The announcement by Oracle about the new Always Free Cloud Tier is fantastic news. You can now have two free Autonomous Databases with APEX up and running in a few minutes. It’s free for anyone to use and is great for existing APEX developers or anyone who wants to see what APEX is capable of.
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After reading the announcement and reviewing the limitations, I wanted to know how easy it would be to get an APEX environment up and running in the free cloud. I also wanted to know if I could use a third party solution for PDF printing.
I am pleased to say I found it very straight-forward to get my first Autonomous Database and APEX environment up and running, the whole process only took me about 15 minutes.
For generating PDFs from APEX, I decided to use PL/PDF as it’s simple to install and only requires a new schema and a set of packages, tables and types to be created. It is also quick to develop a sample test print. If you have not used it before you can download a trial from www.plpdf.com.
Again, I am pleased to say I have no issues doing this in the Free Cloud environment and was able to have a basic APEX application generating some sample PFDs within 30 minutes. This is how I did it.
The first step was to open my cloud environment and access the service console for my ATP database. From here, I opened the development menu and selected the “Oracle APEX” option.
The next step was to log into the APEX application builder as Admin and create a new workspace and database schema, which I named “DEMO”.
Next, I downloaded and installed the latest version of PL/PDF using the installation guide and SQL Developer Web to run the scripts. This consisted of the following steps.
The next step was to create a procedure to generate a sample PDF file using PL/PDF and a procedure to call from APEX to download it.
Simple procedure to generate a test PDF
The following procedure generates a PDF using a string passed in as a parameter and writes it to the “store_blob” table (created during the PL/PDF installation).
PROCEDURE gen_sample_pdf(pv_sample_text IN VARCHAR2) IS vl_pdf BLOB; BEGIN DELETE FROM store_blob WHERE filename = 'SimplePDF.pdf'; plpdf.init(); plpdf.newpage; plpdf.setprintfont(p_family => 'Arial', p_style => NULL, p_size => 16); plpdf.printouttext(p_x => 20, p_y => 20, p_txt => pv_sample_text); plpdf.senddoc(p_blob => vl_pdf); INSERT INTO store_blob (blob_file, created_date, filename) VALUES (vl_pdf, SYSDATE, 'SimplePDF.pdf'); END gen_sample_pdf;
I also wrote this procedure for calling from an APEX page to download the PDF.
PROCEDURE download_report(pv_filename IN VARCHAR2) IS CURSOR c_pdf IS SELECT * FROM store_blob WHERE filename = pv_filename|| 's'; lr_pdf c_pdf%ROWTYPE; BEGIN OPEN c_pdf; FETCH c_pdf INTO lr_pdf; IF c_pdf%FOUND THEN owa_util.mime_header(ccontent_type => 'application/pdf', bclose_header => FALSE); htp.p('Content-Disposition: attachment; filename="' || lr_pdf.filename || '"'); owa_util.http_header_close; wpg_docload.download_file(lr_pdf.blob_file); END IF; CLOSE c_pdf; END download_report;
I also decided to make sure I could generate a simple PDF using a Word Template and the plpdf_reporter_pdf.genCode function. Again this is simple to do (there are tutorials available online) and I had no issues generating it in the ATP Cloud environment.
The last step was to create a new application within the DEMO Workspace to call my two PDF generating packages to test everything worked.
On the home page, I added the following to generate and download my two test PDFs.
The first procedure generated a basic PDF with the text I entered into the “Sample Text” text item.
The second created using a Word template generated a PDF with the current date and time.
Author: Colin Archer
Job Title: Senior Oracle APEX Development Consultant
Bio: Colin is a Senior Development Consultant at DSP-Explorer with 20 years’ experience of analysis, design, and development of bespoke Oracle applications for a wide variety of business functions. Building on his previous experience of Forms and PL/SQL he is now focusing on developing high quality fit for purpose solutions using APEX.