In today’s ever-evolving, fast paced computing world, mobile computing is breaking new ground and fueling demands for information wherever and whenever it is needed. The typical IBM i shop is not immune to this phenomenon, but it can be more challenging than other platforms to find solutions to meet your computing requirements for mobile and modern applications.

One of the first challenges to mobile computing for IBM i is the user interface. With no built-in, out-of-the-box UI, the topic of user interfaces gets a lot of attention on the IBM i. For the user interface to have any real value, access to the information stored on your IBM i is also critical. So while the user interface challenge tends to get a lot of attention due to its visibility, the need to have rock solid access to your IBM i information is just as important.

Krengel Technology is striving to provide solutions to meet both of these critical needs and provide IBM i shops with both the user interface layer and the data transport layer they need to keep the platform they love from being perceived as “behind the times”. The core of this effort is an open source project called Open RPGUI. This open source effort provides the data transport layer or “plumbing” that a client based user interface needs in order to access the wealth of information stored on your IBM i. The Open RPGUI effort provides that transport layer in the same rock solid fashion you are accustomed to with your IBM i. (As a free and open source effort, the Open RPGUI project includes ideas and contributions from other developers. A commercial version with extended functionality and full service support will be offered by Krengel Technology in the future).

But what about the user interface? Well, that’s an important question, and there are certainly a multitude of choices available. Krengel Technology has strived to use technologies to allow its data transport layer to “talk” with any user interface using like technologies. JSON is one of those technologies. JSON stands for “JavaScript Object Notation” and has become a standard data transport mechanism for many user interface solutions. The ExtJS framework for desktop web browsers is one such JSON capable user interface and was selected as the first UI to be supported by the Open RPGUI project. Extending this effort to mobile computing made perfect sense when the folks at Sencha introduced their mobile computing framework, Sencha Touch. Sencha built the Sencha Touch user interface from the ground up to leverage the power of HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript. This allows Sencha Touch to have the look and feel of a native iPhone or Android application with the same touch screen interface, but with a simpler, more open development process.

So what does an IBM i mobile user interface using Open RPGUI and Sencha Touch look like? Well, it looks like any other modern user interface running on a HTML5 capable browser! Your users will do a double-take when they see their IBM i information displayed in the visually rich UI provided by Sencha Touch and Open RPGUI.

Google Chrome is an excellent HTML5 browser and allows the Sencha Touch application to run on the desktop with no changes required. Here are some screenshots of an inventory lookup application using Google Chrome running a Sencha Touch app communicating in real time with an IBM i:

First, the entire item number (or portion of an item number) is entered:

Enter an item number

Enter an item number

Next, click on one of the items returned in the list to see more detail:

Click an item to return details

Click an item to return details

Lastly, current quantity on hand, warehouse, and price are shown:

Current quantity on hand, warehouse, and price

Current quantity on hand, warehouse, and price

View this live inventory application developed with Open RPGUI here: goo.gl/H1Tn9

For more information or assistance on modernizing your RPG applications for both the web and mobile devices using Open RPGUI, contact Jeff Skistad today at 612-216-1808 or jeff@krengeltech.com!

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