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Best current web RAD development platform - APEX, ADK, Flex?

Posted on 2011-03-08
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Last Modified: 2012-11-19
I am launching a new business that will be selling software licenses for a mission critical business application available to paid subscribers on the public internet.

I have a fellow developer who has been using APEX for the past year and swears by it.  I've looked into it and am seriously thinking about going with APEX despite not having used it before.  I am a web developer and have been coding web apps for 10 years in J2EE/Spring/Hibernate, .NET/SQL Server, and PHP/MySQL/Apache stacks.  However, I have yet to use APEX, Flex, or ADK for any projects, but am amazed at how fast my friend can put out his apps.  And yes, he is raking in the money because he delivers fast solutions to his customers.  As he said, "There's no J2EE developer on the planet that can build a web app faster than I can in APEX."

My major hangup, however, about APEX is my lack of knowledge regarding customizing the themes.  I am paying a very talented designer to design an extremely intuitive user interface for this web app because my target users will be non-technical.  The ease of use of my app will be, I think, it's key to success or failure.  I believe that if I can code the app exactly as the designer has designed it, I'll be able to produce a highly successful app.  I'm already figuring that I'll need to create my own APEX theme after seeing the first rough drafts of the design docs.  They look absolutely nothing like the standard APEX themes.  In addition, the Google Maps API Javascript v3 is a major component of my application.  I'll also be supporting a couple thousand users within a year or two.  So I really have several questions:

How easy is it to create my own, built from scratch, APEX theme?  Where would I go to learn how (I'm willing to pay for a class, bootcamp, whatever)
Based on my description, am I going down the wrong path with APEX?
Would Flex or ADK be a better, more flexible, option in the long run?
Given my need for complete control over the UI, am I better off foregoing the RAD platforms and simply go back to a J2EE/Spring/MySQL or .NET solution?
Is there another RAD platform besides APEX, ADK, or Flex that I haven't even thought of?

Note that I really, really don't want to go back to my old ways of web development.  My friend absolutely amazes me about how fast he can put together business web apps for his customers.  Also note that I'll need a lot of ability to integrate my own custom Javascript and AJAX since I'll be using a lot of custom mapping through the Google Maps API.  I also don't care one bit about licensing fees - they'll be a drop in the bucket if I can build the product fast and get it to market.  $30k a year to Oracle and another $20k to Google will be nothing.

And please no responses from people who do not have experience with APEX 4.0 and the latest versions of Flex and ADK.  I'm also not looking for any advice on how to build apps the way I've been doing them in the past.  I'm looking for a new web app platform that can enable me to build apps much faster than I've been doing over the last 10 years but still give me flexibility with the UI and custom Javascript.
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Question by:jsclev2007
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by:cyberhitesh
cyberhitesh earned 166 total points
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Flex is better, it is Open Source and the IDE is commercial one, also it uses Flash Engine so there wont be any issue of cross browser and extensive developer community.
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gatorvip earned 168 total points
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I have no experience with Flex or ADK, however I've worked extensively with several versions of APEX - so keep that in mind when reading my post. You might not be able to find a lot of people here who know all 3.

One of the advantages of APEX is that if you have Oracle 11g in the backend, or even Oracle 10g + APEX 3.x, you already have the APEX engine in place. You don't really need to install anything extra. After that, on the front end you can use Apache (HTTPD + modplsql), the Oracle EPG, or a web container like Glassfish, Weblogic, etc + the APEX Listener.

1. How easy is it to create my own, built from scratch, APEX theme?  Where would I go to learn how?

It's relatively easy to create a new theme and in many cases you can simply copy existing templates from other themes (for example, a button or breadcrumb) if you don't want to customize those. The best thing to do would be to open an existing theme and see how it's set up.

Oracle offers at least two APEX courses:
Developing Web Applications (http://education.oracle.com/pls/web_prod-plq-dad/db_pages.getCourseDesc?dc=D67259GC20)
Advanced Workshop (http://education.oracle.com/pls/web_prod-plq-dad/db_pages.getcoursedesc?dc=D47999GC10)

You can take both, especially if you have no/little exposure to APEX, but the second one is probably the one you want to take.

2. Based on my description, am I going down the wrong path with APEX?

That depends. If you want a "flashy" website, that demonstrates more graphic design skills than actual content, then APEX is not the best tool to use. Its power lies in communicating data to/from the database. If your application doesn't have  data to relay to the user, then you probably don't want APEX.

3. Would Flex or ADK be a better, more flexible, option in the long run?
4. Given my need for complete control over the UI, am I better off foregoing the RAD platforms and simply go back to a J2EE/Spring/MySQL or .NET solution?

What is the most important part of your application?  It seems like the UI is significantly more important than the content delivered to/from the user.

>>Also note that I'll need a lot of ability to integrate my own custom Javascript and AJAX
That's easy, what you would need to do is drop your libraries in a specific folder then import them either into the APEX JS libraries or directly into a theme/template.

As an additional note, there aren't any (AFAIK) cross browser issues with APEX, at least for modern browsers. Some of the themes are supposed to even be compatible with IE6, although I've never had to actually test that.
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by:jsclev2007
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gatorvip: Extremely helpful and thorough response.  Give me a day or two to digest all that you've suggested and I'll be back.  Thanks so much for your help - you provided just the kind of advice I was looking for.
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by:dbrawlins
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You ought to have a look at Ebase Xi from Ebase Technology. Full RAD platform WSYIWYG UI development, workflow, out of the box integration with just about everything. Abstracts all the nasty low level tech stuff, lets u concentrate on what not how. The UI development gives u complete control over the presentation layer but masks all the CSS bad stuff you normally have to worry about.
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