Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Introducing UX Pages and the DLEX Project

As I was building the Midwest Lotus User Group Conference web site, I became more and more frustrated with what is required in developing a web site on the Domino platform. It is always becomes a cluge of multiple programming techniques, pass thru HTML, and hacks that is required to build a web page in Domino. Not very elegant. I believe it is one of the main factors why more Web sites are not running Domino as the backend considering the great security features of Domino.

The new XPages features of Domino 8.5 really adds new capabilities to create Web 2.0 applications. However, if you currently have existing applications you will need to modify them significantly in some cases to make it work. In addition, your application must run on a Domino 8.5 server and you must have Designer 8.5. Since I have a T41 with only 1.25 Gbytes of memory, I was not going to run Designer 8.5. I tested it once and that was enough. Also, I needed users who do not have knowledge of Domino development to update the content. IBM XPages require users to have experience as Domino application developers in order to build an application.

I looked into using one of the CMS that were available on openNTF but I did not like them. I kept thinking that there must be a better way of creating a web site in Domino. I have been working with Adobe Flex on and off for the past few months. In this environment, a web application is defined by XML declarations of the UI interface as show below:



Therefore, I was wondering whether I could represent a Domino web page also using XML declarations. XPages in fact does a very similar thing. So I decided to create my own XML declaration environment called UX Pages. It would mimic the Flex approach

After many trials and dead ends. I have completed the first version of the UX Pages engine, DLEX. It is very crude, but functional. In the UX environment an entire web page is defined by XML declarations. Like Adobe Flex, there are UX control components like labels and buttons, UX containers, UX navigators, and UX special containers. Currently, the fidelity of the UX components are minimal. The goal is to expand the capabilities of the components over time. Shown below is a sample UX Pages code that represents the sample web page that I quickly created . It was suppose to have been a sponsor site for the MWLUG conference, but I did not have enough time. It demonstrates a number of containers and controls that I have created. Each control or containers have properties and methods.



The DLEX compiler converts the UX XML into standard HTML and CSS. When you open the web site, the DLEX engine displays the web pages using Domino web agents. The DLEX compiler uses a recursive routine so you can have UX controls and containers within each other. I wrote the entire DLEX engine in Lotuscript since I am not very good at Java.

DLEX should work on Domino R5 server and higher. I can only create static web pages at this time. The next goal is to add the ability to read and submit Domino data from within the UX framework. The goal after that is to create UX datagrid containers and list controls that would be used to list data. How Ajax, Dojo, and JQuery plays into the whole thing, I have no idea at this time. I do not know how scalable this whole thing is. However, it works fine for the web sites that I am developing which are mostly for small organizations. After I improve the fidelity of the controls, I will recode the ReCor and Taishan Works web site which are due for a major overhaul using the DLEX engine.

If you would like to see the demo code from above in action go to:
http://twhost01.taishanworks.com/mwlug/sponsorhandbook.nsf

2 comments:

belgort said...

Very cool stuff.

Richard Moy said...

Thanks Bruce,

I am working on the next version 0.3 and will do a Camtasia video of how it works very soon. I just need to find the time.