Tag Archives: Modernization

3-Step approach to evolutionary innovation

In my last blog post, I explored why everyone isn’t innovating if it’s so important. I surmised that innovation can be evolutionary as well as revolutionary. In this scenario, I would like to offer 3 steps to approach evolutionary innovation.

How is it possible to have your cake and eat it – to keep up with your urgent tasks while moving forward at the same time? Various solutions have been put forward, such as the idea of bimodal IT.

From what I’ve experienced, a good, pragmatic approach is to follow what is sometimes called “evolutionary innovation”. By building incrementally on what you have, it’s often possible to push forward with innovation without putting everything else on hold or disrupting business-as-usual.

Let’s look at how to approach evolutionary innovation under three headings:

  1. Build on what you have
  2. Make the most of the available ideas
  3. Be ready to fail

Uniface Innovation

  1. Build on what you have 

An idea doesn’t have to be brand new to be innovative. It’s often about doing the same thing better. Think about mobile phones. An initial step was going from wired to cordless. Since then, we have seen a lot of evolutionary steps, bringing us to the smartphones we use today. There have of course been some revolutionary jumps; however, for the most part, the innovation has been evolutionary.

Rather than await a flash of inspiration and light-bulb “eureka moment” – going from nothing to revolution – we can innovate by listening to people’s challenges and turning these into creative new ideas.

Those ideas can often be implemented with what you already have. In the case of IT innovation, it’s possible to work with solutions that take care of encapsulating technical complexity. That way, you can quickly utilize your existing business assets, getting more out them, with zero (or minimal) rework effort. For example, you may be able to move a legacy application to the web without rewriting core business code. This means you have the time and resources to go on continuously improving your solutions to keep pace with business, consumer and technological change.

  1. Make the most of the available ideas 

It’s important to listen to what other people are thinking – everyone is innovating. The best ideas of all will often come from your own workforce, so it is important to find ways to develop this important resource. With the consumerization of IT and the 24×7 access available to users, particularly through smart devices, the era of apps, bots and assistants sparks many ideas and demands. Combined with the many continually improving features available on these devices, the scope to innovate is immense.

Organizations should try to provide employees with “play time”. Children learn and very rapidly develop through playing; the adult version of this is called R&D. Unfortunately, as we mature, the amount of play appears to decline. Organizations should aim for a range of individual and group activities such as personal experimentation time and team hackathons. It’s important to include individual activities as well as group ones because not all ideas come to the surface in the context of a group, especially if a few people are particularly dominant. As simple as this last statement may seem, it is often overlooked.

The trick is to strike the right balance between business tasks, prescribed learning, and play time. When you hit the sweet spot, you may be surprised how many ideas you have at your disposal – who knows, you may even have enough to spin off additional solution offerings or even new business entities.

  1. Be ready to fail 

With any form of innovation, you must be prepared for some of your ideas not to work. Eddie Obeng’s TED talk on Smart Failure for a Fast-Changing World memorably captures why this is so important. We don’t experiment enough, and although companies pay lip service to the idea that it’s OK to fail, they often find it hard to follow through.

This is one of the biggest blockers to innovation, and we need to overcome it. We have to find ways to experiment with new ideas, some of which will fail. We must ensure that businesses of all sizes fully understand and account for this requirement. If we take the phrase “Be ready to fail” and replace the word fail with experiment, test, try, learn, play, develop, grow, evolve or many similar words, the emotional response is very different – however, the end goal remains the same. Whatever word we choose, the process of innovation is normally iterative. It is important to understand this principle and not give up at the first hurdle.

This series is based on the paper: Agility and Innovation in Application and Mobile Development. You can download the paper here.

Windows XP – another nail in the Coffin

I recently read this article about Chrome 50 stopping support for some older operating systems, and the mention of Windows XP caught my eye. 

From a Uniface perspective, we stopped supporting Windows XP in May 2014. Purely from a technology perspective, it freed us up in regards to choices on MS Visual Studio and even how to implement certain functionality. I’m sure in the Uniface source code there is still code that states ‘if Windows XP’…! 

Getting out and about, talking to customers, I’ve had a few conversations about Windows XP, mainly in the context of browser support and Internet Explorer 7, as in the big WWW, it’s pretty well out of control what OS, and what browser an end user can use. (Although I do remember this article about an Australian online retailer who was going to add an IE tax for their transactions.) 

Something that has come up during conversations has been customers who are doing business in China, where there is still a significant amount of Windows XP use. I’m assuming that this is related to how easy it was to bypass the MS licensing model and the availability of older specification hardware which might struggle to run a new version of Windows. 

I’m expecting that with Chrome soon to stop supporting IE, that will start to accelerate the move away from Windows XP, and I’m guessing some of the hardware manufacturers will be rubbing their hands with the anticipation of a peak in new hardware sales, and the recyclers are preparing for more obsolete hardware to be stripped for precious metals. 

And on a personal note, it appears I need to buy a new Mac for use at home, as I’m also impacted by Chrome 50 not supporting my version of Mac OSX! 

Uniface Modernization: Modern buttons are flat

New button properties are welcome

During the modernization of IDF 9.7 it became clear that 3D buttons could not be used anymore. Windows has gone flat and all the office applications as well. So we needed to address this with some simple properties on the command button widget. The defaults stay untouched even though the new properties make the button more appealing. So we don’t break the look and feel of the existing applications but open the possibilities to a modern user interface.

Properties explained

These new properties make the difference and allow the UNIFACE developer to change the looks of the entire application in a wink. You need to set the button representation to “UNIFACE” is you want to make use of the new properties.


With the new properties we were able to completely mimic the Windows 8 tiles as well as the common flat buttons.

Some examples

In the following example the “Transparent” property is set while the button is placed on a form with a very colorful image. Not very user friendly, since it looks like a label, but it shows the possibilities.

A button with transparency set to TRUE.


The following table shows a button with an image which is styled in different ways:


New property value


During the modernization of IDF we missed the option to create big buttons with an image big enough to fill up the button. The “imgsize” property has a new value to accommodate the workspace buttons in IDF.


Example the UNIFACE Journey planner

If we start making changes to GUI widgets or the GUI driver, we always look to other applications and try to make the user interface in UNIFACE. For the buttons I took the Android application made by the Dutch national railway company NS. With the new button properties we could mimic the user interface completely. Following picture shows the UNIFACE Journey planner which uses flat buttons.


To make designing the application more easy, I created logical widgets with the necessary properties, so I was able to paint the Journey planner very quickly. Creating the logical widgets was some work but after this you can develop an application following a certain theme. You can paste the following buttons into you usys.ini to get the looks as shown in the sample.






I hope this helps you in creating modern looking UNIFACE applications and modernizing existing applications.

Uniface Lectures Webinar Series: Sharing Technical Information

Uniface Lectures Webinar Series

We are about to launch a new webinar series initiative to help share Uniface technical knowledge called the Uniface Lectures.

Once a month there will be an evening session held here at our office in Amsterdam on a particular topic.  Using the latest version of Uniface we will be showing functionality, tips and tricks with the goal of sharing technical knowledge.

Now obviously this is only useful for customers who are able to get here to attend, so we will also repeat the sessions as online webinars, and finally they will be recorded and posted on YouTube. Different Uniface technical experts will be delivering the webinars and we’ll be doing about one per month making sure to cover both East and West time zones.

At this time,  we have the following topics planned. 

  • February – Modernization
  • March – Deployment 
  • April – JavaScript Integration
  • May – Mobile 
  • June – Integration using REST 

We’ll probably take a break for the summer period, but we then intend to restart the sessions in the fall timeframe with new topics. 

We would be interested in ideas of topics to cover, please add suggestions and ideas below in the comments.  What would you like to see covered? What do you want to learn more about?

Further details, and how to register for the Lectures can be found here.

Uniface Lectures

Styling entities and area frames in Uniface 9.7

In Uniface 9.7 we added powerful options to modernize your Uniface application without having to change your code.

Many applications need to run on many desktops and for our Value Added Resellers it may even run at various customer sites. Sometimes it is even a requirement that these sites use different color settings and logo’s. If you have to maintain this customized look using the Property Forms of the Uniface Development Environment it takes a lot of effort.

In Uniface 9.7 we took steps to make this easier:

  • We added new properties on the entity level that will enable you to make an entity (area) look nice.
  • We added a mechanisme to set these properties for individual entities in the .ini file, so outside of your code.
  • We made all graphical entity properties available for Area Frames too. These are only available  from the .ini file.

Bookstore Form without styling:


Same Form with styling in .Ini file:


The following example shows how areas on a form can be highlighted with a kind of card layout:


The Properties

There are properties for the border, the color, and image for the area frames and entities. Some of them are already exists for Shells, Windows or Entities in Uniface. The new property names “borderradius” and “bordercolor” are taken from the W3C standards on CSS.

Border Properties

You can give your Entity or Area Frame different types of border.

  • Flat
    The border is one pixel in size and falls inside the area frame. This means that fields painted at the inner edge of a frame area overwrite the border. By default the border is darkgray. You can customize a Flat border with the BorderColor and BorderRadius properties.
  • Groove
    A groove border shows an edged border with a width of 2 pixels and falls inside the area frame. There is no gap between the colored area and the border.

The border that you can set in the Form Painter is separate from this and still works as it did. If you have a border in the Form Painter and have specfied the BorderType property, you will see both.

When you have specified BorderType=Flat, you can set the color of the border with BorderColor.
When you have specified BorderType=Flat, you can set BorderRadius to give the border round corners by specify the number of pixels for the radius.
When you specify a DropShadowColor, your frame will be displayed with a shadow effect in the specified color.

Background Color Properties

Defines whether the BackColor is shown as a solid color (BackColorFill=Flat) or as a gradient color (BackColorFill=Gradient). Flat is the default.
When BackColorFill has been set to gradient, the color by default runs from white to the specified background color. With BackColorStart you can make the gradient start from any other color.
When you have specified BackColorFill=Gradient, you can use GradientStart to specify whether you want to start the gradient from the Top (default), Bottom, Left or Right.

Background Image Properties

With BackImage you can specify an image that will be displayed as the background for the whole Entity or Area Frame. (Not per occurrence.)
Set HAlign to Left, Right or Center to position the image horizontally.
Set HScale to a percentage to scale the image. Default is 100 (no scaling is applied).
Set PreserveAspect to True to preserve the aspect ratio of the image. The default is False.
Set VAlign to Top, Bottom or Center to position the image vertically.
Set HScale to a percentage to scale the image. Default is 100 (no scaling is applied).


Attach Property

The Attach property now also works on entity and area frames.
All values (left,right,top,bottom, hmove, vmove, hsize, vsize) are supported. So in combination with setting the attach properties on fields, you can make resizable areas on your Forms:


Setting the Properties

Altough the Entities and Area Frames have the same new properties, there are differences in the ways in which you can apply these properties.

Setting the Properties on Entities

Proc Code
You can set properties on entities using the familiar $entityproperties function. All new properties are dynamic so you can change colors etc. at runtime.

Property Form
For the Entity, some of the properties that are discussed in this blog already exist. You can set them on the Property Form for the Entity in the Development Environment. The really new properties can be set on the More Properties form.

.Ini file
In the .Ini file, the properties for entities can be set in the [entities] section.

Assigning properties to DefEntity applies them to all Entities in your application:


For example, give ALL entities a border:

The practical value of setting the same properties on all entities is quite limited in a real application, so we also made it possible to set the properties in a more precise manner:


For example, give the Customer entity a color on all Forms:

This really allows you to control the look of your application without having to recode.

Setting the Properties on Area Frames

For Area Frames, the properties are exclusively controlled through the .Ini file. You set them in the [areaframes] section.

One option is to assign properties to “Frame”. The name “frame” is a special frame. This one is used for all frames that do not have a name or are not in the list of area frames in the usys.ini. This is necessary to allow an existing application to be “pimped” without renaming existing area frames. In most cases, the area frame does not have a name because the developer never gave it one.


For example make all Area Frames blue:

We also made it possible to set the properties in a more precise manner:


For example give the INFO Area Frame a border on every Form:
Or give all Area Frames on Form CUST001 a shadow:
Or give the INFO Area Frame on CUST001 some properties:

This really allows you to control the look of your application without having to recode.


Named Area Frames
The concept of named Area Frames may not sound familiar to you. In Uniface it always has been possible to rename area frames in the Form Painter, but it had practical use only when printing.

Area frames can have a name, which is used to address them from the usys.ini. The name can be changed in the Form Painter, and does not have to be unique.

In the Form Painter you paint an area frame:
Then right click it:
Then select Rename:
Assuming that we have this in our .Ini file:


When you click OK, you get the following in the GFP:


Attach Property
The widgets inside the area do NOT inherit the Attach property of the area.
So if the widgets need to move with the area, you need to give them an Attach property too.
The properties are ignored when the area frame or entity is printed. The scope is the GUI only.
Color Inheritance
Fields or widgets on top of the areaframe or entity will only inherit the backcolor property value and do NOT take the gradient into account when inheriting the color.
Form Painter
The Form Painter will display entity and area frames with the properties that are set in the .ini file. You will NOT see the effect of the properties set in the More Properties form.


Same Entity, different properties: