InfoWorld review: Tools for rapid Web development

With WYSIWYG prototyping environments and preconfigured graphical components, rapid Web development tools can help you build applications faster -- but with less flexibility

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Iron Speed Designer 6.2.1
Iron Speed Designer, like Alpha Five, can build both desktop and Web applications, and it excels at creating database-centric applications. Unlike Alpha Five, however, Iron Speed does not use a proprietary runtime. Peek under the hood, and you'll see that Iron Speed Designer is really a development front end for .Net and ASP.Net applications. The Designer emits either C# or VB.Net (your choice).

Iron Speed Designer's principal function is to create database access and management applications, but an application's complete source code is available. Thus, a skilled developer could extend that code to produce most any conceivable Web application. More precisely, Iron Speed builds CRUD (create, read, update, and delete) interfaces for databases. It won't create your application's "business logic" -- that is, code beyond the fundamental CRUD operations. Iron Speed's documentation claims that about 80 percent of a database-centric application's development is spent building the CRUD code.

Building an application in Iron Speed follows a series of defined steps. It's like cooking from a recipe. Of course, the first step is to create (or connect to) whatever database your application will use. Next, you select your application's display theme. This sets a standard look and feel for all the generated code. The number of available styles depends on the edition of the package you choose. Although there are plenty in the free edition, the Enterprise Edition lets you create custom styles.

Once you've chosen your application's theme, select which sorts of pages you want the designer to create. Most of the generated pages are grid-style layouts of one form or another. You can choose pages that provide view-only data access or pages that provide editing functions. Plus, there are master-detail layout styles. Overall, Iron Speed offers close to 30 different page layouts.

Iron Speed Designer 6.2.1
Iron Speed Designer offers a fine example of "automated coding." Point it to a database, and it does the rest. Here, Iron Speed Designer has constructed a database search screen for an orders table.

Extending the generated application with your own code is relatively easy. You can access the generated source at any time. For example, select a button on a generated page, and a properties window lists all of the button's methods (methods triggered by events the button recognizes). Navigate to a chosen method's entry point and fill in your code.

Because one of the first development steps is choosing the database behind the application, Iron Speed development occurs using live data. You'll see that data via the Live Preview screen.

Iron Speed provides a variety of mechanisms to build security into your applications. You can draw on the access-control features built into the back-end database (users and roles), as well as use Active Directory-based security or Windows authentication. If you enable Iron Speed's role-based security, you can control user access down to the level of individual pages or even individual controls.

Designer's built-in MSI installer makes deployment ridiculously simple. One click is all it takes to produce an *.MSI file that you can copy to the target machine and execute in the same way you would a setup.exe file. What's more, because the application is an ASP.Net application, you can alter the target database on the production system by simply changing the connection string in the Web.config file.

Perhaps Iron Speed's best feature is the fact that generated source code is always available, and is standard C# or VB.Net. Consequently, you are not bound to any proprietary language or runtime. You can modify the source to your heart's content -- which, of course, is a sword that cuts both ways.

Read the next review: LANSA for the Web 11.5

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