We (the over-sized development team for the PL/SQL Challenge - myself and my son, Eli) have been busy creating a new website on top of the PLCH platform (tables and packages):
The Oracle Dev Gym!
In a few short months (and just a part time involvement by yours truly), we have leveraged Oracle Application Express 5 to create what I think is an elegant, easy-to-use site that our users will absolutely love.
We plan to initially make the Dev Gym available only for current users of PL/SQL Challenge, so we can get feedback from our loyal user base. We will make the necessary adjustments and then offer it for general availability later this year.
Anyway, more on that as the date approaches (the date being June 27, the APEX Open Mic Night at Kscope16, where I will present it to a packed room of APEX experts).
What I want to talk about today are two features of APEX that are making me so happy these days: Regional Display Selector and Cards.
Regional Display Selector (RDS)
This is not a new feature to 5, but it sure works nicely and looks great! RDS gives you a way to easily create tabbed "sub-pages" on your page. You move oh-so-quickly between the content on each tab, because the page is not being refreshed.
And they are so easy to set up! You define the "tab" region with a type of Region Display Selector:
Then if you want a region to be appear as a tab, simply change the RDS setting in Properties for that region to Yes.
This sort of high-level declarative approach to designing sites makes me happy. Sure, the RDS feature could be more configurable, and I am sure it will be in future releases. In the meantime, it offers a great combination of super productivity and nice UI with minimal coding.
So in our redesign of PL/SQL Challenge, we wanted to accomplish, hmmm, well, actually many things, but here was a big one: make the site responsive. Allow users to easily take a quiz on their tablet, maybe even their phone.
You can do it with the current set, as players have told me so, but it isn't the most pleasant experience. We simply didn't design the site with that in mind five years ago.
But now? It's a necessity and fortunately APEX 5 generally and the Universal Theme in particular makes that much easier to accomplish.
One key element is our shift to using cards. The first image in this post shows the Dev Gym home page, featuring big, attractive "buttons" a user can click or press to make their selection. These are actually "cards".
What this means is that I create a region of type Classic Report. I then drill down to the Attributes for the region, and set the template to Cards:
I can then set all sorts of options. For example, I can choose to Display Icons and then simply specify a FontAwesome icon by name, associating in the query with a card_icon column.
There is one particular usage of Cards we are exploring that replaces a LOV selector against a tree. I think the approach is very intuitive and way better suited to mobile device usage. We will soon see what our users think of it.
So bottom line: if you are using Oracle Application Express 5 you really owe it to yourself to explore and make best use of these two great features: the Region Display Selector and Cards.