Saturday, January 31, 2015

APEX 5.0 EA3 released with Universal Theme

Today Oracle released the latest Early Adopter release of APEX 5.0.

The release is packed with new features, but one of the biggest improvements you can find in the UI.

For me the Universal Theme with Theme Roller, Theme Styles and Template Options is the absolute killer feature of APEX 5.0. I can't better describe Universal Theme as how Oracle is describing it:

Universal Theme is an all-new user interface for your applications that has been built from the ground up for Application Express 5. It is a simpler, yet more capable theme that does away with excessive templates and enable effortless customization with Theme Roller, Template Options, and Theme Styles. Universal Theme is the culmination of all of our UI enhancements and aims to empower developers to build modern, responsive, sophisticated applications without requiring expert knowledge of HTML, CSS, or JavaScript.

The issue with APEX 4.x was the build-in themes became out-dated today, so many of us looked at integrating Bootstrap, Foundation or other frameworks. But APEX 5.0 has send us at WARP-speed to a new UI, suddenly out-of-the-box your applications are modern, responsive, flat, ... everything you can expect from a UI today. Many new components are now part of the UI: like the new Carousel and Cards region are some of my favourites.

If you are interested to know everything about the new UI, Roel and I teamed up with a one-day APEX 5.0 UI Training day.

Happy playing with APEX 5.0 EA3 and don't forget to give feedback to the development team, this is the last time you can before APEX 5.0 hits production.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Preparing architecture for APEX 5.0 upgrade

I doubted to set the title of this post to "Running APEX 4.2 and 5.0 in the same Oracle instance", but decided not to do that, but that is basically what I will do. Before going into details, I'll share my architecture.

In December 2013 I wrote it was time to update your APEX environment and I gave a quick overview of the architecture we're using. I thought it's time to review that post, so below you find how my preferred APEX architecture is today and tomorrow (once APEX 5 is production).

I'm using Apache as a reverse proxy in front of Tomcat. I'm not going in too much detail about which version to take: Apache v2.2 vs 2.4 and Tomcat v7 vs 8. There're many threads on the internet about that and I guess it depends your environment and your personal feeling. I've been using both versions but currently I'm on Apache v2.2 because it comes as a default with RHEL / OEL6 and SELinux is configured out of the box to protect the webserver. And for Tomcat I'm using v8 as that's the basis for the future versions of Tomcat (v9) and when you want to do Websockets for example, v8 has a more improved spec.

A few years ago we had the discussion about mod_plsql vs APEX Listener (now Oracle REST Data Services - ORDS). I think today, it's clear ORDS is the way to go as it gives you much more features and is proven technology.

For APEX I'm always on the latest version as fast as I can, as with every new release there're great improvements and fixes.

And finally the Oracle Database I'm on 12cR1 because I like the pluggable database concept and the other features it brings. I guess most people will go to 12c very soon, as 11.2 premier support ends this month. You can read more about when what is still supported in this doc.

But in this post I want to show you how easy it is to prepare your environment for APEX 5 and to test the upgrade with an architecture as above. I basically want to run APEX 4.2 and 5.0 next to each other. I'll clone my PDB and apply the APEX 5 installation on the new PDB. Next I'll configure ORDS so it knows to which database it needs to point to depending the url I'll call.

Step 1. Clone the PDB 

sqlplus / as sysdba

create pluggable database APEX50_PDB from APEX42_PDB file_name_convert=('/u01/app/oracle/oradata/cdb/APEX42_PDB','/u01/app/oracle/oradata/cdb/APEX50_PDB');

Step 2. Open the PDB and install APEX 5.0

alter pluggable database apex50_pdb open;

So now we have a new database which is a copy of our existing database open and ready to be used. Next we will need to install APEX 5.0. As the time of writing APEX 5.0 is not available yet, but it will probably be - connect to the new PDB and run @apexins... (follow the installation guide of APEX 5.0 once available!)

Step 3. Configure ORDS

With SQL Developer you can configure ORDS and add the connection to the new PDB.
In SQL Developer 4.1, first setup a connection to your ORDS (Tools > Manage REST Data Services Connections > Add Connection). Next open the ORDS Administration window (View > REST Data Services > Administration). Right click on the REST Data Services and Connect to ORDS:

You'll see the current configuration.

In order to connect to the new database we need to add a Database. Right click in Database Settings and add a new database. Before writing it back (the icon with the green up arrow - click the Test Settings button first (the icon with a v) to make sure everything is fine.

Final step is to let ORDS know that if we put in our url /apex50 we want to connect to the new database. You can do that by adding an entry in URL Mapping:

That's it...

Note: sometimes I've issues with adding the database and URL Mapping in SQL Developer, but it's as fast to do it command line too. The doc has a great example which commands to run:

Step 4. Test

When you navigate to your normal url e.g. http://localhost/ords/f?p=ABC you will see your APEX 4.2 instance, but if you navigate to http://localhost/ords/apex50/f?p=ABC you'll see the APEX 5.0 instance.

You can play a bit more with making it nicer urls or do some redirects in Apache, but I hope you get the idea how to start testing APEX 5.0 while still running APEX 4.2 too.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Announcement: APEX 5.0 UI Training - May 12th

APEX 5.0 will be released between now and the end of May. People who have already spent some time on the Early Adopter versions know this version is packed with new features aimed to make APEX developers even more productive, like the Page Designer.

Another striking new subset of features is aimed at creating better looking user interfaces for your APEX applications in an easy and maintainable way.

The definition of user interface components in APEX 5.0 is very different to what we're used to. For example there is a new Universal Theme with Template Options and a Theme Roller.

To get you up and running with this new toolset as quickly as possible, Dimitri Gielis of APEX R&D and Roel Hartman of APEX Consulting have joined forces and set up a one day course fully aimed at APEX 5.0 UI. So if you want to know not only how to use the new Theme, but also how to modify it to fit your needs, this is the event you should attend!

The training will be at the Mitland Hotel in Utrecht (NL) on Tuesday May 12.
More information and registration see

If you are from another country and think this training should be available in your country as well, please contact us - then we'll see what we can do!

Friday, January 23, 2015

JSON for APEX Developers (part 2)

In the previous post we created a service that allowed us to give our data in JSON format.

Now let's focus on consuming that JSON. In this post I want to show how to use JSON data in the client (your browser), in a future post I'll show how to use JSON on the server (in the database).

If you want to play with JSON, open the console of your browser and create some text in JSON format - easy to do - and use the JSON.parse() function to create an object from it:

var text = '{"items": {"emp":[{"empno":7369, "ename":"SMITH"},{"empno":7499, "ename":"ALLEN"} ]}}';
var obj = JSON.parse(text);  

As you will probably do a call somewhere to get JSON, I'll move on with such an example, so we will call the service we created with ORDS in the previous post and we want to use that data in our APEX page.

So edit your APEX Page in the JavaScript section "Execute when Page Loads" and put
(note you can put your own url that generates the json):

$.getJSON("", function(json) {

We just called the url from JavaScript and output the result to the console of the browser so we see what we got back:

We see the JSON (javascript object/array) we get back from the url. Note that the array starts with 0 (and not 1).

We can now do anything we want with that data. Here we set some items on the page of the first employee:


A more interesting example is when you want to integrate Flickr foto's on your web page.
The concept is the same, call a url, once received loop over the array (see .each) and create an image tag on the fly on your page:

Another example would be when you want to include a visualisation in your page and as data it needs the data in JSON format... You could do that with an AJAX call for example (application process, plugin, ...), but that is for another post.

Hopefully this post showed how you can interact with JSON within your APEX page by using JavaScript.
You find the online example at

Thursday, January 22, 2015

JSON for APEX Developers (part 1)

After my post Generate nested JSON from SQL with ORDS and APEX 5 I got some requests to explain more about REST and JSON, so let me start with JSON. I'll go more into REST in some future posts.

JSON stands for JavaScript Object Notation, it's a text based format to store and transport data.

It all comes from exchanging data, and finding a format that can easily be used by the "client" who needs to do something with the data. In the past XML (and SOAP) was used a lot to fill that need, between tags you found your data. With JSON it's kinda the same, but because many "clients" are now web pages, it makes sense to use something that is very easy to use by a browser.

Here's an example of how it was with XML:

The above XML looks like this in JSON:

{"items": {
    {"empno":7369, "ename":"SMITH"},
    {"empno":7499, "ename":"ALLEN"}    

To generate the XML, Oracle build that straight into the database. Here's a SQL statement that does it for you:

             e.empno AS "empno",
             e.ename AS "ename")
       )) AS employees
FROM   emp e

To generate the JSON from within the Oracle database takes a bit more effort. You find some nice posts by Morton and Lucas with examples to generate JSON with SQL. If we use the listagg technique our query looks like this:

select '{"items": { "emp":[' 
       || listagg( '{ '
       ||' "empno":"'||empno||'"'
       ||'} ', ',') within group (order by 1) 
       || ']} }'as  json
  from   emp

Oracle database has JSON support, but that is more to consume JSON, not to generate. As said in my previous post, APEX 5 has a nice package to generate the JSON or you can use ORDS to generate the JSON.

Let's look step-by-step how we can generate the JSON by using ORDS.

In APEX, go to SQL Workshop > RESTful Services and hit the CREATE button and fill in the details as below:

Once you hit Create Module it has generated a REST Webservice, but more important for this post is that you have now a url that you can provide to somebody to get the data in JSON format:

There are many options for this service, but if you don't want Pagination, put a 0 in Pagination Size and if you don't run in HTTPS, put a No in Require Secure Access.

By running the url we now see our data in JSON.
In the next post we will consume that data in our web page.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Setting up Node and Oracle Database driver

Today Oracle introduced the node-oracledb driver, so you can easily connect from node to your Oracle database.

Previously I blogged about the Oracle VM you can download so you have your own local Oracle environment. Below are the steps to install the node driver and run a first example in that environment.
(Also read the official node-oracledb installation guide for a local database - 4. Installation with a local database).

First we need to install git (a source control system) - as the source of the oracle node driver is there.

$ sudo yum install git

Download the source of the node-oracledb driver

$ git clone

Next we need to get node, you can download it or I used wget to get the file for linux

Install Node

tar -zxf node-v0.10.35-linux-x64.tar.gz

We follow the guide to set the PATH variable

export PATH=$HOME/node-v0.10.35-linux-x64/bin:$PATH

and we set other variables to the Oracle client and run the installer from within the node-oracledb directory:

Depending your system it might take a few seconds and it should come back after a while with this:

So we have now node installed and the oracle node driver as a module available.

Next we run the first example. It's a select on a table in the HR schema, but that schema is by default locked. So we unlock it first:

sqlplus sys/oracle as sysdba

We need to change the dbconfig.js in the examples directory to point to our database:

And now we can run the first example:

The above lets you run SQL, PL/SQL etc. commands from within Node.

Happy playing with Node! But be warned, once you start with Node its addictive to try different node modules... for example run "npm install node-tts-api" and you have a node module to do text-to-speech :)

And this module is something you can call from within your APEX application (so we go the other way compared to above - we go from Oracle to Node in this case).
It takes only one Dynamic Action - on change of the item - execute Javascript:

var url = '' + $v(P13_TEXT);
$.get( url, function( data ) {
  var url = data;
  var snd = new Audio(url);;

And here's a small video that shows the TTS in action

If somebody knows a Node module with a women's voice I would love to hear that :)

The TTS demo is just a quick way to show the integrating of APEX with Node, but I've some more cool (and useful!) stuff coming up in future posts :)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Next ORCLAPEX-BE Meetup - Feb 2nd

Roeland organised a new APEX Meetup in Belgium on February 2nd.

This time no specific topic, everybody can get on stage for maximum 5 minutes to show something they did or to ask some feedback or help on a specific problem.

If Belgium is to far, no worries, there're meetups planned all over the world.

The next meeting in the Netherlands is on February 18th organised by Alex, Christian and Roel.

But as I said, many others, just check out for a more local event.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Setting up your own local Oracle Development environment in less than 15 minutes

The fastest and easiest way to setup your own local Oracle Development environment is by using the "Oracle Technology Network Developer Day" Database Virtual Box Appliance.

It contains:

  • Oracle Linux 7
  • Oracle Database 12c ( EE (CDB/PDB)
  • Oracle Rest Data Services (ORDS)
  • Oracle Application Express (APEX)
  • Oracle SQL Developer and Oracle SQL Developer Data Modeler
Step 1: Download and install Oracle VM VirtualBox

Step 2: Download the VM image that contains all the pieces you need

Step 3: Import the VM: File > Import Appliance


You can now start using the VM.

Some extra steps I did was adding a Shared folder and setup the Network connection

Once you add the Shared Folder open up a Terminal in your VM and type: "mount -t vboxsf Downloads /mnt"  (Downloads is my OSX Downloads folder and /mnt is my mount directory in VirtualBox), that makes it easier to transfer files to the VM.

Here's a screenshot once you run the VM:

The nice thing with this VM is that everything is ready to be used and it includes labs, so you can do some exercises too and there's even a reset script to put everything back how it was.

Exercises are available for: Database 12c (including JSON, XML DB, ...), SQL Developer, APEX, REST Data Services and Cloud Services.

Who said installing Oracle was hard? :)

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Generate nested JSON from SQL with ORDS and APEX 5

When creating web applications, at some point you will need to interact with JSON. Either you consume JSON or you need to generate it to be able to use that cool widget you found.

A few years ago when I wrote about interacting and customising charts, XML was the data format. Today JSON is more common to use as it works so well with JavaScript. I needed to pass some nested JSON - here's an example: multiple customers have multiple orders and an order consists out of multiple items: 

What is the easiest way to generate that JSON data?

Luckily we have Oracle REST Data Services (ORDS), it literally is just one SQL statement!
Here you go: 

Save and presto you're done :) Hit the TEST button and copy/paste the generated JSON in for example JSONLint to validate the output and yep we have valid JSON.

But that is not all - it gets even better. APEX 5 comes with a new package apex_json which contains so many goodies, really a wonderful piece of code. The same SQL statement I call with the package and again I get the JSON I need. It's slightly different from what ORDS generated - ORDS has an items tag surrounding the data, but again it's valid JSON.
Note that APEX 4.2 has some JSON support too (apex_util.json_from_sql), but it doesn't go as far as the package you find in APEX 5.0 - for example the cursor syntax is not working there, but for straight forward JSON it does it job.

So this shows how easy it is to generate JSON these days. It has been different where we had to use the PL/JSON package (which was good too, but build-in is what I prefer).

And finally with Oracle Database 12c, and the JSON support straight in the database, consuming and querying JSON has been made so much easier, but that is for another post. If you can't wait, the link will bring you to the official 12c Database JSON doc.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Understanding the APEX url - passing variables to items and (interactive) reports

Did you know you can recognise an Oracle APEX application through the url?

Here's the syntax:


Let me give some examples:


The first part: depends on your configuration. I'm using https, my domain name is and I'm using the Oracle REST Data Services as connection to the database. This is a configuration in your webserver.

The next part is f?p= f is a procedure in the database with as paramaters (p=). f comes from flow - once APEX was called "Project Flows".

209 is my application id, 12 is my page id and 12351378808570 is my session
The first part is the same, but now as request I've CSV, page 12 is an Interactive Report and the fastest way to see your IR data as CSV is to give CSV as the request in the url
I changed the request again to the name of a saved Interactive Report (Alternative) IR_REPORT_: so the page goes straight to that layout of the report.

Here I'm calling the page in DEBUG mode
In the clear cache section you have a couple of options, specifying the below will clear the cache for : 
- APP: whole application
- SESSION: current user session
- RIR: reset interactive report to primary report
- CIR: reset to primary report but with custom columns
- RP: reset pagination
- 12: page 12
- P12_ID: item P12_ID
Here I pass a variable with the url, we'll fill P12_ID with the value 1
You can use comma separated list of items and values for example: P12_ID,P12_NAME:1,DIMITRI
If you want to filter an interactive report you can call IR??_:
In the above case we set the customer last name = Dulles.
There are many other parameters: IREQ_ (equal), LT_ (less), IRLTE_ (less or equal), IRGT_, IRGTE_ (greater or equal), IRLIKE_ (like), IRN_ (null), IRNN_ (not null), IRC_ (contains), IRNC_ (not contains).
In this case we run the page in Printer-friendly mode
This url will generate a trace file on the system for this request.

You find some more information in the APEX Documentation or you can try online at

One remark: if you enable Session State Protection (SSP) you might not be able to call the parameters like this as it requires a checksum at the end which you have to calculate for example by using apex_util.prepare_url().

And finally, if you want more readable urls, some people did some posts about that, here's one of Peter.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Master Detail - Detail in APEX with FOEX

In the previous post I talked about Master-Detail and that it wasn't that easy to do Master-Detail-Detail today declaratively in APEX 4.2 (and 5.0).

Below is a screenshot of FOEX (a framework build on top of APEX) and a Master-Detail-Detail in there.

You can see the live example at

Here's a screenshot of the page behind the scenes:

At first it might seem complex, but it isn't. In FOEX you can put regions in different places on the screen (center, east, west pane etc.), so many regions are to control those areas.
The most important regions are the "List of Customers", "List of Orders" and "Order Items", those are the regions that you see on the first screenshot. The other region "Manage Order Items" is a Modal Dialog that comes when you want to add an order item.

My goal is not to explain FOEX in great detail here, you can read about it on their website, but basically they extended APEX with a custom theme, many (many!) plugins and a builder add-on (you see in the screenshot the "Create FOEX Region", so it's really like you are working natively in APEX. Here's a screenshot when you hit the button to create a FOEX region:

So almost natively you can build your Master-Detail-Detail, through their wizards.

I thought to mention this solution here as well, as although my first choice is to make simple and clean web applications, if you do want a lot of information on your screen (like in a master-detail-detail), and you like ExtJs (which is used behind the scenes), FOEX is probably one of the best choices you have.

APEX R&D is a partner of FOEX, so if you need some more info, don't hesitate to contact us.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Master Detail (-Detail) in APEX

In the last posts we used following tables to show (Report) and edit (Form) the data:

Another way to work with this data is using a Master-Detail report/form.
In the master we have our customer info and in the detail the products he's interested in.

Oracle APEX provides a wizard to create a Master-Detail Form
You just follow the wizard to set it up:

By default the wizard will only show related tables, which is most logical - if you don't see your table, you probably don't have the FK relation on the tables.

You've some options for the layout - edit the records directly on the detail screen or as a separate form. Which one to pick? It depends... for small detail tables I would go for a Tabular Form, but for larger or more complex ones I would go with another Form. Tabular Forms are not the most flexible in APEX, but for now that is the only declarative option you have to edit multiple records at the same time. Alternatives are to use Modal dialogs, code your own custom solution or use a solution of somebody else. FOEX for example has a nice solution which I'll cover in the next post.

Tabular forms got improved only a little bit in APEX 5.0, but Modal Dialogs come native in APEX 5.0.  Tabular Forms will be more enhanced in APEX 5.1 which can then do master - detail - detail and it will also come with another solution - a new "Multi-Row Edit" region type - which could work well in this case.

You find the Master Detail result online at

What if our tables were a bit more complex and we need Master-Detail-Detail today?
We would need to create our own custom "tabular forms", basically a report where we use the apex_item api... but that is for another post.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Keep ready to test the final EA of APEX 5.0

Oracle is gearing up to release APEX 5.0... the final early adopter release (EA3) will be released soon. Over 6000 people participated in APEX EA2...

Here's the email of Joel Kallman:

As EA3 will be very close to the final release of APEX 5.0 many more people will probably join EA3, so keep ready for it! I look forward what color scheme people will create with Theme Roller and how they make the universal theme look like, fun guaranteed :)

Monday, January 12, 2015

Using Shuttles in a many-to-many relationship (Form)

In the previous post I showed some options how you can represent a many-to-many table relationship in a report using the LISTAGG Oracle function.

In this post we will edit a record and see how we can represent the data in a Form and save the data back to the different tables.

First I create a Form on the main table (customers) by just following the wizards.

Next I'll add a Shuttle item to the page: P2_PRODUCT_IDS
The SQL statement for the LOV (List of Values) looks like this, so just like in a select list, the shuttle is able to show the name, but store the id. Note there's no where clause in the statement as we want to show all possible products on the left in the shuttle.

Finally for the item source value we can't use a Database Column as the data is in a different table, so we enter the select statement to get all the product ids for that customer. Note that the Source Type needs to be set to SQL Query (return colon separated value), so it returns 1 or more product ids.
The selected products will be shown on the right in the shuttle.

Here's how the Form looks like when we select John Dulles who's interested in two products (Jacket, Business Shirt):

When we move Products from left to right and the other way and hit Apply Changes we need to store those values.

Add a new Process after the build-in Process and call it Save Products with this code:

There're many ways to store the values, but let me walk you through this one.
We first store the selected products in an array (l_vc_arr2) which apex_util.string_to_table is doing.

Next we delete all (possible) records that are not selected. You could remove the last line in the where clause so all products for that customer are deleted (if you add all the selected ones later again), but if you're auditing that table your info in not correct as that person might not have actually deleted it.

I added some debug info in the process too.

Finally we loop through the array and check if the record already exists in our table, if it doesn't we add it. Again here you could not do the lookup if you are dropping all records in the delete statement and just add all selected again.

I typically have a condition on this request to not run when the request is Delete.

In the online example (click on the edit icon in the report) I dropped the Create and Delete buttons in the Form, but if you keep them and want everything to work, there're two more things you have to do:

-) For the Create - in the "Automatic Row Processing (DML)" Process (of the Customer table) you need to specify P2_ID in "Return Key Into Item" field so the next process (the one you see above) has a value for P2_ID (= customer id).

-) For the Delete - you need to add another process before the "Automatic Row Processing (DML)", so the child records get deleted first, before the automatic row process deletes the customer.

In the next post I'll give an example of working with this data in a Master-Detail form.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Representing many-to-many tables in a Report

Consider my case: I've a customer table and a products table. Customers can select multiple products they want to have. The diagram look like this: Customers on the left, Products on the right and a table in between that says which customers like which products. Customers might have multiple products and products might be linked to multiple customers - so a many-to-many relationship.

There're many ways to represent this data in a report. Here's a SQL statement that brings the three tables together:

A default Report created on top of this SQL statement looks like this:

The same SQL in an Interactive Report gives us a bit more possibilities, you could break by Customer and show the products underneath for example:

But another technique I use frequently as well, is by using the listagg (analytical) function.
This function was introduced in Oracle DB 11gR2. Here's a great article that compares listagg with previous possibilities you had in the Oracle Database and also talks about the performance.

Here's my SQL statement:

This shows for every customer, which products they like as a comma separated list:

You could do the reverse as well; for a certain product get a list of customers. I found myself using the listagg function a lot over the years, so hopefully you also find it useful if you didn't know about it yet...

You find the above examples online here.

Next to learning about the LISTAGG Oracle function, I also wanted to give this example to show that although APEX can do a lot of reporting out of the box, the more you know SQL the more options you have to show your data. Long-live SQL!!!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

APEX and Font Awesome integration

In the previous post I talked about scalable vector images. In this post we will integrate Font Awesome in our APEX app, but the steps for the same if you would pick another library.

Step 1: we need to make the library available in our APEX application.

The easiest way to make the library available in your entire application is to add the following line in your Page Template:

How do I know it's that string you might ask. If you go to the Getting Started section of the library you chose it will tell you:

You're actually done now with the integration... You'll find some examples on the site to see the properties you can use (size etc.). The list of icons is also available here.

Here're some examples I use the image fonts for:

An image in a region

Sometimes I just want an image in a region, so I included the paypal icon (fa-paypal) and gave it a bigger size (fa-5x).

You see the result here:

Edit icon in a report

During the creation of a report region you can select the image you want, those are either images or text. Change the Link Icon to following:

Replacing the image will give your report immediately a fresher and more modern look

Icons in the Navigation List

For my navigation list I mainly use the "Vertical List with Subtext and Icon" list template.
By default it looks like this:

We want to say for every list item which icon we want to use. To do that edit the list template and change in the Template Definition:



Note: I changed it in both the Current as Noncurrent List Template.

Now we can define the icon we want to use in our List at Attribute 02:

The final step to make the list look nice we need to make the icon float left so it's next to the text and we make it white when you hover. As we use an icon font we can just change the color with some css (you can add that on your page or in your page template in the Inline CSS position).

This is the result:

You find the online example at