Tue, Jun
3 New Articles

RPG Academy: UI Modernization, Part 7 - Rational Open Access Vendors

  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

Let’s continue to discuss Rational Open Access: RPG Edition and its most well-known vendors.

If you read the previous TechTip, you should know by now that Rational Open Access: RPG Edition (ROA) provides a great way to modernize the UI of your IBM i–based application by extending the frontend of it to “Browsers, Mobile devices, Cloud computing resources, Web services, External databases, XML files, Spreadsheets and more,” according to IBM.

ROA uses the native I/O capabilities to allow you to interact with all these “modern” UIs. However, it’s not something that sits between an untouched RPG program and a web browser, reinterpreting the green-screen as an HTML page. As an IBMer once put it, “That’s like putting lipstick on a pig and expecting it to look beautiful.”

Personally, I have nothing against screen scraping, but I don’t think this type of solution is truly viable, because the quantity of data and flow logic in a green-screen and a web page are very different. Typically, 5250 screens work asynchronously, while web pages react dynamically to changes. For instance, selecting a value from a list on a green-screen is, usually, a two-step process: First you select the value, and then you press Enter. Yes, you can argue that it’s possible to simulate the Enter key press with a keyword in the field, but that’s not the most common implementation. On the other hand, selecting the same value on a web page requires only one step: You click the value, and something happens.

This is just one example, but the point is that just changing the UI is not enough. ROA is useful indeed, but it requires you to change the flow of the program as well, so that the interaction resembles a web page interaction instead of a green-screen interaction. You’ll use the same building blocks (procedures and functions) as before, but you’ll be arranging them in a different way. That’s why it’s so important to have everything in its proper place by implementing, for instance, an MVC approach in your programs, as explained a couple of TechTips ago.

In short, to take full advantage of ROA, you might need to change the way your programs’ flows work. You’ll be rewriting them, picturing your display record formats as web pages. This means rewriting the part of your programs that corresponds to the view layer in the MVC pattern. From an RPG programmer’s perspective, the only big change here is the “thing” that’s going to replace the display file: the handler. This “thing” is a program, written in RPG or some other language that can serve the same purpose as a display file; it can show data to the user and receive his or her commands.

You can write your own handler. (There’s a very interesting article in the July 2010 issue of IBM Systems magazine, entitled “Getting a Handle on RPG’s Open Access,” that explains how you can write a handler program to manipulate files in the IFS.) However, it’s probably less time-consuming and more cost-effective to use one of the UI modernization tools based on ROA that are currently on the market. Here’s a quick overview of these tools.

Tools to Modernize the UI Using ROA

Let me start with a disclaimer: I don’t have any sort of relation to the companies/products presented next. This is not a sales pitch; the objective is simply to show you what’s currently available and how it can help you modernize your application’s UI. This list of tools was created some time ago, and is not a comprehensive list of UI modernization tools. It can be seen as my favorite UI modernization tools list. Here are the tools, in alphabetical order:

  • Asna has a product suite called Wings, which includes a browser-based emulator named BTerm. In their own words, its purpose is “to display those programs you don’t want to (or can’t) modernize.” It also has an intelligent ROA handler, which allows significant UI customization.
  • BCD’s Presto suite (now part of Fresche Solutions) includes both a screen scraper and an ROA handler. This handler offers a high degree of customization. It can easily generate web and mobile GUIs from display files. Presto is part of BCD’s modernization suite, which includes WebSmart (for new web app development), Clover Query (for web-based reports), and Catapult (for report distribution), among other products.
  • Fresche Solutions also offers a suite of GUI modernization tools based on ROA named Openlook (it used to be a Looksoftware product). You can go from the basic, almost screen-scraping approach for quick results or try a complete and complex UI multi-device modernization approach, which will allow your legacy application to “run” on web and mobile devices, for instance, with customized interfaces for each platform.
  • Profound Logic also offers an interesting set of products, under the Profound UI banner, which includes a screen-scraping tool named Genie, a complete ROA handler, and a DDS-to-rich-display-file conversion tool. This last tool is particularly interesting, because it’s a DDS-to-GUI conversion tool that creates a GUI based on your original green-screens, but it’s enhanced to be more “web-like.” It’s highly flexible and easy to use.

You have probably heard of or even tried other tools. I couldn’t find an ultimate UI modernization tool, because all of them have pros and cons. It all boils down to the characteristics of the application being modernized. You can try most, if not all, of these tools for free, so again “think big, start small” and do a proof of concept of those that seem more appealing to you.

That’s all I have for now. See you next time!


Rafael Victoria-Pereira

Rafael Victória-Pereira has more than 20 years of IBM i experience as a programmer, analyst, and manager. Over that period, he has been an active voice in the IBM i community, encouraging and helping programmers transition to ILE and free-format RPG. Rafael has written more than 100 technical articles about topics ranging from interfaces (the topic for his first book, Flexible Input, Dazzling Output with IBM i) to modern RPG and SQL in his popular RPG Academy and SQL 101 series on mcpressonline.com and in his books Evolve Your RPG Coding and SQL for IBM i: A Database Modernization Guide. Rafael writes in an easy-to-read, practical style that is highly popular with his audience of IBM technology professionals.

Rafael is the Deputy IT Director - Infrastructures and Services at the Luis Simões Group in Portugal. His areas of expertise include programming in the IBM i native languages (RPG, CL, and DB2 SQL) and in "modern" programming languages, such as Java, C#, and Python, as well as project management and consultancy.

MC Press books written by Rafael Victória-Pereira available now on the MC Press Bookstore.

Evolve Your RPG Coding: Move from OPM to ILE...and Beyond Evolve Your RPG Coding: Move from OPM to ILE...and Beyond
Transition to modern RPG programming with this step-by-step guide through ILE and free-format RPG, SQL, and modernization techniques.
List Price $79.95

Now On Sale

Flexible Input, Dazzling Output with IBM i Flexible Input, Dazzling Output with IBM i
Uncover easier, more flexible ways to get data into your system, plus some methods for exporting and presenting the vital business data it contains.
List Price $79.95

Now On Sale

SQL for IBM i: A Database Modernization Guide SQL for IBM i: A Database Modernization Guide
Learn how to use SQL’s capabilities to modernize and enhance your IBM i database.
List Price $79.95

Now On Sale



Support MC Press Online

$0.00 Raised:

Book Reviews

Resource Center

  • SB Profound WC 5536 Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application. You can find Part 1 here. In Part 2 of our free Node.js Webinar Series, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Brian will briefly discuss the different tools available, and demonstrate his preferred setup for Node development on IBM i or any platform. Attend this webinar to learn:

  • SB Profound WP 5539More than ever, there is a demand for IT to deliver innovation. Your IBM i has been an essential part of your business operations for years. However, your organization may struggle to maintain the current system and implement new projects. The thousands of customers we've worked with and surveyed state that expectations regarding the digital footprint and vision of the company are not aligned with the current IT environment.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT Generic IBM announced the E1080 servers using the latest Power10 processor in September 2021. The most powerful processor from IBM to date, Power10 is designed to handle the demands of doing business in today’s high-tech atmosphere, including running cloud applications, supporting big data, and managing AI workloads. But what does Power10 mean for your data center? In this recorded webinar, IBMers Dan Sundt and Dylan Boday join IBM Power Champion Tom Huntington for a discussion on why Power10 technology is the right strategic investment if you run IBM i, AIX, or Linux. In this action-packed hour, Tom will share trends from the IBM i and AIX user communities while Dan and Dylan dive into the tech specs for key hardware, including:

  • Magic MarkTRY the one package that solves all your document design and printing challenges on all your platforms. Produce bar code labels, electronic forms, ad hoc reports, and RFID tags – without programming! MarkMagic is the only document design and print solution that combines report writing, WYSIWYG label and forms design, and conditional printing in one integrated product. Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Request your trial now!  Request Now.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericForms of ransomware has been around for over 30 years, and with more and more organizations suffering attacks each year, it continues to endure. What has made ransomware such a durable threat and what is the best way to combat it? In order to prevent ransomware, organizations must first understand how it works.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericIT security is a top priority for businesses around the world, but most IBM i pros don’t know where to begin—and most cybersecurity experts don’t know IBM i. In this session, Robin Tatam explores the business impact of lax IBM i security, the top vulnerabilities putting IBM i at risk, and the steps you can take to protect your organization. If you’re looking to avoid unexpected downtime or corrupted data, you don’t want to miss this session.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericCan you trust all of your users all of the time? A typical end user receives 16 malicious emails each month, but only 17 percent of these phishing campaigns are reported to IT. Once an attack is underway, most organizations won’t discover the breach until six months later. A staggering amount of damage can occur in that time. Despite these risks, 93 percent of organizations are leaving their IBM i systems vulnerable to cybercrime. In this on-demand webinar, IBM i security experts Robin Tatam and Sandi Moore will reveal:

  • FORTRA Disaster protection is vital to every business. Yet, it often consists of patched together procedures that are prone to error. From automatic backups to data encryption to media management, Robot automates the routine (yet often complex) tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:

  • FORTRAManaging messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. Messages need a response and resources must be monitored—often over multiple systems and across platforms. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events? Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:

  • FORTRAThe thought of printing, distributing, and storing iSeries reports manually may reduce you to tears. Paper and labor costs associated with report generation can spiral out of control. Mountains of paper threaten to swamp your files. Robot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing. Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

  • FORTRAFor over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i. With batch job creation and scheduling at its core, the Robot Job Scheduling Solution reduces the opportunity for human error and helps you maintain service levels, automating even the biggest, most complex runbooks. Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:

  • LANSA Business users want new applications now. Market and regulatory pressures require faster application updates and delivery into production. Your IBM i developers may be approaching retirement, and you see no sure way to fill their positions with experienced developers. In addition, you may be caught between maintaining your existing applications and the uncertainty of moving to something new.

  • LANSAWhen it comes to creating your business applications, there are hundreds of coding platforms and programming languages to choose from. These options range from very complex traditional programming languages to Low-Code platforms where sometimes no traditional coding experience is needed. Download our whitepaper, The Power of Writing Code in a Low-Code Solution, and:

  • LANSASupply Chain is becoming increasingly complex and unpredictable. From raw materials for manufacturing to food supply chains, the journey from source to production to delivery to consumers is marred with inefficiencies, manual processes, shortages, recalls, counterfeits, and scandals. In this webinar, we discuss how:

  • The MC Resource Centers bring you the widest selection of white papers, trial software, and on-demand webcasts for you to choose from. >> Review the list of White Papers, Trial Software or On-Demand Webcast at the MC Press Resource Center. >> Add the items to yru Cart and complet he checkout process and submit

  • Profound Logic Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application.

  • SB Profound WC 5536Join us for this hour-long webcast that will explore:

  • Fortra IT managers hoping to find new IBM i talent are discovering that the pool of experienced RPG programmers and operators or administrators with intimate knowledge of the operating system and the applications that run on it is small. This begs the question: How will you manage the platform that supports such a big part of your business? This guide offers strategies and software suggestions to help you plan IT staffing and resources and smooth the transition after your AS/400 talent retires. Read on to learn: