Oracle offers a very robust, enterprise solution in this problem domain named Oracle Audit Vault and Database Firewall, auditing via the native database functionality would be sufficient for now.

This blog post is not intended to be a complete treatise on the subject of database auditing in the Oracle Database, there is already a lot of documentation on this topic.  This blog post is a simple proof that auditing can be enabled to track accesses from an APEX application and how to see the audit log entries.

  1.   I created a simple APEX application based upon an updated version of the TASKS CSV file, used in this 2015 Oracle Magazine article.  This was done in the JOEL_DB schema.  The Interactive Report on page 1 is based upon the query:

    select id, project, task_name, start_date, end_date, status, assigned_to, cost, budget
     from tasks
    

    The application looked like:




  2. I created an audit policy named JOEL_TASKS_POLICY and enabled it using the following SQL:

    create audit policy joel_tasks_policy actions 
        select on joel_db.tasks, 
        update on joel_db.tasks, 
        delete on joel_db.tasks, 
        insert on joel_db.tasks;
    

    Note:  This is Oracle Database 12cR2.  Before beginning this step, I ensured that the database was configured for Unified Auditing.

  3. I ran the following SQL statement to validate existence of the audit policy:
    SQL> 
    
    select audit_option, object_schema, object_name 
      from audit_unified_policies 
     where policy_name = 'JOEL_TASKS_POLICY';
    
    AUDIT_OPTION  OBJECT_SCHEMA  OBJECT_NAME
    DELETE        JOEL_DB        TASKS
    INSERT        JOEL_DB        TASKS
    SELECT        JOEL_DB        TASKS
    UPDATE        JOEL_DB        TASKS
    

  4. I stopped and restarted Oracle REST Data Services (ORDS).  This is important, because the policy will only take effect for database sessions established after the audit policy was enabled.  Since ORDS maintains a pool of database sessions, I needed to nuke the existing sessions and establish new ones.

  5. I ran the page a few times in my APEX application using the Interactive Report.

  6. As a DBA, I queried the database view UNIFIED_AUDIT_TRAIL using the following query:
    select dbusername, action_name, event_timestamp, scn, 
           object_schema, object_name, sql_text, sql_binds, client_identifier 
      from unified_audit_trail 
     where unified_audit_policies = 'JOEL_TASKS_POLICY' 
       and object_schema = 'JOEL_DB' 
     order by event_timestamp desc
    



    and voila!  You can easily see that the SELECT statements against the TASKS table are properly being audited, complete with any bind values used in the query.  The username of the database session is APEX_PUBLIC_USER as expected, because this is what the database sessions in the ORDS pool are connected as.  In the CLIENT_IDENTIFIER column, you can see that the name of the authenticated user to the APEX application along with the APEX session identifier are also recorded.

Does this give you everything you wish?  Probably not.  I'd like to know the APEX application ID, the page number, the actual parsing schema, and more.  But using the APEX session ID and correlating it with entries in the APEX_ACTIVITY_LOG database view, I can find so much more about this activity.  There are also many other columns in the UNIFIED_AUDIT_TRAIL database view which are used in conjunction with Oracle Database Vault and Real Application Security, and which would capture still more information about access of this underlying database object.

A great benefit of using database auditing instead of simply implementing "poor-man's" logging in the APEX application is that any access will be recorded from any application, not just the APEX app.