Oracle improves free tool for building Web applications

Oracle Monday is releasing a new version of a free tool that helps Oracle database users build, deploy and manage Web applications using only a Web browser.

Application Express 3.0 has three new features that Oracle considers noteworthy. One allows reports composed of Oracle data to be printed in PDF files rather than HTML.

,"In the previous releases ... we did a great job of putting reports on your Web browser, but when you went to print an HTML report it looked ugly," says Mike Hichwa, vice president of software development.

Another upgrade lets users make charts with Adobe Flash instead of Adobe's SVG viewer. This allows faster creation of charts that look better and support for more types of charts, Hichwa says. "We've significantly improved the charting and reporting. That's why we think it's a major step forward for us," he says.

Application Express is designed to work with Oracle databases. However, the third new feature lets companies take applications based on information from other databases and move those programs into Application Express, where they can be secured and made compliant with HIPAA or other government regulations.

Application Express is typically used by companies that want a fast, easy way to place data on the Web, usually on an intranet, Hichwa says. When a company uses the tool, employees can e-mail each other Web links to data rather than spreadsheet attachments.

Application Express "runs within the Oracle database. There's no other software running on your machine."

C2 Consulting, a partner and customer of Oracle, uses Application Express for its public Web site as well as for an internal time tracking system, says C2 president Anton Nielsen.

Being able to print PDF invoices directly in Express will eliminate a couple of steps the company must perform to convert files into PDF, he says. Another improvement will allow C2 to cache pages filled with data instead of regenerating them each time, which should improve performance of the Web applications, he says.

Having Flash charts is another improvement, he says. "The previous charts, they were fine. I would go just that far: fine. Now, they're really good," Nielsen says.

Application Express 3.0 is available for download.