Watch our recent webinar: https://explorer.co.uk/oracle-application-development/oracle-apex-for-forms/
Explorer is known in the UK as a leading APEX development consultancy, so you might be wondering why I’m writing a blog about Oracle Forms. Before working with APEX I was an Oracle Forms developer, having used the technology from version 2.3 through to still using the technology today, albeit lightly, with 11gR2. Sadly, over recent years it has failed to keep up with the demands of modern application architecture, aesthetics and user expectations so, like all good things, there comes a time to let go. With the recent announcement of the forthcoming Forms 12c version that time is whole-heartedly now.
As an Oracle Forms developer I am sad to say that when the product no longer makes productive, functional or economic sense then the writing is on the wall and one must find alternatives. To gain a clearer and official view on where Oracle Forms is going with its future direction and positioning I recently reviewed a Q&A webinar that Michael Ferrante (Principal Product Manager for Oracle Forms) gave, which is available to download from the ODTUG website:
The reason why I recommend you listen to this webinar is to hear directly how Michael addresses the questions and concerns of Forms users and, in my opinion, fails to persuade me that Forms has a real future past 11g. I have noted some of Michael’s answers below; in response to some of the questions I get asked on a regular basis.
Before you read these though, I want to share with you some of the issues I have with Oracle Forms and explain why; ultimately, I feel that the product is at the end of its productive life.
APEX on the other hand is a key component that is perfect for the Oracle cloud and included in many Platform-as-a-Service offerings.
Now onto the webinar…I’m not going to detail every answer from Michael Ferrante but just some of the highlights that relate to my points above…
I am repeatedly asked “Will there be a mobile version of forms”?
The answer to this is no and Michael’s reply could not be any clearer either:
MF – “Forms was only ever intended for desktop data driven applications and has never been considered a platform capable or appropriate for mobile delivery… Forms was intended for back office data entry”
Oracle will not evolve Forms to cater for today’s business demands and deployment methods so if you want to access you Forms application or a cut down version of, on a mobile device – you can’t.
Browser issues – With three tier Oracle Forms environments browser plug-in support is becoming an issue and Google has stated that by late 2015 NPAPI support will be removed from Chrome.
MF – “Regarding new deployment options for the client side these will be features that will be in 12c and not available for version 11… so choose another browser… or choose an older version of Chrome.”
Personally I rather like using Chrome so to be told to use another browser is not an answer that I or the customers I work with want to hear! It also supports my assertion that costs will go up for customers to change browsers and maintain compatibility in organisations with more than a handful of desktop PC’s to support. Michael did go on to explain that there will be some “neat ways” of getting round this issue in future but was also clear that Forms will forever rely on Java. More information about the issue can be found here.
Many businesses have been using Forms for a long time and have evolved from terminals to client/server to a three tier architecture ranging from character mode to graphical user interfaces but the limitations are really obvious now and users demand so much more. Aesthetically Oracle Forms cannot compete with today’s user expectations – what is available looks very bland and old fashioned.
MF – “12c Forms will have the ability to change theme colours”
To be honest this typifies where Forms is today, as there is little that can be done to enhance the user interface to improve the user experience. To be fair, there are other “enhancements” other than just the ability to change theme colours, but none worth mentioning.
Architecturally with Forms it is hard to try and integrate with other technologies.
MF – “Integrating Oracle Forms with web services is not the simplest thing to do but can be done…”
Integrating other technologies and being more “open” is a growing request from customers and they demand an easy approach to the requirement. A complex implementation is difficult to support, costs increase and is more than likely going to be unstable due to multiple components.
From an hour’s webinar the points above were the most interesting to me. Oracle had an opportunity to showcase what was coming in Forms 12c to persuade me that it has a future. Honestly, they didn’t achieve it so I, like so many of others out there, am now thinking “what are my options?”
At the start of July, a customer referred to Oracle Forms planned new features for 12c using a rhetorical expression that although said in good humour actually does have an element of reality. They conveyed the fact that whilst you can make cosmetic and peripheral enhancements and you can try and integrate with other technologies, the reality is it’s an old technology that cannot adapt for today’s business demands. Lipstick on a pig anyone?
Oracle Forms is one of the best examples of a technology that obtained reliability, productivity and a very large following very quickly, and has been a stable environment for businesses for many years. However, unless something dramatic happens inside Oracle within the next few months, Oracle Forms has little new to offer in 12c and, put simply, there are easier and better ways to achieve more in less time at a lower cost.
This is the right time to evaluate your Oracle Forms applications.
Part 2 and our continued opinion on the future of Oracle Forms can be read here.
Author: Simon Greenwood
Job Title: Development Services Director
Bio: Simon Greenwood is the Development Services Director at DSP-Explorer. Simon has a long history with Oracle Development tools such as Forms and PL/SQL, and since 2005 he has taken a leading role in promoting Application Express to Oracle customers. Simon is the Co-Chairman of the UK OUG APEX SIG and a member of the APEX advisory board. DSP-Explorer is an Oracle Platinum Partner focussed on developing bespoke applications, consultancy and training using Oracle Application Express. Simon’s team of well-respected and highly regarded APEX developers are highly skilled in converting business problems into functional and low-cost bespoke systems.