Posts

Maintaining Low Code Apps


Low code software tools can speed mobile application development by freeing developers from routine coding tasks and encouraging focus on high level app requirements. However, some developers, project managers, and even entire enterprises remain wary of low code tools. These stakeholders are afraid testing and maintaining low-code apps will be more difficult and costly over time.

But not all low code or RMAD (Rapid Mobile App Development) tools are alike. A low code tool that is simply a user interface to a code generator and builds apps from a set of templates could be attractive to an inexperienced developer. When an issue arises, a highly skilled programmer might need to diagnose and modify the generated code for each mobile OS to create a solution.

MobileTogether is a cross-platform RMAD tool that works differently. MobileTogether uses a combination of drag-and-drop UI design, a powerful Action Tree visual language for event handling, and standardized functional programming for data selection and processing. MobileTogether includes a built-in Simulator window to instantly execute the app to test logic, view the UI as it will appear on a variety of iOS, Android, Windows, and other devices, and examine changes in workflow data during execution. MobileTogether also includes sophisticated automated testing features and a built-in debugger to test and debug apps with precision and examine app behavior directly in the design environment.

Let’s look at how some real-world app maintenance requirements are simplified in MobileTogether.

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Mobile App Development: Follow Up on a User Story


My friend Casey used the Solar Tool mobile app created with Altova MobileTogether to track rooftop solar production for a full year now and reports some surprising results. We first wrote about Casey’s user story in the spring, when she anticipated higher solar power production as hours of sunlight increased. Casey expected the billing cycle that included June 21, the summer solstice, to be her best generation month. Her actual results were very different and worth investigating.

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Mobile App Development: A User Story


Ahh spring! Birds singing, flowers blooming, and the sun rises earlier and sets later. All that extra daylight gives solar power generation systems more hours to make electricity. As the summer solstice approaches, solar generation systems enter their most productive time of year.

Owners of rooftop solar systems can be passionate about tracking their productivity. The actor and comedian John Hodgman even moderated a disagreement over obsessive monitoring of solar production. My friend Kasey is also enthusiastic about solar power. Whenever I see Kasey, she reports her latest kilowatt-hours stats. Kasey’s home is in a warm, sunny climate where air conditioning is her biggest electricity demand. She installed solar panels on the roof of her house at the end of last June and her system raced to generate enough power during long summer days to offset her air conditioning.

After receiving the electric bill for August, Kasey called her solar installer to report success – her home’s electricity consumption for the month was zero. “I have to confess, I read my meters every single day to see how the system is doing,” Kasey told the installer.

“Everybody does it,” the installer replied. “Some users even tell me they check the meters three times a day!”

Kasey asked me if a mobile phone application built with MobileTogether might make a good reporting tool for her solar power system. “I could enter the meter readings into my phone,” she said. “I can do it every day when I take the dog out before breakfast.”

That’s how our mobile app development collaboration began. The result is the MobileTogether app we call Solar Power Tool.

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Developing and Debugging User Functions in Mobile Apps


Recently I came across this note in a senior developer’s code review of a colleague’s work: “Slightly revised the user function to work correctly when languages other than English are used.” This was a surprising comment–the code is the code and it shouldn’t make a difference what language the developer or the end user speaks! A user function is simply an expression that may accept input parameters and returns a result.

Altova MobileTogether supports user functions in a cross-platform mobile development framework that combines drag-and-drop UI design and standardized functional programming for data selection and processing. Several MobileTogether demo applications are highly dependent on user functions and the MobileTogether Designer includes features that greatly assist creating and validating user functions.

Let’s take a look at user functions in mobile apps by examining one of these demo apps.

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Create Mobile Apps that Automatically Support Dark Theme


Android and Apple mobile devices support a display option called Dark Theme, which you can think of as  almost a negative image of the normal screen display. In Dark Theme white is black, black is white, and color intensity in general is adjusted. Dark Theme reduces power requirements, which can extend runtime for a battery charge, and can be easier to view in low light.

Altova MobileTogether includes features to let developers create mobile apps that automatically support Dark Theme by detecting the user setting when the app is launched.

Let’s look at an example:

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Mobile App Debugging


MobileTogether is a tool for building highly complex, elegant, cross-platform solutions. Developers need mobile app debugging tools to troubleshoot during development and understand app behavior. The MobileTogether Designer offers full-featured debugging of app execution flow inside action trees and debugging of XPath/XQuery functions. These features are provided in two mobile app debugging views integrated into a single tool.

The Actions Debugger view allows developers to debug the Actions of a Control event or a Page event. This view is available when an Action that has been selected for debugging is encountered during processing. The XPath Debugger view opens the XPath/XQuery evaluator window for in-depth tracing and debugging of expressions.

Developers can set breakpoints at various locations and the app, then execute one step at a time, pausing in either view to allow examination of the complete execution environment.

Let’s see mobile app debugging in action:

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Design Templates for Mobile Apps


In an earlier post we wrote about using software design templates for mobile apps to facilitate design reuse and make it easy to build efficient, flexible options for various app requirements. We described an example of a Control Template designed to present multiple levels of hierarchical data based on user selection at runtime.

Our example was built using MobileTogether, Altova’s RMAD (Rapid Mobile App Development) tool to help developers build cross-platform apps that deliver dynamic, sophisticated app performance that delights end users.

You can also build Control Templates for cross-platform mobile apps by combining multiple controls into a larger unit, like a complex sub-assembly built from individual parts. This creates design templates for mobile apps that can easily be dropped in anywhere, speeding development and ensuring consistency.

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