Tag Archives: Uniface User Events

Re-inventing the Uniface customer events

Our Uniface customer event season has just started, and several of us have been busy preparing content which we will be delivering at various events around the world. We have decided to make some changes to the events which we (Uniface) run ourselves although we always make the content available to the various independent user groups such as Face to Face in the Netherlands and UnifaceBenutzerGruppe, or UBG in Germany

The thinking started last year (2014) at the US Event in Las Vegas, where we ran the ever popular ‘Speed Networking sessions’ which are a cross between round table discussions and speed dating. One of the topics was ‘The Future of the NAUUG’, chaired by Zulayka. (NAUUG being North American Uniface User Group). 

The feedback we got was interesting, and we’ve taken a lot of it onboard. The primary points being that there was a desire for the content to be more technical, and code, techniques and techie stuff is the most interesting. (We also see that technically oriented blog posts on Uniface.info are generally the most popular.)

Uniface
Uniface

The result is that this year, the user events that we are running are Developer Conferences, with a focus on the technical content. We’ve also been working hard on the technical content, which will cover a variety of topics, such as UX, integration, development techniques, etc and will include getting into the code, with the source code being made available for future reference, use and enhancement. The sessions are delivered by various members of the Uniface technical team, and it should add up to be a really compelling reason to attend the events. 

We have Developer Conferences already scheduled for the UK, France and the US which is always our biggest event over three days, and this week a few of us are in Japan, with one event in Tokyo and one in Osaka (both of which are sold out), and I’m sure we will have more events in 2016. The technical content is available to be used at the other customer events which we don’t run ourselves, for example some of the Uniface team are in Israel this week and we usually have events in Latin America and Australia, although we’ve not booked anything at this time. 

The Mobile Mind-Shift: The End of Apps as we Know Them?

Mobile apps have become ubiquitous. Companies are trying to get to grips with an unprecedented digital transformation and keep up with the resulting changes in consumer behaviour. There are now more than 1 billion smartphones and hundreds of millions of tablets in use across the globe, so having a mobile app strategy is essential for success in the connected world.

But, Josh Bernhoff of Forrester, argues that, a strategy that involves ‘building an app’ by itself is no better than a strategy that involves porting a web site. The real question is – what is the app going to do for the customer?

We’ve entered a time when consumers have made a ‘mobile mind-shift’, that is, they expect to access what they want, in a relevant context, in a moment of need.

Bernhoff writes, that for app designers, the challenge is to think about the points in time and space when someone pulls out a mobile device to access information relating to their immediate circumstance. Companies need to prepare for the ‘mobile mind-shift’ because it will change what customers expect and demand of an organization.

From a design perspective, Paul Adams, of Intercom, writes that, “The experience of our primary mobile screen being a bank of app icons that lead to independent destinations is dying”. The consequence of this is that it will change what we need to design and build.

He suggests that in the future, the primary interface for interacting with apps may not be the app itself. The app is primarily a publishing tool so the number one way people will use your app is through an interactive notification layer or aggregated card stream, not by opening the app itself.

But will apps disappear completely? Where apps might survive and thrive is in creating useful and contextually specific information for end users. We will still need apps to process data to present complex information in a functional and contextual format to the end user.

Where these apps will live on our mobile devices in the future is definitely open to change. According to Paul Adams, they may sit in the back-end, pushing content into a central experience with a card based notification center taking precedence.

Recently, at our North American user conference in Las Vegas, we detailed our mobile strategy to create cross platform mobile applications. Our strategy will help address the current opportunities and challenges of developing mobile apps.

What kind of future do you see for mobile apps? Will they become obsolete or do they just need to reconfigure their purpose? If you have an opinion on what the‘mobile mind-shift’ means for the future development of mobile apps, tell us about it!

Uniface Details its Mobile Strategy and Roadmap during North American User Group Event

Other Conference Highlights Include Keynotes from Forrester Research and Uniface 10 Workshops

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Uniface is hosting its annual North American user conference in Las Vegas this week, which brings together its many users from across the United States.

During the conference, Uniface will detail its mobile strategy to create cross platform mobile applications; and how it can help address the current opportunities and challenges of developing mobile apps. Mike Gualtieri, Principal Analyst, Forrester Research will add to the discussion with two keynote presentations – ‘Mobile Is the Norm, Now Innovation Must Begin’ and ‘ The Future of Application Development’. It is an information packed agenda with sessions updating attendees on the ‘new’ Uniface, customer presentations, Uniface 10 workshops, a speed networking event and much more.  This event kicks off a Uniface world tour to help customers address the pressing challenge of mobile development with events in Germany, the Netherlands, Mexico and Japan scheduled this year and other locations in the planning.

A toolbox in Uniface 10, anyone?

What’s an engineer without tools? The first hit of a Google search for the phrase “Engineer without Tools” is a quote from Star Trek Deep Space Nine – Millennium Book Three (Inferno): “He was alone and useless, an engineer without tools, … “

Alone and useless … I guess that says it all.

Vice versa: the better the tools, the more efficient the engineer can be. Application developers, software developers, software engineers, they all need tools. Of course, the Uniface Development Environment as we know it in Uniface 9 and before is a very advanced tool already, or a collection of tools. In the Uniface 10 IDE we take that to a much higher level, using the concept of the toolbox.

The next release of Uniface 10, internally named 10.00c, shows the first contours of the toolbox. This release will be used for product demos at User Conferences as of mid-May. And no doubt the toolbox will be featured in the next product update on the Uniface Partners United website.

Each task in Uniface 10 will have its own dedicated toolbox. Visually the different toolboxes look and work the same and they can always be found in the same location: at the left side. A toolbox provides the elements (the tools) that are appropriate for creating content in the editor we’re in: when we model an entity we’ll have a toolbox that enables us to create fields, keys and relationships. The project editor will provide a toolbox for creating project content: the elements to choose from in the project editor’s toolbox may range from a single component to a completely predefined application.

The Component Editor in Uniface 10 has three main tasks, each supported by its own specific toolbox: Define Structure, Write Script and Define Layout. Here’s a preliminary screen shot of the Component Data Structure toolbox:

Henk blog May2

The toolbox allows for multi-select, which makes it easy to pull multiple elements into the editor with just a few clicks. In a superficial test we noted down which steps we needed to create a data structure for a DSP based on a modeled entity.

First of all, it’s much more intuitive to discover what you need, because the toolbox puts it ‘in your face’. But more important, in Uniface 10 we needed less than 50% of the mouse clicks compared to Uniface 9.6 to achieve the same result.

But it’s not limited to these benefits, in fact the sky’s the limit! Engineers can create their own custom toolboxes. Whether as a matter of convenience or as a way to encourage or even enforce standards, e.g. project or organizational standards. Agreeing on standards and guidelines is no longer an exercise on paper, but can actually be implemented through software in an intuitive and consistent manner.

One small step…

Since Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, stating “That’s one small step for (a) man…” the moon’s surface hasn’t changed much. At least, to my knowledge. Maybe a few rocks have been moved, but to me the moon by night still looks the same as back then in 1969.

The difference with the changes in development land could hardly be bigger. The older programming languages aren’t extinct yet, but many new have appeared on the set, including complete frameworks implemented in one or more languages, each with their own API. Back then, say 20 years ago, life was simple.  You learned one language, at school or in your own spare time, and reached a varying degree of expertise in that single language. Maybe you touched a second language at the surface, to make sure you could at least read the statements. But programming in a second language was, well, let’s say a challenge.

It may sound like a memory from past life, but I do remember an annual company kick off meeting by – back then – Uniface Corporation in the US, probably around 1992 or 1993. All sales reps and tech reps came to Alameda, CA for a few days and one of the items on the agenda was a ‘pub quiz’ for the techies. A questionnaire with a dozen or so questions about our infamous Proc Language constructs. Of course, we were all cocky, as a tech support guy (or girl) you wouldn’t see the light of day if you didn’t know the Proc Language manual by heart. It was easier then: we knew one language and we knew it very well, it was still limited in functionality and in syntax.

Today, developers hardly ever work with one single development language. They often find themselves in the middle a Software Development Ecosystem, a virtual working space consisting of a variety of tools: development tools, build tools, test tools, etc. But even merely developing a modern application user interface already involves frequent switching between languages: Uniface, JavaScript, HTML/CSS, maybe even Java…

And then, the modern languages are functionally much richer too. Meaning: more functions, more command statements. But also meaning: sometimes small but sometimes big differences between languages for the same type of constructions. For most humans it’s near to impossible to memorize the exact syntax in each language. Already within a single language the syntax may not be strict, often due to later developments and new insights when enhancing the language.

For example, compare the following two Uniface language constructions that sort of serve the same purpose:

Target = $item(Id, Source)

getitem/id Target, Source, Id

Each time I use one of these statements, I find myself invoking the online Help, simply because I forgot. With or without parentheses? And what’s the order of the parameters again?

Comes the IDE to the rescue… Ideally the language editor in the IDE of your choice provides hints, or even better: a degree of intelligent code completion. It takes away the mental load of memorizing and the nuisance of separately looking it up in the reference documentation. So, where is Uniface’s IDE in that respect? Well, we can’t revert the past: it was never there except the keyword coloring and keyword completion (using Tab and Shift Tab to scroll through a list statements or functions one by one).

Uniface release 10.00b, released internally last week for the purpose of showing at User Group conferences these days, makes the first small step:

Henk blog 1

Yeah! Just what I needed: I can see which parameters are expected. I can see their types, their order. I can see where I am in the construction, i.e. which parameter I’m at. Admittedly, a first small step. But remember how Armstrong started. Many more steps to make, one at a time.

And while we’re at it, you actually see a glimpse of the new Script Editor, with new features like line numbering and code folding:

Henk blog 2

More about that and all sorts of other new stuff in 10.00b in the next blog.

Henk van der Veer

PS: I mentioned Java once, but I think I got away with it all right …