Because it makes business sense! If you could cut your business data application development cycle down by as much as 90%, and enable one full-stack developer to do the work that typically would need 3 or more specialists (database developer + back-end web services developer + front end web developer + QA for each). That’s what I call a good set of reasons. And … with very little downside.
Rapid Application Development (RAD) tools have been around for many years and in all different computing eras, from mainframe to minicomputer, and client server to web. Powerbuilder was one of my favorites from the early days of client/server because it was so amazingly fast to build bug free Windows applications talking to complex enterprise grade SQL databases. On the mini platform, I had many great times working with PACE on the Wang VS. They both did a full round trip soup to nuts rapid application build, taking care of all the plumbing in a tight yet flexible and extensible way that hasn’t really been equalled since. And that meant that our QA was focused on did the application meet the business requirements? Not on did a page or window render correctly! Not only was our development cycle faster, cheaper, better, but we had a fraction of the QA people needed too. Usually the business analyst/requirements team could do the needed QA.
But aren’t RAD tools just CRUD assemblers? No. absolutely not. Simple CRUD tools like Rails, or PHP Cake are better described as skeletons that you can edit with any text editor, and they save you some effort. But you are still writing a lot of code by hand. Code libraries are simply that too… libraries you incorporate in your code.
PHPRunner, and its sibling product ASPRunner, from XLineSoft, essentially inspect your database tables and relations and can generate a fully functional “80%” application in minutes. The editing tool makes it full round trip, as you simply edit the fields using simple editors to choose fields on pages, set security options, change field labels in multiple languages, and so on. then hit “build”, and you are done again.
It comes with jQuery embedded, so that’s easy to tap into for any custom DOM tweaking, or Ajax manipulations. Although those are rarely needed.
If you are developing a non-standard web page user interface, then PHPRunner is not for that application. But if your application is a data driven application such as is typical in 90% or more of regular line of business applications, then it is ideal. And there are many public facing websites that are still data driven applications, such as user portals, document systems, claims systems, and so on. LOL! I even put a PHPRunner application into a facebook newsfeed and a WordPress page recently! If you wanted to build a custom CRM application, you could do it in PHPRunner in just a week or two. fully integrated with Active Directory. Secure with user roles, logins, password set/reset features, and auditing and logging which will stand up to a HIPAA or HiTECH or OWASP Top 10 security review.
The generated applications can be styled if you wish to, and they are browser/device sensitive and will generate a mobile ready application in parallel to your desktop browser version. And you can customize those mobile layouts by device size (phone, tablet, size of screen).
And best of all… it just works! Its a complete click-and-pick environment for just about everything you need to do related to web forms and reports and hooking that all up to the database. No coding bugs except for the 10% of code that you will typically write. Which is where the fun comes in. For a 50 entity database, I could turn out a complete finished application from about two weeks after the database schema design was ‘set’. And as always happens, the schema changes during development, as requirements are discovered. No problem. Because PHPRunner will sync with your schema and help support all those changes as they happen.
Yes, it comes with a full suite of edit controls, field validations, data integrity, reporting dashboards, with drill downs, import/export integration with Excel/Word/PDF, custom CSS colors and look… If you miss the productivity you once had in client server days with Powerbuilder, PHPRunner brings it all back and right up to date. I use PHPRunner for prototyping to solidify requirements, and I use if for full web development.
Warp speed serious enterprise grade rapid application development. this is not a toy, and it will take you a few days to get started, and then like any toolset, weeks or months to learn how to throw it around. But if you have a database designer mindset, it will come naturally. and there are now plenty of tutorials and articles on how to enhance and build upon the basic platform.
Thanks for the review. It was very informative. Do you know if PHPRunner can access an external MS SQL Database via SOAP or REST ?
Thanks again for your thoughts…
Hi Max, no, PHPRunner wont use a REST or SOAP service(s) as a data source. In fact you’d be crazy to try 🙂 PHPRunner provides one of the best engineered Data Access Layers (DAL) I’ve come across, but it talks to all the usual suspects such as MySQL, Oracle, SQLServer etc etc. If you try to (even if it was possible) interpose another data access layer between the real data and phprunner, you are losing most of the value of Phprunner. Basically, if you philosophically are okay with the database actually being your ‘model’, instead of the now ancient ten year old philosophy of trying to provide cached data services. seriously, MVC is dead for app developers or it should be 🙂 If you are willing to work with a toolset/framework, and not fight it, then you will get the most benefit. PHPRunner is brilliant at rapid development of data centric applications. If you are a developer who thinks a database is just somewhere to stash your objects.. then move on. PHPrunner is okay with business logic in the database. most devs i meet these days are not. So the question I would have for you is, if PHPRunner can manage the communication, security, and data management for you by talking to your database directly, and let you build applications 10 times faster than using your existing web services, why would you want to keep your web services? Build with PHPRunner in parallel to your current web services, and use those services (if they still have value) for existing legacy applications or external interfaces. Web service layers are so cheap to generate with a few days of code that inspects the data sources… I used to have to do that when I was building out JSON REST services for my Adobe Flex a few years back, or you can get commercial “instant” web services from people like my friends at Espresso Logic. Bottom line, if your need is for rapid application building, let PHPRunner do it directly with the database, and you will have the best of everything. And yes, PHPRunner can talk to multiple data sources in the same application (e.g, drawing on data in a MySQL database with data from a SQLServer database and pushing it out onto the same webpage. All straight out of the box. And if you prefer your platform to be microsoft oriented, the sibling product ASPRunner/.Net will do exactly the same thing. just depends what you are happy with as your front end extensibility. I prefer PHP, even when talking to SQLServer. Both products do the same thing though. Good luck with your choices!
I am a former user of Iron Speed and now a user of ASPRunner.Net. I agree with your overall assessment of the software. It is a fantastic product. I also think it is very underrated.