Genii Weblog

Forms/Views to XPage converter - Good idea or waste of time

Thu 1 Jan 2009, 08:57 AM

by Ben Langhinrichs
I have had a couple of customers write this week to ask if we had a tool to automatically convert a form or view to an XPage.  This is something that wouldn't be terribly hard to do with Midas as it is, and would be even easier to build as a separate method.  I asked a couple of savvy blogger friends whether it would be of interest, and they seemed to feel it would miss the point of XPages, but were otherwise noncommittal.  So, what do you think?  Is it necessary?  Should I just write a Midas sample script, or should I produce a separate utility, or should I add a method to Midas?  Should I skip the whole thing and go grab a milk shake?

For those pondering the "Why?", the logic seems to be that it would be easier to move a fairly perfect rendering of the look and feel of the form or view to an XPage element, then enhance that XPage manually to take advantages of data lookups and the sort.  As one of my smart friends pointed out, Stephan Wissel will be doing a session at Lotusphere called AD215 - Practical Magic with DXL, which includes as part of the abstract:
You'll also see how to use DXL to help generate XPages from existing design elements like forms and views.
This would obviously be a way to get the fields and such onto an XPage, but what I have that Stephan won't is the high quality rich text to HTML rendering which would make the XPage retain the look and feel of the form, as well as the fields and some functionality.

So, what do you think?  Worth pursuing or pointless waste of time?

Copyright 2009 Genii Software Ltd.

What has been said:

744.1. Matt White
(01/01/2009 06:40)

From my brief experience of teaching a couple of XPages courses people seem initially very keen on being able to port their forms (especially) and views across.

But we found that as the three days progressed they were less and less worried about moving existing code across and generally left seeing the move to XPages as a good excuse to draw a "line in the sand" on existing code and take the opportunity to start again. The view being that applications could be migrated form by form as time and budgets allow, and all of those little niggles that build up with old code bases could be removed.

Now of course these were developers speaking rather than budget conscious managers, but I suspect that will be a fairly common view.

This is just what I gleaned from talking to 40 or so developers here in the UK. YMMV.


744.2. Rob McDonagh
(01/01/2009 10:43 AM)

I can see either side of the debate. On the one hand, for shops that want to take advantage of one specific aspect of XPages, that would be really useful. On the other hand, most of the form layout hacks we've always used probably need to be reevaluated whenever we convert to an XPage.

The one area where this is a no-brainer would be for Notes-only forms that haven't been hacked and tweaked to work nicely with Domino's web engine.

So, in my opinion, a sample script would be very well received, but a separate utility or method might be overkill.

744.3. Stephan H. Wissel
(01/01/2009 05:05 PM)

Hi Ben,

I'm talking about that in regards to DXL -> XPages in my Lotusphere session.

:-) stw

744.4. Ian Randall
(01/01/2009 06:09 PM)

Hi Ben,

My company has a fairly complex Lotus Notes Application (11 interlinked databases, several dozen forms and hundreds of views) that is also for the most part Web enabled, however the forms and views are not very pretty, and there are still many gaps between the visual interface (and some functionality) between the Notes and the Web interface.

Rewriting this whole application that contains thousands of design elements from scratch is not an option for us.

Therefore in my opinion, a separate tool that assists is to make these existing forms and views using XPages more Notes-like would be most welcome.

744.5. Kevin Pettitt
(01/01/2009 09:37 PM)

To the extent such a tool would offer a quick and high-fidelity way way to shortcut the web enablement of Notes only applications, I think it would be a huge hit. I'd love to hear more details about how hi-fi it might be. For example, how would complex forms with lots of dynamic hide-when logic come over?

744.6. Simon O'Doherty
(01/02/2009 02:09 AM)

My personal opinion.

I find the short term gain in migration tools like this doesn't help further down the line when you need to maintain the application. (Still a good idea though)

You don't have to rewrite existing code. You are just building a new UI on top of that code.

I did the Dublin Xpages workshop and IMPO it would be better to review your application and see how to rewrite it in Xpages to ensure it is easy to maintain going forward.

I guess you would have to review XPages in full and come to a decision that best suits your applications.

744.7. Bob Balaban
(01/02/2009 11:05 AM)

Good idea, but you have to be aware that Lotus might offer the same functionality itself (for free) in the near future. Not as good as what you'd do, certainly, but still...