The Servoy Way: A Test Drive

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Print this article Print

For those tired of maintaining separate code bases for Web and desktop applications, Servoy offers a way to consolidate those code bases and cut development time in half.

It is very easy to get started with Servoy 4.0: The installation is wizard-driven and includes all of the components needed to get going. The installation wizard automatically installs Eclipse and any other required elements. Setting up the Servoy Application Server is equally easy, removing many of the obstacles that developers usually encounter when configuring a Web application environment for testing and deployment of applications.

Launching Servoy Developer brings up a screen filled with useful tidbits, ranging from direct links to flash-based tutorials to background information on the Eclipse development environment. The introduction screen is divided up into areas that support new Servoy users, users new to Eclipse and users who are familiar with previous versions of Servoy.

The product does an excellent job of unobtrusively guiding the user—tool tips, guided wizards and context-sensitive help is all readily available. Most projects will start with the solution checkout dialog, which points the user toward new or previously generated projects.

Servoy uses the term "solution" to refer to development projects. All projects are started by either opening an existing solution or creating a new solution. Servoy is designed to work with SQL databases from many different vendors, and in most cases it is best to have the SQL database predefined and operating before starting a Servoy solution.

Most everything takes place in the Eclipse environment and is form-based. Developers design forms that interact with the SQL database to process data. Of course, the forms can contain procedures, calculations, data verification and many other event-driven elements; the real key here is that all of those processes can be accomplished without writing a single lick of code.

How an application is laid out is completely up to the developer. Menus can be designed into forms to select form-based procedures, developers can use a tab-based interface to drive data entry and fields can be populated on forms to be used as lookups to tables. The flexibility and freedom is a great accomplishment for a product that requires no hand-written code, but there is a down side. Developers not well versed in UI designing can create poorly designed forms that only confuse an end user. With Servoy it becomes readily apparent that the old management axiom of "One hour of planning can save 7 hours of labor" holds true. In other words, only seasoned developers that have a good sense of interface design should be let loose with the product, which is pretty much true of any flexible RAD product.

Once a developer is fully familiar with the Eclipse/Servoy environment, applications can be generated very quickly. The drag-and-drop form population, along with predefined scripts, can reduce development time greatly when fully leveraged, according to the company. Servoy has done case studies in which a team of developers was able to slash man-hours tenfold when compared to a .Net project.

Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at frank.ohlhorst@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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