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Success Story - Alpine School District

Project Details  

Alpine School District


Modernization


Education


Presto

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RPG Programmer Without Web Experience Gives All Green Screens a Web GUI

Alpine School District employees can now access the IBM i (AS/400) applications they need to - from anywhere, on PCs and Macs.

We quickly gave our green screens a web GUI without a using web programmer. I was ready to go live much quicker than I thought was possible. Presto just works.

David Shoaf, IT Manager


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Over the years, the Alpine School District had unsuccessfully attempted several different approaches to giving the district's legacy IBM i applications a web GUI.

David Shoaf, the district's IT Manager, discovered BCD's Presto at a COMMON conference and thought it looked encouraging. Could it really web enable all of their IBM i green screens, and could it do it as quickly as it promised? Within 15 minutes of installing the software, David knew the answer was yes.

"We quickly gave our green screens a web GUI without a using web programmer. I like that whatever you can access from an IBM i sign on screen, you can do in a browser without loading any software on anyone's computer," says David. "I immediately had access to all of my green screens from my browser, then spent time testing my screens and making a few customizations. I was ready to go live much quicker than I thought was possible. Presto just works," says David.

We asked David some questions about his experiences with Presto. Here are his responses:

Why did you decide to web enable your green screens?

I needed to allow our bus drivers access to our IBM i applications from outside the district. Over the years, we had spent many years being frustrated with the slow speed of web application development. We tried several languages and programming methods, including a five-man-year program using a tool that converted everything over to XML objects, which ended up not working.

The net effect was that most approaches were abandoned. I was always subject to waiting on others to complete the web development because I could not just do it myself. However, most young web programmers do not know how to work with an IBM i and are not accustomed to using a database for their web applications.

I downloaded Presto and had it installed and running within 15 minutes. I immediately had access to all of my green screens from my browser, then spent time testing my screens and making a few customizations. I was ready to go live much quicker than I thought was possible. Presto just works.

Who is accessing the web-enabled applications?

All of our employees using the IBM i have access to the web-enabled screens. Typically, those using a Mac or those working from outside the district use the web-based applications. Some of our users are more familiar with green screens, which they can still access it if they choose to because Presto doesn't affect the legacy programs in any way.

Our Mac users love Presto. Green screen applications can be particularly problematic for them because their keyboards don't have function keys. In Presto, the function keys are automatically converted to clickable buttons.

Another school district also accesses our IBM i via the web-enabled screens to order supplies from our warehouse.

What is your programming background and how much web development experience did you have prior to using Presto?

My first programming job was on an IBM System-3 in 1971. I started building the school district software in 1981. All of my web applications that run in Presto are written in RPG/400 and CL. Outside of that, I have never done any web development.

What are some examples of the customizations you've made to your screens?

Because our users are internal, we did not focus too much on enhancing our screens' appearance beyond what Presto provides out of the box. However, I did make a few changes to enhance the look and functionality of the screens:

  • Globally changed the font colors so they are easier to read on a white background.
  • Added images to our warehouse catalog and our employee program.
  • Changed a subfile selection to an icon so the user can click on the icon to lookup a record.

I also changed the device description from QPADEVxxxx to PR_xxxxxxx so I know who is using Presto at any given time and can more easily support them if they call.

How much skill or effort was involved with web enabling and further enhancing your green screen applications?

You have to know how to sign on as the security officer and how to click "Enter" to web enable your entire system. The installation does it all, including the HTTP server.

Further enhancing the look and functionality takes more skill but becomes easier with each release. (I started using Presto at version 3.0 and the Visual Editor has seen many enhancements since that release). I do zero web development, so HTML, CSS and JavaScript are pretty foreign to me but I was able to add images to the screens using Presto's Visual Editor.

There is much more I could easily accomplish with the Visual Editor but I have not had any requests from users to provide more than easy browser-based access to the applications.

How has your organization benefited from Presto?

We quickly gave our green screens a web GUI without using a web programmer. I like that whatever you can access from an IBM i sign on screen, you can do in a browser without loading any software on anyone's computer.

Before Presto, we had purchased a Java-based program where users could download a Java server to their computer. That would create a 5250 emulation session and they could run with that. When we updated it, it broke the ability to print and we ran into a lot of issues with support. It required another server, another user ID and password. We have gotten rid of that using Presto.

What is your favorite Presto feature?

I like that I don't get any phone calls from end users about how to use it and how it looks like a green screen job in QINTER.

How would you describe your experience with BCD's Technical Support team?

When you call BCD support, you always talk to a technical person who can answer your questions. In most cases, they can point you in the right direction or jump on a GoToMeeting and help you accomplish what you need. I am very impressed with both BCD's technical support team and the flexibility of their software to meet my needs.

Would you recommend Presto to other people and why?

I do and I have. One old RPG programmer + Presto = everything runs on the web in 15 minutes. What more can I say?

 

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