Tag: tips-and-tricks

Refresh Apex Calendar

calendarwithrefreshbutton.PNG
Sometimes it’s the simple little things that can add polish and make your Apex application shine. One simple little thing that you can do is add a Refresh button to improve the usability of your Apex 5 calendar. This makes it easy for the user to see recent changes on the database, e.g. if events had been added or changed since the page had last been loaded.

  1. Set the Static ID on the Calendar region (e.g. “eventscalendar“)
  2. Add an Icon button (Button Template = “Icon”) to the calendar region
  3. Set the button’s Static ID (e.g. “refreshbutton“)
  4. Set Icon CSS Classes to “fa-refresh
  5. Set Action to “Defined by Dynamic Action”
  6. (optional) Set Template Option -> Style to “Remove UI Decoration”
  7. Add a Dynamic Action to the button, Event = “Click”
  8. Set Fire on Page Load to “No”
  9. Add a True Action “Execute Javascript Code” with the code below:
$("#eventscalendar_calendar").fullCalendar("refetchEvents");

This calls the refetchEvents method of the FullCalendar object. Replace the “eventscalendar” part of the id with whatever static ID you set on the Calendar region in step #1.

Now, to add a bit of pizzazz you can get the refresh button icon to spin while the calendar is being refreshed. To do this, change the dynamic action code to this instead:

$("#refreshbutton span.t-Icon").addClass("fa-spin");
window.setTimeout(function() {
  $("#eventscalendar_calendar").fullCalendar("refetchEvents");
  window.setTimeout(function() {
    $("#refreshbutton span.t-Icon").removeClass("fa-spin");
  }, 1000);
}, 50);

This code starts the refresh icon spinning before invoking refetchEvents, then stops the icon spinning after it has completed. Note that these are done via timeouts (otherwise the icon isn’t repainted until after the entire javascript function has completed). I added a wait of 1 second prior to stopping the spinning because most of the time the refresh is too quick to notice the spinning effect.

You can, if it makes sense in your case, also make the calendar automatically refresh itself periodically, using some simple javascript: add the following function to the page Function and Global Variable Declaration:

function refreshCalendar() {
  $("#refreshbutton span.t-Icon").addClass("fa-spin");
  window.setTimeout(function() {
    $("#eventscalendar_calendar").fullCalendar("refetchEvents");
    window.setTimeout(function() {
      $("#refreshbutton span.t-Icon").removeClass("fa-spin");
    }, 1000);
  }, 50);
}

Then add this to start the timer in the page attribute Execute when Page Loads:

var periodicrefresh = setInterval(function() {
                                    refreshCalendar();
                                  }, 30000);

In this example, I’ve set the timer to go off every 30 seconds. Not only does it refresh the calendar, but the user gets feedback on what’s going on because the refresh button icon is spinning. Be careful not to set the timeout too low, or else your database could get very busy!

The function I’ve declared can now also be reused by the button’s dynamic action, so I can replace the DA javascript with simply:

refreshCalendar();

Media player in Apex

Quite a long time ago I made a collection of MP3s available from our Apex website and made them playable within the browser using Google’s shockwave player, using code like this:

<embed type="application/x-shockwave-flash"
       flashvars="audioUrl=#FILE_URL#"
       src="/3523697345-audio-player.swf"
       width="400"
       height="27"
       quality="best">
</embed>

This relies on the user’s browser being able to run flash applications. It looked like this:
audio-player-old

With HTML5, however, this is no longer required, so I’ve updated it to:

<audio controls preload>
  <source src="#FILE_URL#" type="audio/mpeg">
</audio>

Not only is it simpler and no longer requires flash, it looks much nicer as well:
audio-player-new

Note: you may or may not want to include the preload tag, especially if you have more than one audio control on a page.

Auto-convert field to uppercase

This is just a quick note for my future reference. I needed all items with the class “uppercase” to be converted to uppercase, and I thought it would work with just some CSS:

.uppercase { text-transform:uppercase; }

This makes the items appear uppercase, but when the page is posted it actually sends the values exactly as the user typed. They’d type in “lower“, it looks like “LOWER” on screen, but gets posted as “lower“.

In many cases I could just convert the value in my PL/SQL code, but in cases where I was using Apex tabular forms, I don’t know a simple way to intercept the values before the insert occurs.

To solve this I added this to the page’s Execute when Page Loads:

//the item looks uppercase but the internal value
//is still lowercase
$(document).on('change','.uppercase',function(){
  var i = "#" + $(this).attr("id");
  $(i).val( $(i).val().toUpperCase() );
});

Or, even better, add this to the application’s global javascript file:

$(document).ready(function() {
  $(document).on('change','.uppercase',function(){
    var i = "#" + $(this).attr("id");
    $(i).val( $(i).val().toUpperCase() );
  });
});

Disable IE Compatibility Mode

Most places I’ve worked at allow employees to use any of the major browsers to do their work, but mandate an “SOE” that only supports IE, presumably because that generates the most amount of work for us developers. I’d conservatively estimate that 99% of the rendering bugs I’ve had to deal with are only reproducible in IE. (cue one of the thousands of IE joke images… nah, just do a Google Image search, there’s plenty!)

Anyway, we had a number of these rendering issues in Apex on IE8, IE9 and IE10, mainly in edge cases involving some custom CSS or plugins. In some cases I was never able to reproduce the issue until we noticed that the user had inadvertently switched “IE Compatility Mode” on:

iecompatibility1

We told them to make sure the icon was grey, like this:

iecompatibility2

– and most of the issues went away.

Since there’s nothing in our Apex application that requires compatibility mode, we would rather the option not be available at all. To this end, we simply add this code to all the Page templates in the application:

<meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="IE=edge,chrome=1">

This is added just after the <head> tag, like this:

iecompatibility3

Now, the compatility button doesn’t appear at all – one less choice for users and less bug reports to deal with:

iecompatibility5

For more information, see this stackoverflow question and read all the answers. Note that it may be better to add this as a header in the response generated by your web server. In our case it was simpler to just add it into the html.

Deploying Apex: showing an “Under Maintenance” web page

systemdown

I’ve added this script to our toolbelt for future upgrades. We have a friendly “System is under maintenance, sorry for any convenience” web page that we want to show to users while we run upgrades, and we want it to be shown even if we’re just doing some database schema changes.

So I took the script from here and adapted it slightly, here’s our version:

declare PRAGMA AUTONOMOUS_TRANSACTION;
  v_workspace CONSTANT VARCHAR2(100) := 'MYSCHEMA';
  v_workspace_id NUMBER;
begin
  select workspace_id into v_workspace_id
  from apex_workspaces where workspace = v_workspace;
  apex_application_install.set_workspace_id (v_workspace_id);
  apex_util.set_security_group_id
    (p_security_group_id => apex_application_install.get_workspace_id);
  wwv_flow_api.set_flow_status
    (p_flow_id             => 100
    ,p_flow_status         => 'UNAVAILABLE_URL'
    ,p_flow_status_message => 'http://www.example.com/system_unavailable.html'
    );
  commit;
end;
/

It uses an autonomous transaction because we want the system to be unavailable immediately for all users while the deployment is running.

Warning: WWV_FLOW_API is an undocumented package so this is not supported.

The opposite script to make the application available again is:

declare PRAGMA AUTONOMOUS_TRANSACTION;
  v_workspace CONSTANT VARCHAR2(100) := 'MYSCHEMA';
  v_workspace_id NUMBER;
begin
  select workspace_id into v_workspace_id
  from apex_workspaces where workspace = v_workspace;
  apex_application_install.set_workspace_id (v_workspace_id);
  apex_util.set_security_group_id
    (p_security_group_id => apex_application_install.get_workspace_id);
  wwv_flow_api.set_flow_status
    (p_flow_id             => 100
    ,p_flow_status         => 'AVAILABLE'
    );
  commit;
end;
/

However, if we run the f100.sql script to deploy a new version of the application, we don’t need to run the “set available” script since the redeployment of the application (which would have been exported in an “available” state already) will effectively make it available straight away.