In Between My Project and XPages

Mar 15, 2012 4:11 PM

Tags: domino xpages

Despite my grousing about the state of programming for Domino in general and Designer in particular, I'm still mostly a fan of XPages. I use it for my guild's web site and pretty much every new project at work. However, I haven't been able to crack migrating my main work database template over.

Without getting too much into it, the point of the template is to create one database per project to act as a project web site listing online events with arbitrary registration forms and exit evaluations (among other things). Except for custom changes, everything is done via the normal Notes client, not Designer - pages exist as documents with a Body rich text field and associated data and register forms/exit evals, crucially, contain a set of response documents describing their fields. It's important to keep everything as visual as possible, because the users (the people at my company that set up these web sites) are not programmers.

I scrupulously try to avoid modifying the design of the database, so I go out of my way to do custom work via the existing mechanisms as much as possible, and I make pretty good use of rich-text-isms like embedded views, tabbed/computed tables, attachments, buttons, and computed text. In the case of the generated forms, fields can be placed either automatically (with a surrounding template of HTML per-field) or directly into the rich text body via <%FieldName%> placeholders (creating an experience like form design in Designer). Additionally, I have "WebQueryOpen" and "WebQuerySave" fields in the documents for formulas that I pass on into @Eval() in the equivalent places in the actual forms; most of the time, I use these for running agents.

Computed Text

Of the various potential show-stoppers, I think computed text fares the best. For one, it mostly worked - the computed formulas are indeed evaluated and the result is put into place correctly. However, they don't have the same environment you get with the "classic" design elements. The big one that I ran into immediately was @UrlQueryString(...) - it appears that the rich text renderer doesn't inform the rich text about its web environment completely. Prior to 8.5.3, "Display XPage instead" pages didn't know about the real URL, so they couldn't get query parameters at all, but 8.5.3 appears to pass that information along properly. So that means it MIGHT be fixable, if I find a way to properly set fields in the document before the rich text is rendered, so I can set QUERY_STRING - if I can do that, either @UrlQueryString(...) will work or I can manually parse the string as needed.

Embedded Views

They work! ...ish. It looks like icon columns get their URLs a bit messed up, but I can't think of a time when I actually used them, particularly in a situation where I couldn't just write out the URL myself.

Tabbed/Computed Tables

From a cursory glance, I think I'd be SOL when it comes to these. Tabbed tables render flattened out and computed tables don't seem to work. The former can be improved on easily with Dojo, but the latter would mean replacing server-side business logic with client-side JavaScript, which would lead to headaches.

Attachments

These show up as "(See attached file: foo.jpg)". So... not functional. I might be able to fix it by using a filter on the text to replace the HTML with a link to the document, but I don't know if I could get the attachment image properly. Attachment images aren't amazing, but sometimes they do the job.

Buttons

Nope.

WebQueryOpen/WebQuerySave

In some cases, I could run the formulas through session.evaluate(), though I'm not even sure queryOpenDocument/postOpenDocument let me hook into the right spots (sometimes I set fields on document open). I don't think that would run agents, though, so I'd be stuck trying to parse out the text to look for @Command([ToolsRunMacro]; "...").

User-generated Forms

This is the toughest one. I've given this thought a number of times, and I can't think of a great solution. I can't just re-use the subforms I have already, I don't think I can generate and import an XPage via DXL (though I haven't given that a significant shot), and I can't just do a <xp:repeat/> to create all the fields, since some are in the body area. The main routes I can think of to try are a) arranging the fields on the page after the fact via JavaScript and b) generating the page components on the fly with Java or Server JavaScript. I'll probably give the latter a shot eventually, but I expect it to be a bag of hurt.

 

It's a lot of hurdles! I'd love to switch over to XPages, particularly since, for everything that's more difficult than using classic elements, there are 10 things that are way easier. It'd just be quite an investment of time to merely get up to par with the functionality I already have, if it's even possible in all cases.

Commenter Photo

Tim Tripcony - Mar 16, 2012 5:21 PM

Component injection is actually fairly straightforward once you get used to the syntax. It allows you to create very dynamic interfaces based on application configuration, user interaction, etc.

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