There are some people who insist that the only real way to code is in a text-based editor like vi or emacs. Others would sooner chop off a limb than depart with the comforts of Visual Studio. While the first group will happily code away at their consoles from now until Y2K38, the second group is always demanding new innovations in simplicity of software development. These people are the target users of the Agile Platform – an amazingly simple way to create beautiful and functional web apps. As just one example, you can take an Excel spreadsheet and turn it into a searchable, sortable, editable web app in literally 5 minutes, without writing a single line of code. Old-school hacker or not, that’s pretty impressive.
Getting the Agile Platform
The Agile Platform is Windows software, and an installer can be found here. It’s worth noting that the installer may download some additional components (such as parts of IIS or SQL Server) during the install, so the process may take a while.
First Agile Application
When everything is installed, fire up Service Studio, Agile’s development environment. At the main menu, choose to start your own app from scratch. You’ll be dropped into the main editor window.
Right now you’ve just got an empty template, waiting for data. All we have to do now is give it some data (in this case, in the form of an Excel spreadsheet). Agile will create a web site based on the data.
Importing the Data
As an example exercise, we’ll create a simple bug tracker/ticket system. To make the process simpler, I’ve prepared a spreadsheet to act as the example data, which can be downloaded here.
In Service Studio, click “Import -> Entities from Excel” and choose the file you just downloaded. If you watch the right hand pane, you’ll see a few new entries show up. The section you need to worry about is Entities. In there, you’ll now see a new entity called Ticket. Drag this entity from the panel and place it directly on top of the HomePage icon.
View Your “Work”
Believe it or not, you’ve now done everything you need to do for our basic bug tracker. Have doubts? You can see for yourself by publishing the project and previewing in your browser. Click the 1-Click Publish button at the top of the screen to begin building.
It’ll take at least a few seconds, and you can watch the progress with the bar in the lower left of the screen. Once it’s done, you’ll be presented with an option to view the project in your web browser via a button in the lower right. You’ll now see the page Agile generated for you based on your data.
Pretty cool huh?
Editing Your Page and Data
You will of course want to be able to change the data once it’s in your system. Let’s start by turning the ticket number on our page into a link, which will take users to a “Edit Ticket” page. On the main flow screen, double click the silver square labeled “Ticket_List“. This will open a WYSIWYG editor where you can interactively manage the items on your page.
Right click the ticket number as demonstrated above, and select “Link to New Ticket_Edit Web Screen“. This will generate a new page where you can easily edit all the data listed. Go ahead, publish again and see for yourself.
One of the best features of this platform is that they provide an extremely comprehensive set of training materials for you to learn everything you’d need to know. It’s all available right here.
I’ve barely scratched the surface of Agile, and honestly, I’m already pretty blown away. It’s rare that I’m really impressed by software. As in REALLY impressed, but Agile is one heck of a product. What we’ve done in this guide is just a tiny portion of what this platform can do, but even that tiny bit shows what an amazingly well designed system this is. To me, the biggest drawback about the Agile Platform is its reliance on Windows libraries and applications. It’s not a bad thing exactly, the platform seems to work quite well on my Windows 7 test machine, but portability would have made this a real killer app. That said, I’d be willing to boot Windows once in a while if it means I can develop beautiful, functional and powerful web application in one lazy afternoon.