Sunday, December 28, 2014

2015 - "The" Year of Oracle Application Express (APEX)

The year 2014 was the 10th anniversary of Oracle Application Express (APEX). I still find it unbelievable 10 years have pasted. Time flew by... you might think that after 10 years of building APEX applications the technology is out-dated or you get tired of it, but more the opposite is true.

Oracle Application Express is a web technology and the web evolves fast, which keeps it interesting and fun. We can follow the latest and greatest in web world, integrate it with APEX and give our apps any look and feel we want. Next to that, APEX is build on top of the Oracle Database, so we can leverage all the functionalities of the database.

So the longer you work with the Oracle database and the more you know of web technologies, the more you can do in APEX. That's why I don't find it boring after 10 years - it's fun!

And now 2015 is just around the corner, so what about APEX?

The 5.0 release of APEX will go live in Q1 - it's the biggest release of Oracle Application Express in the last 10 years. It has the most advanced development interface in history. Every single page is updated within the Builder and it comes with a gorgeous new UI.
In short: it's the best release ever.

So the year 2015, will be "The" year of Oracle Application Express.

To celebrate "The" APEX year - I put myself a challenge ... on January 5th I'll start my chain of blogging and will do a new (APEX related) blog post every single day.  I hope to get a chain of at least a 100... let's see how far I get :) thanks for being part of it!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

MS Sharepoint and Oracle APEX integration

At Oracle Open World I gave a presentation about the integration of Microsoft Sharepoint and Oracle Application Express (APEX).

I see a lot of companies using Microsoft Sharepoint as portal for their intranet. For many people it’s the first place they go to when they start their day. But to do their job they make also use of other applications, some which are build in Oracle Application Express (APEX). This presentation will show the different options you have to integrate both worlds of Sharepoint and APEX.

The integration can be both ways;

  • in Sharepoint you get data or screens from APEX 
  • in APEX you want to use data (or a screen) maintained and coming from Sharepoint. 

In the next weeks I'll add some more detailed blog posts, things I told during the presentation... for example how to setup your own MS Sharepoint environment.

Friday, September 26, 2014

APEX 4.2.6 patch available

Oracle released APEX 4.2.6 yesterday, it's also available from My Oracle Support as a patch set 19595896.

Here's the table of bug fixes.

Table 6 Bugs Fixed in the Oracle Application Express Patch Set
Bug NumberDescription
Importing pre-4.2 application with data loading results in runtime error
APEX_WEB_SERVICE.CLOBBASE642BLOB converts incorrectly
Corrupted HTML mail messages are created from APEX_MAIL.SEND
ORA-01858 during application import
Errors picking up session with cookie when TOP CALL is not FSHOW, or ACCEPT
Oracle Application Express 4.2.4 throwing error while generating check boxes
Check box fails with ORA-06502 after upgrade from release 4.0 to 4.2.4
ORA-06502 when importing application containing translations

Applying the patch took less than 7 minutes.

This is probably the latest patch before APEX 5.0 hits the road...

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

SSH Tunnel in SQL Dev 4.0.3

Oracle SQL Developer and Oracle SQL Developer Data Modeler got a new version (4.0.3).

You can now setup an SSH tunnel in your connection - it saves you to setup a tunnel first.

This new release also feels a lot faster to me.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

APEX 5.0: Bye bye Tabs, welcome to Navigation Lists

In previous versions of Oracle APEX (< 5.0) you could use Tabs for the navigation in your application.

Tabs were not that flexible, they were typical on top of your page in a specific look and feel. Since APEX 4.x I started to dismiss using Tabs in most of the cases, instead I would use a List with the "Page Tabs" template if people wanted that look and feel.

APEX 5.0 introduces the concept of a "Navigation List" that replaces the tabs. It's the same mechanism as before (a normal List which you find in Shared Components), but you can define in your User Interface which list to use as your Navigation List.

Go to Shared Components > User Interface Attributes:

Next in the User Interface section, click on Desktop (or the User Interface you want to adapt):

In the Attributes section you can define the List you want to use as "Navigation List"

Behind the scenes the Navigation List is put on the screen where the #NAVIGATION_LIST# token is specified in your Page Template.

The Navigation List is another example where APEX 5.0 makes common behaviour of developers more declarative and embedded in the product.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Interested in Oracle APEX in Belgium and around? - join ORCLAPEX-BE Meetup

Over the last months different Oracle Application Express (APEX) meetups were initiated around the world. You can read a bit of background on how the meetups started on Dan's blog.

I think it's a great idea to have local meetups to meet other people working or interesting in APEX too. When you just start with APEX it's interesting to talk to other people how they got started. But equally for more seasoned developers it's a great place to share ideas and have discussions about where the product and industry is going, all casual and in a relaxed environment.

That's why we started an APEX Belgium meetup group too. Our first meetup is planend on September 11th in the APEX R&D office in Leuven, Belgium.

Previously with the Oracle BeNeLux User Group (OBUG) we created one day APEX events, which were great, but had a fixed schedule. The APEX meetups we want to do more frequently and accessible to everybody - a very low entry. We'll try to make all those meetups free-of-charge and flexible in nature. We'll have a presentation about a specific topic, but equally important (or even more important) is that you can network, have a voice and get some help of peers.

I talked to the OBUG board too and they found it an interesting idea and are happy to sponsor the event. We can enjoy pizza thanks to OBUG :)

Every local meetup can decide how they organise their meetup.

Here are the details of the first ORCLAPEX-BE meetup on September 11th (2014):

The first Oracle APEX meetup will go over the concept of the meetups and as first topic APEX 5.0 will be covered.

We'll have an "Open Mic" too, so anybody can get on stage for 5-10 minutes and show what they did or share their ideas or ask for some ideas where they struggle with.

The meetup is completely free.


  • 16.00  Registration
  • 16.30  Outline concept APEX Meet-up
  • 16.45  Presentation APEX 5.0
  • 18.00  Pizza break, Networking and "Open Mic"
  • 21.00  End

Interesting in Oracle APEX and in Belgium or around? Join the ORCLAPEX-BE meetup now!
Can't make the 11th? Make you a member of the meetup and receive updates when the next one is :)

Look forward seeing you.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

KScope14 (Sunday) - APEX Symposium - before noon

Sunday is typically the day where the Oracle development team is on stage to talk about what they do, give insight in the product etc. - for me personally one of the highlights of the conference.

The Awesome Evolution of Oracle Application Express 5.0 by Joel Kallman

Joel demoed HTML DB 1.6 again, the predecessor of APEX - went live in 2004, so 10 years ago (time goes fast!). Next he timed doing development in APEX 4.2 compared to APEX 5.0.  

Conclusion: APEX 5.0 is more productive, efficient, intuitive, modern and easy.

Joel highlighted the other new features in APEX 5.0, most of them I already blogged about or you find them here.

The Game Changed - APEX Designer by Patrick Wolf

Patrick showed the time it takes to build components and items in previous versions of APEX. Next he compared it to how you do things with the new Page Designer in APEX 5.0.

There're so many new features in the Page Designer, just give it a try to explore them. It will take a bit of time to get used to them, but it will be the future. 

Turbo Mobile Development by Marc Sewtz

APEX uses jQuery Mobile behind the scenes. APEX 5.0 includes the latest version (jQuery Mobile 1.4). The philosophy is to create "mobile first" applications.
APEX 5.0 will include a new mobile theme, which support the new jQuery Mobile swatches. It's very easy to use ThemeRoller to create your own swatch and upload the zip in Shared Components in APEX and add a style to the theme and make it active.

There are many more new features in APEX 5.0 for mobile development like for example a new region type called "Reflow table".

Friday, June 20, 2014

APEX 5.0 - Page Designer; immediate feedback and more

In APEX 5.0 you (can) develop in the new Page Designer.

The Page Designer makes you way more productive, less clicks and quicker results. You have to get used to it, and you probably want a big monitor (time to ask your boss!), but once all that is done - you will love it.

The Page Designer is so intuitive and attention was put in the details. When you make a mistake APEX gives you immediate feedback. Here's a screenshot:

The region where the error is, is highlighted.
You get a notification message top right in red with the error message and inside the property panel it's highlighted what you need to change. Once you click on the field it will give another text notification e.g. that it is required.

There's also the Messages tab which gives you an explanation of what is wrong. Clicking on the link will bring you right where you need to go.

But just look at the Page Designer for a while; notice the small top left red triangles; it identifies it's a required field. The "Show Common" and "Show All" tabs are great too.

So many things, small, large, ... but so useful.

Here's another one - Developer Comments for the page. If there are comments you see a number in the comment icon. When clicking on the icon you can add more comments. I believe it would also be useful to see the existing comments, hopefully that will be in the final release.

This post is based on Oracle APEX 5.0 EA2, but there's more coming it looks like. Linked to the previous feature, I see a tighter integration with Team Development already too.

So many things to explore in the APEX 5.0 Page Designer... definitely worth your time.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

APEX 5.0 - Button Appearance (template options + Font Awesome)

With the new template, the new buttons for example are highly customisable in APEX 5.0
(icon on the left or right, spacing between, etc.)

In the Appearance section you find kinda the same options as in APEX 4.x, but when you look a bit further, there's so much more now.

You can declaratively change the way your button looks like, by clicking the Template Options:

The icons you can chose for your button are based on Font Awesome, a great scalable vector icons library.

I use Font Awesome in APEX 4.x too, but I had to create a new button template and put the name of the icon in the class section. This is now all integrated and declarative in APEX 5.0.

APEX 5.0 - Keyboard shortcuts

Develop even faster? use the keyboard shortcuts in Oracle Application Express (APEX) - you find them defined here:

Here's the list:
  • Display From HereCtrl+Option+D
  • Display From PageCtrl+Option+T
  • Go to Dynamic ActionsOption+2
  • Go to Gallery ButtonsOption+9
  • Go to Gallery ItemsOption+8
  • Go to Gallery RegionsOption+7
  • Go to Grid LayoutOption+5
  • Go to HelpOption+F1
  • Go to MessagesCtrl+F1
  • Go to Page Shared ComponentsOption+4
  • Go to ProcessingOption+3
  • Go to Property EditorOption+6
  • Go to RenderingOption+1
  • Keyboard ShortcutsOption+Shift+F1
  • Page SearchCtrl+Option+F
  • RedoCtrl+Y
  • Restore/ExpandOption+F11
  • SaveCtrl+Option+S
  • Save and Run PageCtrl+Option+R
  • Toggle Hide Empty PositionsCtrl+Option+E
  • UndoCtrl+Z

  • For Mac users like me; the Option key is "alt". For the F1 etc. use "fn".

Oracle APEX 5.0 EA2 - first impressions

You can now request a workspace in the brand-new version of Oracle APEX 5.0 (EA2).

Once requested a workspace you will get an email to activate it - and you're up-and-running!

The login screen looks awesome:

And then you see the new APEX Builder - new theme, with all new icons:

The Application Builder looks different now too - look at the nice icons and new style of Interactive Report:

Creating a new application - the wizard is more streamlined:

Creation of a new page is now with a modal window implementation:

When finished it opens the page in the new Page Designer:

It looks like all the components are now available in the Page Designer (Shared Components for ex. wasn't available in EA1 - but it is now)

Creating new pages work well and the new universal theme (theme 42) looks nice too.

Oracle APEX went flat design, with bright color blue and grey and nice icons (which are available as a font).

More to come in other blog posts... have fun! and thanks to the APEX Development team for another great release.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

APEX 5.0 EA2 available in the next days

Joel just blogged that the 2nd Early Adopter release of APEX 5.0 is around the corner.

Here are some screenshots posted on twitter:

I'm sure this new EA will carry many changes and looking at some screenshots it looks awesome.
I especially look forward to the new universal theme.

Here's what should be in - based on the statement of direction of APEX 5.0 :

Oracle Application Express 5.0

Oracle Application Express 5.0 will focus on both new features and enhancements to existing functionality to improve developer productivity and is planned to incorporate the following:
  • Page Designer - New page definition IDE which incoroporates tree controls, drag and drop layout editor, and a property editor.
  • Multiple Interactive Reports – Allow any number of Interactive Reports to be defined on a single page.
  • Modal Dialog - Enhance the ability to declaratively define modal dialogs.
  • Navigation Lists - Ability to define hierarchical lists for navigation, with pull-down menus and sub-menus, instead of being constrained by tabs.
  • Mobile - Enhanced responsive tables, including reflow tables and column toggles, and introduction of panels.
  • Calendar – New calendar region which allows duration based events, improved functionality, and better control over drag and drop operations.
  • Universal Theme – A new central theme which readily allows developers to customize simply using CSS.
  • HTML5 Capabilities – Improve native capabilities for handling HTML5 constructs.
  • Application Builder Security – Allow different authentication schemes to be used to control developer access to the Application Builder.
  • Numerous functional improvements.

Oracle APEX Cookbook: Second Edition

For the first Oracle APEX Cookbook I was involved as a reviewer.

Michel and Marcel updated their book end of last year, but I didn't take the time to blog about it yet - and months fly. The concept stayed the same as the first edition, but it got updated with the latest info for APEX 4.x.

"People who followed a beginner training or learned APEX at their own and they want to know how to do a specific thing which is covered in the book, it's great to have the book, as you can just follow what the authors wrote and you also have an idea why it's done like that."

If you need onsite Oracle APEX training, you can also contact my company APEX R&D :)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Social Authentication (Facebook) in WC2014Challenge

People expect these days from a public website you can authenticate with Facebook, Google+, Linkedin, Microsoft etc. It's very convenient as you don't need to create a specific account per website.


All of the social networks have very good documentation how to call their APIs.
Here's for example the Facebook Login explained.

Most of the API's use the OAuth2.0 protocol, there's an application key and tokens that are send with the requests. Here's an overview how it works with Google+

So how easy is it in Oracle Application Express (APEX) to do such social authentication?

Unfortunately Oracle APEX doesn't provide us with a native social authentication mechanism just yet. But nothing prevents you from building it yourself.

Here are the options I reviewed:

  • Custom build; in PL/SQL you call the different url's and make some procedures public so when the social network comes back you can intercept the call and move on.
  • Oracle REST Data Services supports OAuth 2.0 and the calls are mostly REST calls, so I also looked into writing the logic in ORDS (and PL/SQL) and integrate that way with my APEX application.
  • Some people in the community wrote an authentication plugin which does the hard work for you.

I went with a combination of the Facebook plugin in combination with my own PL/SQL code.
Peter was so nice to share his work with me, thanks again for that Peter. I first thought that the authentication plugin would be plug-and-play, just like the other APEX plugins... but that is not the case.
It hasn't much to do the way Peter's team implemented it, it has more to do with the complex setup of SSL certificates etc. So when downloading the plugin, know that it will take some time to configure it. Luckily Peter provides good documentation so it makes it a bit easier.

So, to see the authentication to work, login with your Facebook account on the site. I extended the plugin a bit so it will automatically create a site account for you behind the scenes so regardless if you create a site account or login with Facebook it can hook up the scores, bets etc. in the same way.

Challenges with Social Authentication

If you want to provide Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and a normal site account in your app, I found some challenges with that. How do you hook-up a person that logs-in with Facebook the first time, with the same player logging in with Google+ the same time? You could use the email address maybe? But what if they use different ones? There are many blog posts about this topic and how to get around it, but it would bring me to far in this post. I might do a follow-up post later as it's an interesting challenge.


I really believe that most public sites will allow social authentication, so I hope the team of ORDS or the APEX development team will make something available to do the social authentication natively in the future. I believe that would be the best solution (fast to implement and secure).

Monday, June 09, 2014

Security Audit of WC2014Challenge

A few weeks ago I asked my friends at RecX to do a security audit of the World Cup 2014 Challenge app.  The result was a security assessment document which explained what they tested, an explanation why it was important and the results they found. I found it very interesting to see how other (security) people approach your code.

Here are the areas they went into:

Access Control

  • Hidden items
  • Item Protection
  • Page Access Protection
  • Session Timeout
Cross-Site Scripting 
  • Column From LOV/Query (make use of )
  • Direct Output
  • Indirect Output
  • Report Column Display Type
  • Template Variables
Tip: make use of apex_escape.html, apex_escape.html_attribute, utl_url.escape

Data Protection 
  • Page Autocomplete
Tip: Ensure sensitive data is not held in the browser cache

  • Direct URL
You can read more about security in their Hands-On Oracle Application Express Security book.

Thanks Nathan and Tim.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Automatic Time Zone Support in WC2014Challenge

How do you show to people in different timezones the schedule in their own time?

That is the issue I had when building the site.

So I started to just show the schedule in the "local time" of the stadium the match was in, so I didn't have to deal with the issue :)

But as you might think, people started to ask to see the schedule in their own time.

In previous years I solved the issue by adding a select list, so people could select the timezone they wanted to see the game in. Behind the scenes I reran the query and added the offset to the time - that worked just fine. Now the challenge this year is that the Brazilian timezone exist out of two timezones, so I couldn't really use the mechanism of before.

In the Oracle database, instead of a date column, you can use a timestamp with timezone column and can better calculate the difference. Another way is to use the "timestamp with local timezone", so you see the data in your timezone (after alter session set time_zone = your timezone).

Instead of doing the timezone conversion, I also thought of doing it on the client (browser), with momentjs for example.

They all have advantages and disadvantages... but at the end I decided to use the native APEX way.

Step 1: make sure your column is of type TIMESTAMP WITH LOCAL TIME ZONE:

Step 2: set Automatic Time Zone to Yes in "Edit Globalization Attributes" (Edit definition of your app).

And you are done!

Looking at the schedule it shows the times in my timezone, automatically. The nice thing is that this is cross application, so the calendar automatically shows the times in your timezone too. Very, very nice - no additional code.

So it's very easy to make your APEX application time zone aware... the only drawback I find is that this solution requires a redirect the first time you hit the site. That is not really good for Google rankings, but the advantages weight way more than that for now.

You can also read Joel's blog about automatic time zone in APEX 4.0, he build another example which you can follow.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

World Cup 2014 APEX Betting app online

You remember the old days? 2006 ... APEX aka HTMLDB was still the new kid on the block!

To promote APEX at that time I build an Oracle APEX app that allowed you to see the scores of the World Cup 2006. After some feedback I created a betting piece to it... it gained much traction, it even got translated in Chinese! Here's a picture of that time:

Since then every year with the World Cup and Euro Cup I enable the app again. This year is not different... well it is; the app got an overhaul with some great new functionalities. I'll go deeper in some features in another blog post; but the main features are: authentication via Facebook (thanks to Peter) and you are able to create your own groups of people. So APEX R&D can see for example how it plays against our Canadian friends at Clarifit or our US friends at Enkitec :)

You find the new app at

Let us know if you like it (or not) :)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Install latest patch of APEX 4.2 (4.2.5)

A few days ago Oracle brought out a new patch for APEX 4.2, this will be the latest version of this build, the next version of APEX will be 5.0.

If you already have APEX 4.2.x installed you can download a patch from, the patch number is 17966818.

If you have an earlier version of APEX you can download the full version of APEX and install that.

As with other patch sets, this one is not different; it includes some bug fixes, updates in the packaged apps and the introduction of some new apps. You find the full patch set notes here.

Installing the patch in my APEX 4.2.4 environment took less than 15 minutes and everything went fine. 

I recommend everybody moving to the latest version as this is the final build of APEX 4.2.

Update 16-APR-2014: we actually hit one issue, which was fixed by Oracle today. So I would install this additional patch too. In search for Patch 18609856: APEX_WEB_SERVICE.CLOBBASE642BLOB CONVERTS INCORRECTLY.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

APEX Listener => Oracle REST Data Services

Yesterday a new version of the Oracle APEX Listener was released. The new version is 2.0.6... and the biggest change in this release is the change in name. From now on we won't speak about the "APEX Listener" anymore, but we speak about "Oracle REST Data Services".

The name explains more what the piece of software is doing and it will be less confusing for non-APEX people. Many people thought about the Database Listener when talking about the APEX Listener. Or others just wanting REST, don't question the use of APEX anymore.

The "Oracle REST Data Services" still carries the same purpose for us as APEX developers:
- serve as a replacement for the (older) mod_plsql
- enable the RESTful Services in APEX (found in SQL Workshop and Application wizard)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Some help with the Oracle APEX Theming Competition 2014

ODTUG announced a few days ago the Oracle APEX Theming Competition.

Make an awesome APEX theme and you may win some cool prices!

In the Learning Resources on the ODTUG site you will see a reference to my presentation of last year "Advanced Responsive Design in APEX". In that presentation I showed a lot of live demo's from different aspects of Responsive Design: here's a quick overview of what I covered:

I made the RWD demo app available online now, so you can see it in action or you can download the app and install it in your environment (the zip includes the presentation too).

Hopefully it will help some people doing a responsive design theme.

Another tip that might help; make use of SASS or LESS to generate the CSS. There's a great SASS tutorial (video/material) on SASS from Hampton Catlin, the creator of Sass, which explains why and how to use it.

I look forward to the result of the competition. I'm always impressed with what people come up with.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The evolution of APEX Evangelists

Every year we at APEX Evangelists come together to discuss the past and the future of the company.
In the past 7 years a lot has changed; the APEX market changed, the community changed, we personally changed, ...

We really like APEX, we are all passionate about it, we love to have technical discussions with each other and come together to share our thoughts, but we also like our independence and make our own trade-offs company wise.
So we decided to go a different route with "APEX Evangelists". And that’s why we’re now in the midst of transforming APEX Evangelists from a company to a network.
A network of APEX experts. A network without any financial incentive behind it. A network of independent people that are passionate about APEX. A network of recognised experts in the Oracle community. A network with members that can rely on each other and trust each other.

You can also become part of this network, but only by invitation and acceptance by the other members.
We love to compare us with the Oaktable network, which is a network of experts for the Oracle database. We hope that "APEX Evangelists network" will be the same for Oracle Application Express.
The first addition to the APEX Evangelists network is Martin Giffy D’Souza and we hope to grow the network further in the next months.

The new website of APEX Evangelists is live which reflects the network now, you find it at

If you're wondering what else the future will bring for me, check out APEX R&D, the company I'll move forward with.

Friday, February 07, 2014

APEX 5.0 (EA): CSS Calendar

APEX 5.0 allows you to create a new Calendar type, called CSS Calendar.

The CSS Calendar is based on Full Calendar 1.6.4, at the moment of writing, the current latest production release. The creator of this JQuery plugin, Adam Shaw, is currently working on version 2. A few days ago he released beta 2. It remains to be seen which version of Full Calendar will make it in the final release of APEX 5.0.

Following the wizard in APEX allows us to add a Source for the calendar.
You can just enter a SQL query here.

In the next step you define which column contains your start date, the end date etc.

There are some nice features that come with Full Calendar, for example the integration with Google Calendar and JSON (APEX WebService URL). Another interesting feature is the export to different formats like iCal and CSV.

Finally running the page shows you the new CSS Calendar. You can change the color scheme of the calendar by changing the css.

This CSS calendar is also responsive... when you make your screen smaller the calendar automatically switches to the Week view.

The only thing that's missing with this calendar is a year view... there are people who created extensions for example here and here to offer the year view. Hopefully version 2 of FullCalendar will add the year view native. Wonder if the final release of APEX 5.0 will include the year view too...