Alpha Five v10 Boasts Codeless AJAX

Now on its tenth version, Alpha Five incorporates what is probably the single most important feature yet: Codeless AJAX.

Alpha Five Version 10, the latest version from Alpha Software, lets you create Web-based database applications using Codeless AJAX technology.

The Alpha Five v10 Developer version sells for $349.00 (with a free 30-day trial), and the Alpha Five v10 Application Server is $599. You can purchase both for $799.

Alpha Five is a database development tool that has its roots in software that was first created nearly 30 years ago. It was originally one of the early database tools that competed with products such as FoxPro and, later, Microsoft Access. While most of the other tools are long gone, Alpha Five has continued evolving and growing as it keeps up with modern technology.

Case in point: When it became clear that the Web was here to stay, Alpha Software added Web capabilities to Alpha Five. While you previously could create only desktop applications, you can now use it to create full-featured applications that run in a browser, with an Alpha Five Web server running on the other end. The server, in turn, connects to the databases and their tables, and can dish out Web pages for accessing the data in the browsers.

Alpha Five is now on its tenth version, which incorporates what is probably the single most important feature yet: Codeless AJAX. Using various wizards and property editors in Alpha Five, you can quickly and easily put together a complete AJAX-powered application using no programming whatsoever.

Centered application development cycle is the grid, an AJAX control that can display data in a browser in a grid fashion, letting users page through and sort the data. As with any good AJAX application, the sorting and paging is confined to the grid itself without the user having to refresh the page. Instead, the refreshes happen in the background using JavaScript and AJAX.

Creating a grid is easy: you specify the data connection, which can be Alpha Five's built-in DBF databases or any other database using additional drivers, such as SQL Server and MySQL) Then you choose what fields you want to appear in the grid, how many rows the grid should display and you let it roll. Those are the basic steps-there are dozens of additional properties available for further customization-which are enough to create a grid that can appear on a Web page. It really is that easy.

When I started trying out Alpha Five v10, I was a little skeptical because of the focus on the grid. I come from an ASP.NET world, where I'm used to seeing a huge toolbox filled with rich-text controls, and I doubted that you could really use Alpha Five to make more than just basic grid-based data applications.

But, as it turns out, the grid control is really much more than just a grid. You can configure each record to appear in a form layout, and from there you can customize the look of the individual fields. What's more, you can choose to display only single records or multiple records-and even columns of records-giving you power very similar to the repeater controls that ASP.NET programmers love.

The grid has dozens of properties that include styles for the overall grid as well for the individual fields. These fields can show images or text or rich HTML text. The grids can be read-only or updatable; with updatable grids, the end user can type into the grid and even open a full-featured WYSIWYG HTML editor for entering rich text right from within the browser. And you can also create multiple grids and tie them together.