4WS.Platform is an open source product that can be used to graphically create web applications, starting from a web designer through which it is possible to define both the business logic and the graphical user interface.
The target of this platform is the creation of enterprise applications having a small-to-middle complexity level. This goal can be accomplished through the combination of rapid development techniques based on a rich user interface and the chance to embed custom code when needed. In this way there is no limit in the requirements of the application to realize.
From an organization point of view, the main advantages of this solution can be sum up with the followings:
it allows to create web applications in a short time and for free
the quality of the result is quite good, since it is based on industry level technologies, such as Sencha Ext-JS for the front-end and Restful web services on the server side
it makes possible for companies having a limited budget to afford internally the expense of application development, and this is particularly important in these years where the economic crisis is affecting any company investment and such a kind of solution can be seen as an answer to this issue
skills required to create applications are significantly reduced, so many companies could be able to use the product on their own, without the need to get paid support.
In order to show how the product can be used in practise, a simple use case is briefly described.
Suppose you want to create a simple editable grid to manage contacts you have met recently and store information about them. You can use 4WS.Platform Web Designer component to manage this simple task in a very few steps. This part of the product allows you to define tables, data models, relations, the menu and the whole user interface.
First, create a database table that maps all contacts data you need to manage; in alternative, you can create it through “Tables” functionality included into the Web Designer.
Next, you have to use the reverse engineering feature to automatically define the data model starting from tables.
At this stage you can also provide additional information and behavior to the data model, such as associating an internal counter for the ID numeric field.
Finally, you can create an editable grid starting from a data model and then define any detail about it: which columns to show, which are editable in insert/edit mode, default values and many other settings.
Many wizards are available to speed up the definition of the GUI: these wizards can be used to create grid panels, filter panels, detail forms, google map panes, image panels, etc.
Once the application has been fully defined, you can run it through the other part of the platform: the Web Interpreter. Starting from the main menu, the user can select one of the applications created through the Web Designer, logon into the application and start using it!
DBALab is an example of an Italian organization who have recently decided to use this platform to realize a series of successful web applications, having very different targets:
a web application used internally for projects, assets and lifecycle management
a document management front-end application, having Alfresco behind the scenes that acts as the CMS engine
a system for the design of systems for tunnels and road and rail tunnels; this solution has been presented at the Expo Tunnel Exhibition in October 2013 in Bologna (Italy)
The company started with the first application and after proving the validity of the result, they made the decision to use the product as the company platform for the future developments: the outcome is the realization of the two other products described above.
These examples clearly show how powerful 4WS.Platform is: it can be easily adopted and adapted to quite different scenarios. The strength of the platform is the flexibility of all its components: the GUI theme, the business model and the user interface can fit heterogeneous use cases.
More details about the product can be found in the website linked to the solution, hosted on sourceforge web portal.