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Oracle XE: It's Not Your Typical Oracle

  • April 18, 2006
  • By Dick Wall
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Some Choice Features

The best advice I can give at this point is that, if you are still reading and hence probably interested, go and download Oracle XE. However, there are a few favorite features I would like to touch on.

Table Design

Click here for a larger image.

This is a nice table creation wizard that leads you through the table field definitions, primary and foreign keys, other constraints, and then lets you review the SQL before creating if you desire. It even makes it easy to include a new sequence to automatically generate a primary key value.

Query Builder

This is, to date, my favorite implementation of a Web-based query builder. It uses the simple and familiar "access" type view of tables, relationships, and selected fields:

Click here for a larger image.

If you have used Microsoft Access, Java Studio Creator, or any of a host of other tools, this type of query builder view likely will be familiar to you. The implementation here is very slick—AJAX lets you join tables and select fields on the fly, and see the changes in the generated SQL or conditional views immediately. You even can drag and drop the tables to tweak the layout for clarity. Hit the run button, and you will see the results of the query in the results pane.

You then can store queries, or simply copy the query SQL out of the SQL view and paste it into source code for the application you are writing.

Application Builder

To be honest, this falls very much into the "neat, but will I use it" category right now. In a nutshell, this is a canned, template-driven facility for rapidly putting together Web-based applications around your database with little or no code to write. There are three included example apps that you can install to the database and examine. The approach taken is to use wizards to define pages with enclosed objects, objects being things such as queries, forms, reports, and charts, as well as conditionals that control flow through the application, among other things.

Real developers might get some usage out of this, but I suspect that business staff who want to throw some of their own reports and simple CRUD (Create, Read, Update, Delete) applications will find it a lot more useful.

Click here for a larger image.

Many of the newer RAD tools emphasize the speed of construction of CRUD and reporting tools, and this appears to hold its own in ease and speed to many of the new options out there. Experienced developers will chafe at the bit from limitations and the approach taken, but there is no denying that it is easy and fast to throw together a simple app this way.

The definition for the page demonstrated above is:

Click here for a larger image.

Different links in the various sections define the components displayed, SQL queries used, conditionals like branching to other pages, security, and shared parts of the application (navigation bars, tab sheets, and so forth).

Something like this could help at the very least with prototyping, even if the finished product is constructed in something else. Likewise, it could be used by business folks or customers to create and tweak their own reports.

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