by Alex Woodie IBM i shops that are looking for tools to create mobile interfaces for RPG applications should take a look at the latest release of Valence from CNX. The software company used the recent COMMON conference in Minneapolis as a venue for launching Valence 3.0, which adds the capability to create touch-driven user interfaces for mobile devices like the iPhone and Android phones.

CNX launched Valence in May 2008 as a way to create modern-looking Web 2.0 applications that run on the IBM i server's Apache Web server and are powered by RPG business logic. The product has several components, including an OEM version of the Ext JS JavaScript library from Sencha, which gets developers access to pre-developed UI elements like drop-down boxes, auto-complete functions, expandable trees, tab panels, and grids with sortable columns. Rounding out the suite are a set of RPG procedures for integrating the JavaScript-based front-end with existing RPG business logic; and a Web portal framework that provides customers with navigation and security.

With version 3, CNX has enhanced the Web portal framework to support the delivery of Valence applications to the latest mobile devices, like the iOS series of products from Apple and anything running the Android OS from Google. The framework automatically detects what kind of device the customer is using, and adapts the interface accordingly, the company says.

The fact that Valence 3.0 has its roots in the RPG world will appeal to IBM i developers looking to create touch-driven user interfaces with mobile devices, according to Richard Milone, CNX's chief technical officer. "With native support for mobile devices, Valence 3.0 will be of particular interest to developers who want to address the rapidly growing community of smartphone and tablet users," Milone stated in a press release.

Valence 3.0 also includes the latest JavaScript enhancements packaged in Ext JS 4.0, which became available in late April. Ext JS 4.0 delivers faster component rendering, updated grids, new APIs and classes, and advanced charting and graphing options, among other new features. The new version of Ext JS has been reformatted to support building large applications, says CNX principle Robert Swanson.

The RPG procedures have also been enhanced to speed application performance. CNX says developers can cache frequently accessed lists for faster rendering. The company has also optimized its SQL-to-JSON functions. JSON is the native formatting language used by JavaScript applications.

CNX also updated its portal to provide desktop users with a choice between a drop-down menu or the standard navigation tree. Administrators now have greater insight into which applications their users are authorized to use. Also the company has added new configuration settings that make it easier to add new applications to groups and navigation trees, the company says.

The total Valence experience is becoming more refined with version 3.0. The company expects to have more example programs that show customers how to do things, such as develop a touch-friendly application for an Android phone. CNX has also rewritten administration programs to demonstrate the more modern, object-oriented front-end that's possible with Ext JS 4.0, the company says.

CNX expects to have three beta releases before Valence 3.0 is ready for general availability, which is expected to occur next month. Pricing is expected to remain the same as previous releases. That means the community version is distributed free of charge, while the professional version costs $595 per license. Licenses for OEM distribution are also available.