IBM Verse – This Is Not Your Father’s Email

Art Whorley

Art Whorley

At one point, many years ago, email was the only real ubiquitous tool we had available to us. We had no choice but to make the best use of it we could. Email systems improved interfaces and added additional capabilities but they still had the same limitations. In-boxes became cluttered and were hard to manage. As the capabilities progressed, we were presented with additional tools intended to enhance our productivity; however, the result was we had more views to attend to (in-box, calendar, contacts, to-dos, etc). Furthermore, it was hard to find information. I’m sure we have all said, “Now where did I put that file?” Sharing of content and knowledge was also somewhat cumbersome. It required us to find the information, which was typically in an email that we placed in a folder (the name of which made sense on that particular day) or potentially archived; or, in a file we detached onto our workstations in a file folder (which may be several levels down in the file system). This process also impacted others because we forwarded the email, with any files attached, to a list of other users who then had to deal with it.keep-calm-and-think-work-smarter-not-harder

As new social and collaboration applications were introduced, workers became even more distracted. We found ourselves jumping between multiple disjointed applications to send and receive emails, chat with others, attend meetings and handle social interactions. Plug-ins were introduced to ease the transition between applications but they were still separate applications.

The mantra of business has always been “Work smarter not harder,” but the integrated user experience has not been there to truly achieve that goal. The key items we needed were:

  • to be able to clearly focus our attention to efficiently use the time we have
  • a simple integrated way to collaborate with the people that matter most and tune out those who are less critical to our daily activities
  • a smarter and faster analytic based approach to searching for information
  • availability to us on our mobile devices, whenever and wherever we choose

With the above considerations in mind, IBM took a leadership role and turned the traditional email paradigm on its head. The recent IBM Verse announcement truly delivers a better way to work.

IBM_Verse_Information

The “reimagined” user interface provides a dashboard approach that integrates all pertinent elements on a single, intuitive, composite view.

IBM-Verse_User-Interface

In the above sample User Interface, the top bar provides a quick view of those people you deem to be most important to you. Verse analytics recommends people to add to the important contacts but the decision to include them or not is under your control. For those the user adds, hovering over someone’s image bubble enables one click access to items specific to that contact. The calendar information across the bottom allows you to keep track of your meetings, calls, etc, without opening your calendar. The middle section is a preview pane. The beauty of this is you can drill down on any of the items you desire but you don’t have to. You can also be alerted to items you are awaiting or that you owe someone else.

To put it succinctly, traditional email doesn’t help users know what to focus on. There’s no single view of what’s important so users struggle to decide what’s next. With IBM Verse, you get a single top-actions view based on user priorities and behaviors.

This short entry comes nowhere close to doing IBM Verse justice. The best way to grasp the power of Verse is to see it in action. There is a very nice demo on YouTube that does a great job of showing Verse at work in a fictional company: IBM Verse Demonstration – YouTube

IBM Premier Business Partner ColorDavalen is an IBM Premier Business Partner with in-depth experience in IBM social cloud solutions and we stand ready to help you along your journey to a better way of working. Give us a call to discuss how Verse can benefit you.

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About the Author: Art Whorley helps companies grasp the business value of becoming a Social Business. He partners with clients to determine the specifics of a solution and then leads the effort to drive adoption. Before Davalen, Art’s career with IBM spanned 33 years and incorporated experience cooperatively working with customers to identify and meet their specific business needs, promote solution adoption and assist with problem resolution. Recently, Art has focused primarily on Social Business Networking, Messaging and Collaboration, IBM SmartCloud, Mobile solutions, and Web Experiences.

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This article is from our monthly resource e-Newsletter. Did you miss it in your inbox? Visit our eNewsletter archives for past editions or if you want to receive our monthly newsletter automatically, simply write to Ruth O’Keefe and request to be added to our E-Newsletter list. You can also view the Master Series Archives.

Master Series: Overrides in IBM Web Experience Factory

Adam Kewley Davalen

Adam Kewley

By Nature, WEF is a tool that will generally require a fair amount of overriding. The tool is designed with this consideration in mind. Custom overrides may be as simple as extending base html pages, themes, style sheets, or as complex as writing builders and java code that extend existing behavior. WEF also provides additional override capabilities within their builders as well. These features are more for advanced manipulation of a builder and may not always be evident without a bit of digging around. It always helps to dig around in a builder to better understand its capabilities. The builder documentation also provides additional insight.

The easiest override in most builders is the “overwrite existing” input. This input is usually hanging around in the builder call editor in the form of a checkbox. When enabled, it will overwrite any existing object instance in the WebApp that shares the same name. Sometimes this can be very useful for overriding your own code or common components without having to rewrite things.

Another way to handle overrides is with the Profiling capabilities within the Imported model builder. The Imported model will allow you to override profiled entries within the imported model. If the author of the model to be imported has enough information about how others may use their model ahead of time, they can profile several inputs within the model to allow for flexibility within the portlets that are importing the custom model.

Sometimes we may need to override artifacts created by WEF. This can get tricky as the generated code can change at any time. Sometimes there’s no way around this however, so it’s best to document where and when the override of generated code was made. The easiest way to do this is to look at the WebApp tree, from within the designer, and look at the generated JSP within a page or generated methods. The source code will be included in there.

Usually I will stick the method overrides into a Java method builder with comments and debug notes stating that this is a snapshot of generated code. That way if the generated code updates, you’ll know where it came from and how to fix it.

The Method builder can be used to override existing methods within a model. This is very useful for adding additional functionality into WEF when you’re calling a generated method, or a method provided from an external source. For example, if you want to override a service call builder and inject your own conditional logic, you can use the same name as the existing method, and call the renamed method (The WebApp automatically does this) from within your new method.

When overriding any existing files within a project, it’s best to clone the file and give it a new name. Usually the new file can go in its own folder structure which isolates it from the rest of the WEF artifacts. This practice makes it easier to deal with the content in source control as well.

Within WEF there is a configuration file (override.properties) which contains all override java property settings within the project. If you need to change configuration settings in any of the other properties files, the property should be copied to this file instead and edited in override.properties. This ensures that your changes are saved and localized to a single file. Note if the file does not exist in WEB-INF/config, then you may need to create it.

WEF contains may modifier builders which will override existing settings within the web-app. A good deal of these builders are used to modify the internal schema or base RDD within a given model. A good deal of these modifier/override builders can be found within the “Formatting and Visibility” category of the Builder Picker dialog.

Lastly, There are some overrides that may not always be evident. A decent amount of builder overrides can be found in the Theme builder. By Default each model pulls in a specific theme file that is specified by the “bowstreet.themefile” property found in WEB-INF/config/override.properties. If you navigate to the Application Tree view, and expand the Theme node, you’ll see all of the theme definitions in the right designer panel. These definitions will override default builder settings within WEF. A lot of these are involved with Page Automation (DataPage). By utilizing the theme builder (and associated base theme file), you can override a lot of default settings within WEF.

This screenshot shows some of the Theme properties for the given model.

This screenshot shows some of the Theme properties for the given model.

Tips

  • Don’t extrapolate too much generated code from WEF. Instead, try to find a builder or another way to accomplish your task. Code is always changing and it may break without much indication. If you do override, try to comment / debug as appropriate to indicate so and where the code was obtained from
  • The WEF Best practices guide always recommends cloning editable files and referencing the clone rather than editing the default factory files in place. This is mostly due to the fact that a WEF upgrade (fix, feature or otherwise) can and will override any changes you made previously.
  • Locate the default theme object within the Application Tree. Click on the default theme and look at the properties provided in the right UI panel. This will show you a lot of the default override settings for the current theme. By adding your own theme file (or builder) you can change these default values.
  • If you have specific behavior stored in an imported model, consider profiling some of the inputs that you may think need to change in the future. The person importing your model will be able to override these profiled inputs (as needed) to customize your model to meet their needs.

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About the author: Adam Kewley has been working with Web Experience Factory (WEF) for 12 years. He began his career working with the WEF development team itself. Over time he moved from software QA to Development, L3 support lead (assisting the IBM customer support team), and finally on to consulting.  He is a resident of southern New Hampshire.

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This article is from our monthly resource e-Newsletter. Did you miss it in your inbox? Visit our eNewsletter archives for past editions or if you want to receive our monthly newsletter automatically, simply write to Ruth O’Keefe and request to be added to our E-Newsletter list. You can also view the Master Series Archives.

Installing and Upgrading to the New Notes Social Edition Version 9

by Guest Contributor, Andy Higgins, IMCollaboration

Abstract
The new IBM Notes 9 Social Edition client is much more modern looking and has even more potential for customization to suit the needs for your company than previous versions. For the longest time, IBM has promised this type of configurability in the client and with this version, they have delivered. In particular, the ability to configure the Discover Page (the new V9 home page) with a HTML-like company front end delivers the sort of configurability that has been long-promised with the Eclipse-based client. The article below shares lessons learned from recent project upgrading a large-scale environment from IBM Notes 8.5.2 to IBM Notes 9 including the configurable Discover Page already mentioned, key differences in installing the IBM Domino Administration and IBM Domino Designer clients, and recommended Notes.ini settings for Notes 9 and the Notes Browser Plugin.

The IBM Notes 9 Social Edition Clients

One thing that became clear on this upgrade project was that the IBM installation team regards the Notes client as a different product than that of the IBM Domino Administration and IBM Domino Designer clients. For the longest time, I have considered the Admin and Designer clients as simply an add-on to the Notes client, but with the advent of the Windows multi-user functionality and the support of that for the Notes client, I now understand that they are truly separate “products” so to speak.

The Notes Client

The Notes client can be set as a single-user or as a multi-user install. Choose the single-user install when you are sure that all clients will be used by one user only and if the data directory will be in a specific place on the directory path, e.g., C:\Program Files\IBM\Notes\Data.
If you choose the multi-user install, then the data directory will be created under the C:\Users\UserName\IBM\Data path. The benefit of the multi-user install allows for Windows user account data protection security on the IBM data directory. Additionally, the multi-user install is the recommended way to install Notes at present.

The Admin and Designer Clients

The Admin and Designer clients can only be installed in single-user mode. This is an important distinction to make when rolling out client installs. This is now an absolute requirement. You should identify who needs this Admin and/or Designer clients before roll out, which is different to before when they were simply add-on programs to the Notes client. However, this is all made much easier now with the availability of the NICE (Notes Install Cleanup Executable) client, which allows you to clean up previous installations and put a new installation in its place but retain the data and settings of the old client. Thus, the Admin client, for example, can easily be added to a user who may have a multi-user Notes client and the user’s Notes settings won’t be lost.

Installing the Notes Client

Regardless of whether you are running a webkit install or installing as part of a script, your first step in the install process (after removing old plugins through the Windows add/remove programs) is to run NICE on the program files only:
NICE.EXE –rp –qn
This will remove all of the program files in the directory apart from the Notes.ini which must remain for the overlay install to work correctly. –qn makes the process invisible.
The next step is to install the 9.0.1 single-client package directly over the 8.5.2 client.
For the all-client (Admin and/or Designer) option, do the same thing as above. The all-client package can be installed over the 8.5.2 client or the 9.0.1 Notes-only client package. It can even be installed over the 8.5.2 all-client package.

Using the above methodology, you could even install a Notes-only client over a previous Notes Admin client install and maintain the user’s settings.

Running NICE

Using NICE is a best practice when moving from one version of Notes to another. It’s also recommended when moving from a single-user install to a multi-user install, especially because it keeps the Notes.ini on the single-user install in the program files directory (it doesn’t remove it, so the multi-user install can use the Notes.ini that existed before from the single-user install).

For more information, see the Using the Lotus Notes Install Cleanup Executable (NICE) tool IBM technote.

Adding the IBM Sametime 9 Embedded Client to the Package

I don’t need to document adding Sametime 9 to your Notes 9 install here as there is an excellent blog article from the IBM install team that explains this very clearly. Essentially the post explains how you can remove the Sametime 8.5.2 embedded package from the Notes 9 client and then add the Sametime 9.0 embedded client right back in.
The above is a special case, and it isn’t currently possible to do the same thing with, say, the IBM Connections plugin package.

Changing Things in the Standard Notes 9 Package

In the Notes 8.5 releases, just about every additional package was included in the released product. In the V9 release, IBM has taken the opposite tack and removed just about everything. The Composite Application Editor is removed along with Symphony and Activities. OpenSocial is included but can be removed as can the FeedReader (for more details, see the Modifying the Eclipse Features section of the article.)
Notes Minder is still installed by default with V9. If you want to remove this from your Notes package, it’s a little more complicated than you might imagine. You need to edit the transform for the Notes install as follows.
If Notes Minder is to be not installed as part of the package, then add the string NOTINSTALL=1 to the Condition column in the NotesMinder row under Components in the Direct Editor, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Omit Notes minder from the IBM Notes 9 install package

Figure 1. Omit Notes minder from the IBM Notes 9 install package

Recommended Notes.ini Settings for IBM Notes 9

Following are two important recommended Notes.ini settings when installing the v9 package:

  • create_r9_databases=1
    Include this in all clients’ Notes.ini as it will create all new DBs with the new ODS v52 which is now available using Notes 9 (For more details see this post on the IBM Domino and Notes wiki).
  • $ENABLE_ADDITIONAL_KEYSTROKES=1
    This setting enables some keyboard shortcuts that seem to have been removed in V9, so it is recommended that you make them available for clients that use them.

Notes Browser Plugin

I really like the new Notes Browser Plugin (NBP). It works nicely and allows seamless access to all Notes databases using your local browser. The only database it won’t access, however, is your mail database, but that is accessible using the Notes web mail access, so NBP will refer to the web mail interface.
Following are a couple of tips and tricks for Notes.ini parameters that you can include to make NBP work better:

 

  • BrowserUseHttpForiNotes=1 will allow you to connect to IBM iNotes over HTTP instead of HTTPS. In some cases the actual URL to redirect to web mail is an HTTP URL which is then switched to HTTPS when accessing the web mail. However, for the original HTTP URL to work, this setting is required in the Notes.ini.
  • INOTES_REDIRECTOR_PATH=<Server Host Name or IP address> is required when you need to use specific redirector server and/or port (For further information, see the Unable to access iNotes from Notes Browser Plug-in IBM Technote).

 

A Note on Embedded HTML in Mail Items

Be careful using Internet Explorer 10 with Notes; rendering HTML inside of the Notes client (in mail items) doesn’t work too well if you have the setting in your Notes client set to use the operating system browser. IBM currently suggests you disable the HTML rendering by OS embedded browser option using the following Notes.ini setting:
BrowserRenderDisable=1 This checks the setting in the Basic Notes client Configuration shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Disabling the option to render HTML in the operating system browser within Notes

Figure 2. Disabling the option to render HTML in the operating system browser within Notes

Contrary to what is printed in some sources, this setting disables the use of the operating system’s embedded browser. For Windows, this is always Internet Explorer; it is not the OS default browser as set by the user. It also is not referring to the Notes embedded browser the code for which is effectively used when this setting is not checked (Be careful, it’s confusing!)

Plugin_Customization.ini

The first and most important thing you should understand about Plugin_customization.ini is that, unlike Notes.ini, it is not read every time the client starts up. It is only used for the initial client install. If you want to change settings that have been set in the Plugin_customization.ini, then you need to change them via a Desktop Settings policy.
For example, the Plugin_customization.ini parameter to set the client to always use the operating system browser rather than the embedded Notes browser is as follows:
com.ibm.rcp.ui.browser.launcher/USE_EMBEDDED_BROWSER=false
The only way you can change this later is through a policy in the Desktop Settings under Custom Settings → Managed Settings. Click Edit list and edit or add the changed value, and shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Changing a setting in Plugin_customization.ini via a Desktop Settings policy

Figure 3. Changing a setting in Plugin_customization.ini via a Desktop Settings policy

Here are some useful Plugin_customization.ini parameters for modifying the Notes 9 client’s appearance and functionality:

  • com.ibm.rcp.ui/com.ibm.notes.client.discoverpageshortcut=true
    This setting allows for the display of the Discover Page shortcut as seen in Figure 4.
Figure 4. Create a shortcut for the Discover Page

Figure 4. Create a shortcut for the Discover Page

  • com.ibm.rcp.ui/com.ibm.workplace.noteswc.views.NotesHomepage=true
    This setting allows for the display of the Notes Home Page shortcut as seen in Figure 5.
Figure 5. Create a shortcut for the Notes Home Page

Figure 5. Create a shortcut for the Notes Home Page

  • com.ibm.rcp.ui/com.ibm.notes.client.workspaceshortcut=true This setting allows for the display of the Notes Workspace Page shortcut as seen in Figure 6.
Figure 6. Create a shortcut for the Notes Workspace Page

Figure 6. Create a shortcut for the Notes Workspace Page

  • com.ibm.rcp.ui/102=true
    This setting allows for the display of the Notes Contacts shortcut as seen in Figure 7.
Figure 7. Create a shortcut for Notes Contacts

Figure 7. Create a shortcut for Notes Contacts

  • com.ibm.rcp.toolbox.admin/toolboxvisibleChild=false Enables/disables the My Widgets panel (this can also be done in the preference page if it is visible). If true, the widgets shelf will be visible, unless enableSametimeLiveText is set to false.

 

  • com.ibm.rcp.jfaceex/overrideAutoStart=com.ibm.rcp.gettingstarted.GettingstartPerspective This setting stops the “getting started page” appearing automatically.

 

  • com.ibm.rcp.ui.browser.launcher/USE_EMBEDDED_BROWSER=false This setting allows for the use the OS web browser, not the built-in Notes web browser.

 

  • com.ibm.collaboration.realtime.location/showProfWindow=true This setting shows the alert for editing location settings at location change again.

 

  • com.ibm.collaboration.realtime.alertmanager/pref_alertbubble_close_alerts=false This setting determines whether to automatically close an alert after it appears. TRUE = automatically close alert; FALSE = do not automatically close alert.

 

  • com.ibm.collaboration.realtime.alertmanager/pref_event_0_option_1=false This setting prevents bringing the window to front for one-to-one chats.

 

  • com.ibm.collaboration.realtime.webapi/startWebContainer=true This setting needs to be set to true for web-based Sametime presence awareness to work correctly – I always recommend to have this set if you want Sametime awareness working in web browsers.

The Eclipse Install

In basic terms, the Eclipse installation piece is done “within” the actual Notes client install (the Microsoft installer). You can see this reflected in the MSI logs when, at certain points, the MSI goes into a waiting mode. This is essentially where it has handed the installation process off to the Eclipse install; the Eclipse install returns to the MSI install and passes parameters telling it whether the Eclipse install has been successful or not. This is important because you need to look here to check if the MSI install fails as it may not be a problem with the MSI but with the Eclipse install. You can debug a problem by viewing the Eclipse logs under C:\Notes\Data\workspace\logs. Under this location you can see “error” and “trace” logs – the former being less descriptive. Look at the lowest numbered log for the most recent information; most times it’s fairly obvious what the problem is.

Modifying the Eclipse Features

You can remove (or change) certain Eclipse features but only the ones containing the <installfeature> property required=”false” in the Notes install kit’s install manifest (install.xml). These include the Composite Applications Editor, OpenSocial, Lotus Symphony, Connections (Activities), embedded Sametime, and (for single user install) Domino Designer and Domino Administrator clients. All other supplied features must remain as supplied in the install kit.
For example, you can remove the OpenSocial feature from the installation by editing the install.xml file to configure the feature to not install by changing the value below:
<installfeature default=”false” description=”%OpenSocial.description” id=”OpenSocial” name=”%OpenSocial.name” required=”false” show=”true” version=”9.0.20131022-1138″>
When customizing the install.xml file for supplied features, focus only on the installfeature element, not the sub-level feature element.
Note: Do not edit any installfeature element whose “required” attribute is set to true.

Changing the Discovery Page

With the advent of Notes 9, there is a new homepage in Notes called the Discovery Page, as you can see in Figure 8.

Figure 8. The new Discovery Page in Notes 9

Figure 8. The new Discovery Page in Notes 9

This page is fully customizable, but the process is not totally straightforward. If you have an Eclipse programmer on hand, you can direct them to the Notes getting_started feature/plugin, and they may be able to do all the modifications through their Eclipse IDE. You could also engage a consulting company like Davalen to help you with this.

Summary

In summary, this article has addressed many of the options that will help you configure your enterprise Notes client to be more to your users. More user-friendly, more efficient and more effective. The Notes client is a powerful client and Version 9 brings even more power to your users.
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About the Author: Andy Higgins has worked with IBM Notes and Domino on a professional basis since 1996. He is the founder and head consultant at IMCollaboration, a company dedicated to providing IBM Notes, Domino, and Sametime services and applications. Andy has worked for Bank of America as its lead collaboration architect and has also had two stints with IBM as a consultant in both post- and pre-sales technical roles. Having worked with Sametime since its arrival at IBM, Andy concentrates most of his efforts on that product, providing architectural and technical support and consulting. Throughout his career he has also worked on many email migration projects and is an expert on both email and instant messaging interoperability and coexistence. You can contact Andy via email and follow his blog sametimedg.blogspot.com.

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Master Series: Nothing “Vain” About Vanity URLs

Business users of IBM WebSphere Portal version 8.5 can offer customers better digital experiences by using Vanity URLs.

 

by David Wilkerson

Let’s face it URLs are important. However, difficult to remember URLs are often so cumbersome that they must rely on alternative mechanisms for delivery.  Perhaps you, like me, have had the misfortune of pasting a long URL into the browser locator bar only to discover that you are missing the final characters of the string.  Microblogs, such as Twitter, have introduced an era of the shortened URL and with it the ability to communicate concisely. However, it is important to remember that a shortened URL is not always the most effective.

 

For example a terse url such as http://wp.me/1ll9G, offers the recipient no hint of the link’s meaning.

 

Previous versions of WebSphere Portal relied upon some combination of Friendly URLs, URL Mappings, and HTTP rewrite rules.  We’ll continue this discussion by reviewing the function of each of these.

 

Friendly URLs have been around for a while and provide a simple mechanism for page creators to assign a “url” to their page. As with many solutions friendly URLs should probably have been named something else; I believe they should be called “Friendly Paths”.

 

 

For example if you have a hierarchy of pages such as Home with a child page named Sales, the complete URL to the page would be /wps/portal/Home/Sales.  In turn, if a child of the Sales page exists with a Friendly URL page named “Northeast”, the actual URL would be /wps/portal/Home/Sales/Northeast.

 

There are two key points to keep in mind with Friendly URLs. If the page is moved to another location in the portal page hierarchy its path changes and bookmarks pointing to the page will no longer take the user to the intended target. Also Friendly URLs can become long if the page hierarchy is several nodes deep.

 

URL Mappings were a popular mechanism for solving the key limitation of Friendly URLs. A URL mapping could be created for any page in the node hierarchy and doing so meant that each page could have it’s own unique URL that wouldn’t need to be updated if the page were moved. The URL syntax of a URL mapping for the Sales page could be wps/portal/SalesPage and the child, Northeast, could be wps/portal/NortheastPage. URL Mappings had their own limitations. First, if you noticed something “odd” about the URL mapping example, the use of the name “NortheastPage” was used because URL Mappings could not have the same identifier as a Friendly URL assigned to a page. A second limitation was that only users with access to the administrative tools were able to define URL Mappings.

 

URL Mappings are no longer recommended in WebSphere Portal 8.5 but there is no need to worry. Vanity URLs are an improvement. They are available to page creators and incorporate some remarkable features to leverage managed web content as well.

 

What can a Vanity URL do for you? Instead of passing along a URL with the long encoded portal state information or a URL with a “brittle” Friendly URL path, you can forward URLs that reference the vanity URL servlet such as /wps/vanityurl/Sales.

 

As wonderful as it seems that business users are able to define their own URLs there are more benefits. Suppose, for example, a user needed to provide a different URL for various demographic sectors. Using Vanity URLs we are able to create a URL such as /wps/vanityurl/OurCompany and /wps/vanitryurl/AboutUs while serving the same page.

 

Even if this is not enough, there’s more. User’s can specify a language such that the page displays “in the language that the user has configured for the portal.” To do this, select a specific language to display the page and it will be encoded in that language in the Vanity URL.

 

Finally, to top off the features, users can associate content with each of the Vanity URLs associated with the page. Doing this will require placing the Vanity URL into “edit mode” and then navigating to content using, for example, a WCM Menu Component or Navigator that has been placed on the page. Once content is selected the user can return to the page properties and select the relevant radio button choice for content.

 

Here’s a tip: When examining your Vanity URLs the “path” or “site area hierarchy” is shown on the left but the actual content item is named on the right of the Vanity URL properties.  See the screen shot for more information.

 

Vanity URL

 

One more tip for Administrators: Vanity URLs are not managed using XMLAccess. Instead, they are managed through Web Content Manager library syndication. This is another powerful aspect to the feature. As a WCM artifact, they are subject to project/draft management as well.

 

I hope that this article has illustrated how business users can benefit from this powerful IBM WebSphere Portal feature.

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David WilkersonAbout the Author: David Wilkerson’s professional career spans multiple disciplines with a consistent emphasis on discovery and implementation of solutions geared towards achieving objectives of strategic importance. In 1993 David established his consulting practice providing automation of business processes. In 1996 he joined Jacob Solutions, Inc., predecessor to Davalen, LLC where he served as Principal Application Architect and Solutions Engineer. His project management and implementation skills have been put to work in sectors such as manufacturing, health care, banking, and insurance. The tools he employs include Microsoft DCOM (now known as .NET) and J2EE. His practice is to prefer technologies that leverage international standards. For this reason much of his development and implementation has been based, since 2001, on Java-related technologies. David’s professional accreditations including certifications as a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer and an IBM Advanced Developer. A popular orator, David has been asked to speak across the United States on a variety of topics, including many java related topics, document management and web content management. His academic background includes a BA in History from The Citadel, an MDiv from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and post-graduate studies in data communications at Boston University.

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Mail Next, Shifting Focus from In-box Clutter to Work Accomplishment

by Art Whorley

It most likely will come as no surprise that workers spend a lot of time trying to manage their email in-boxes. When you add other notification and collaboration tools, the task becomes overwhelming. The resulting issue is workers become distracted by all the information coming at them and have trouble discerning what’s important and what’s not. How often do we ask ourselves “Which email contained that information and where did I put it?” Perhaps the best quote I have heard on the subject is:

“Remember that email you sent asking someone to do something? Me either.” —Dom Nicastro, CMSWire.

The following statistics, from recent studies, quantify the problem very well.

Improving Collabroation by Adding Social Capabilities to Email

The solution is to deliver a new user experience that empowers the workers, allowing them to narrow their focus to what’s of value across all information sources. They can now prioritize the streams of information coming at them so they can react to the more important items (tune in), and ignore those which are of little to no value (tune out).

IBM’s “Mail Next” is not merely a band aid, or as some have termed it “putting lipstick on a pig.” Mail Next is a revolutionary step forward. With the integrated approach the worker can:

  • Focus on top priorities
  • Quickly search and find anything from the streams of information, regardless of the source
  • Effectively manage to dos

It is delivered in the cloud so there is no infrastructure to maintain and it is optimized for mobile and web access.

While the exact look and feel of Mail Next may vary slightly on IBM’s official announcement date, this is a graphic representation of how the Mail Next home page may appear.

IBM graphic representation of Mail Next homepage

 

Another new innovation with Mail next is the inclusion of Team Analytics. How often are you copied on emails, receive invitations, etc, where you have no idea who the people are or what their relationship may be to you? With Team Analytics, you can quickly view, and understand how they relate to you from an organizational perspective or even in your own extended network.

Team Analytics IBM Mail Next

For a more detailed look at Mail Next and its benefit to users, read the blog entry at the link below:

Blog entry: Inbox, meet IBM Mail Next

Contact Davalen today at (800) 827-8451 for more information on planning, implementing and administrating Mail Next. Davalen sales and technical resources are IBM certified experts in cloud implementations and migrations, and stand ready to work with you to empower your employees.

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About the Author: Art Whorley helps companies grasp the business value of becoming a Social Business. He partners with clients to determine the specifics of a solution and then leads the effort to drive adoption. Before Davalen, Art’s career with IBM spanned 33 years and incorporated experience cooperatively working with customers to identify and meet their specific business needs, promote solution adoption and assist with problem resolution. Recently, Art has focused primarily on Social Business Networking, Messaging and Collaboration, IBM SmartCloud, Mobile solutions, and Web Experiences.

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This article is from our eNewsletter. Visit our eNewsletter feed for past editions or if you want to receive our monthly newsletter in your inbox, simply enroll here.

Do You REALLY Know IBM Big Data? Then We Want You!

ibm-insight-980x220-jake-porway_V2y

Managing Partner, Len Barker, will be attending IBM Insight  10/26 – 10/30 in Las Vegas to search for a new team member to lead our exciting new IBM Big Data practice!

Davalen is extending our product and service offerings at Davalen from our traditional collaboration focus (Portal, WCM, Connections, Domino, Sametime, etc) to include IBM Big Data offerings.

Reach out if you are interested or know someone!

Email: info@davalen.com

Phone: (800)827-8451

Twitter: @Davalen

Master Series: Digital Experience 2014

kevin-wilmeth by Kevin Wilmeth

After a few years of being away from the conference circuit, I got the happy chance not only to present at the 2014 IBM Digital Experience conference in Anaheim, but also simply to attend it.  I’ll fully admit to being a bit of a kid in a candy store with that sort of thing, but I still think there is a great deal of useful takeaway to discuss.  Here, I’ll highlight some of that which should be of interest to developers.

The value of Portal is going up

One thing I had to keep in mind, personally, is that being away from conferences for a few years means that what others have been seeing incrementally, I got all at once.  On one hand, I’d have to watch out not to confuse the revolutionary for the evolutionary, but on the other, having a bit of a gap does tend to illustrate more clearly which trends are lasting and which ones stall.  And the one that seemed biggest and starkest to me is that the business value of using Portal is going up noticeably.

The 8.5 releases illustrate this pretty neatly.  WCM continues to mature.  Forms Experience Builder should prove to be a very effective tool, making forms-based-app development accessible to an ever-larger universe of developer skills.  The new Script Portlet may prove even more revolutionary in that regard, even if its mechanics appear to be simple.  WEF solidifies much of what was new in 8.0, migrates to a better embedded test platform, and provides a convenient path to tap into the same embrace of the JavaScript Web developer as Script Portlet does.  And administratively, core Portal is moving to a much more streamlined update architecture.

I took all this to mean that 1) Portal skills are going to become even more valuable than they are now, and also that 2) they are probably going to change in a few significant ways.  Keep that in mind as we spin through a few of the development highlights.

Forms Experience Builder (FEB)

The new Web-based tool Forms Experience Builder 8.5 (wiki for both traditional IBM Forms and FEB is here) promises to be a very viable way to produce simple portlet apps centered around forms and built-in data capture, and its extension points (including a REST consumer interface) suggest that one could quickly get into non-trivial applications as well.  I got to go through a lab and put hands on it, and was suitably impressed.  I suspect that a whole lot of simple portlets are going to come from considered use of this resource.

Script Portlet – a new landscape for developers

FEB hints at this a bit, but Script Portlet veritably screams it:  Portlet development is now simply and viably available to the mainstream Web developer.  It’s a very clever and simple idea, really:  in each instance of the Script Portlet, a “single-page” application is captured (as configuration) using a JSFiddle-style interface, the application source is stored as a content object in WCM, and the view mode of the portlet runs it.  In coding, there are hooks and shortcuts for REST services known to Portal, and streamlined referencing to other WCM artifacts.  And it is designed to be friendly to whatever JS framework(s) you may wish to use.

The implications here are potentially huge.  Just consider, for starters, that the deployment model does not have to involve anything from administrators, other than allocating Script Portlet instances.  With application source stored as WCM content, the upgrade/enhancement/versioning model is nearly a tabula rasa of creative possibility. The separation between (REST) service development and consumer development is a by-the-book illustration of functional independence on both sides.  And the available universe of competent Web developers simply dwarfs the number of traditional, dedicated Java portlet developers.  Along with the support for existing and future JS frameworks, all this is going to add up to be an enormous help to R&D, PoC and prototyping/demo efforts at the very least, but I’d be surprised if it stopped there.  One could also envision a great deal of interest for mobile-Web apps as well, and others we haven’t even thought of yet.

WEF 8.5 and Liberty Profile

With all the excitement about everything else in the stable, there are still several significant things to report about WEF 8.5.  The “client-side application” builders are more robust now than in their first release in 8.0, as is mobile and responsive design support.  There are some significant new builders such as XSLT Transform, and even some (welcome) re-introduced builders from the old Dashboard Framework, now available in the core product.  The Samples directory grows more robust.  Updated Eclipse, of course, and now you can do WEF development on Mac!

The most significant change for everyone, though, is probably the switch from WASCE to Liberty Profile for the embedded development environment.  It really is luxuriously fast to start up, and all in all is much more what an embedded dev environment should be.  It’s definitely a bit different for someone long accustomed to WASCE, particularly in administration, and documentation can feel a bit sparse, but it certainly seems better aligned with where everything is going and should at least theoretically prove more migration-friendly to other WAS and Portal platforms.

One thing that really stuck out at me, and which I’m still on the fence about, was an important consideration for those of us who have settled in to certain WEF design patterns that deliberately avoid some of the highest-level builders such as View & Form, for their historic tendency to be inflexible when we need them to be flexible.  In short, I got the distinct impression that the improvements being made to the builder set, especially on the client-application side, are now happening fast enough that continuing to avoid these patterns now seems to carry a measurable risk.  (Nobody told me that–it just seemed obvious that a great deal of the new features seem to depend on some of the builders that have proven frustrating enough that we sometimes pattern around them.)  And some of these new features do seem conspicuously powerful, especially in the mobile space.  It’s something I intend to pay some close attention to for a while, and it may be that it is time to reassess some of what have become classic patterns.

WEF Script Application

New for WEF is a nifty builder called Script Application.  Essentially, it uses the Script Portlet’s approach of encapsulating a “single-page Web application” (source references for HTML, JS, CSS and libraries) and integrates that with available WEF service providers.  Especially given WEF’s profiling capabilities, this could be a very powerful way of integrating straight Web development into WEF projects, in much the same way that Script Portlet enables portlet development with basic Web skills.  WEF is already fairly well recognized as an effective rapid prototyping environment;  it can only be the moreso with the ability to integrate WEF services and function with framework-based front-ends.

What does all this mean for a developer?

In coming to grips with this “democratization of portlet development” idea, that Script Portlet so dramatically promises to achieve, I was strongly struck by a parallel I remember personally from (yeesh!) just about a generation ago.  This moment in time, now, seems very much to me like the moment when Lotus Notes really took off as a development tool–which it did for exactly the same reason as we’re seeing here.  Back then we talked about making application development available to the “power user”–folks that weren’t necessarily schooled in hard-core development, but who could assemble the patterns they needed and who also understood the business, and in the bargain they often turned out to be highly creative types as well.  Lots of people were horrified at this idea, but it worked so well that things just exploded, and a surprisingly robust set of business apps popped up out of nowhere, many lasting far beyond their expected obsolescence.  What’s happening now may be different in terms of the technology, but the mechanism for success seems just the same to me:  the stage is now open to a new and untapped creative mass, and I suspect that we’ll see dramatic things from it again.

Of course, this is a little foreboding if you’re looking at these events as having suddenly to compete with every JS/HTML/CSS Web developer out there for work.  Sure it is!  Probably, you’ll have to change at least some of your attitude or approach, but I don’t think that the valuation of portlet development skills is going to go down so much as it’s going to change.  One of the things I certainly hope happens with all this, is that Portal/portlet development actually starts to take off because of all the new possibilities.  (That’s exactly what happened with Notes, and the boom lasted for some time.)  In that event, I suspect that people who already understand traditional (or WEF) portlet development are going to become even more valuable than they are now, not only because they’ll need to advise and mentor this new group as they find ways and needs to tap further into Portal, but as applications get more complex and greater in number, there will actually be further need for complex portlets and apps that go beyond the limitations of Script Portlet, FEB, etc.  The net effect may well be that you don’t do as many simple portlets as you used to, but you may do more complex and interesting ones instead.

I suspect, too, that WEF developers in particular may find that they spend more time working on the service providing end than on the consuming end.  It may be that out of 100 apps that would previously have been done in WEF or RAD, now half of them (to pull a number out of the air) will migrate to Script Portlet (or WEF Script Application), or FEB, or something similar…but they’ll all still need service support.

Conferences are good for developers

Finally, I was reminded how much benefit there is for a developer to attend a conference.  In my own case, three self-observations stuck out in this regard.  First, I got specific information that will help me with my own work, and there is of course obvious value in this.  Next, I got re-introduced to what I call the wide.  It’s easy to get so involved with the specifics of what you’re doing, on a day-to-day basis, that for all the obvious and valuable expertise in that area, one can get lost in the deep at the expense of the wide.  A conference such as Digital Experience can do wonders for re-establishing the right balance for that.  Lastly, and perhaps because of the aforementioned, I also got recharged.  For the kind of personality that gravitates toward development, it is important to see new and shiny things, and to get excited about them.  Not only does it improve one’s general attitude, it also improves the creative process.  In hindsight of course I recall this pattern in myself and many others from a number of years ago, but we are forgetful creatures, and it is useful to have reminders.

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About the Author: Kevin Wilmeth has been working with IBM Web Experience Factory (WEF) since 2001 as a field developer, trainer, coursewriter, mentor, and architect. He came to the Factory from a prior career with Lotus Notes/Domino, where he served the same roles in much the same depth, and for a while specialized in integrating the two technologies. Kevin has also spent some time in the education technology industry, bringing both the technology and the education to people and places that just didn’t have it before. He lives on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, where the fish laugh at him and musical instruments shudder at his very approach.

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This article is from our monthly resource e-Newsletter. Did you miss it in your inbox? Visit our eNewsletter archives for past editions or if you want to receive our monthly newsletter automatically, simply write to Ruth O’Keefe and request to be added to our E-Newsletter list. You can also view the Master Series Archives.

Master Series: Essentials for Delivering Empowering Digital Experiences with IBM Web Experience Factory

David_Wadeby David Wade

IBM ExperienceOne solutions aim to “Deliver real-time flow of insights and interactions—at scale.”   IBM Web Experience Factory is a part of the IBM Customer Experience Suite. With Release 8.5 the product continues to evolve as a framework that can build a solid application that integrates with the many layers in the Digital Suite. The ultimate goal is to deliver solutions that empower the customer across the digital experience.

A lot of what we discuss around Web Experience Factory is about the technical aspects and that is very important. There are times new (or old) developers hit road blocks in the learning curve and need technical guidance. IBM and the WEF community have some great information available and at Davalen we have the Master series along with our consulting experiences. Once you begin to “master” building applications, I believe that Web Experience Factory’s strength is not just the first time you develop a digital experience. It’s the second, third, and later times that you come back to update the application and how it maintains all of the integration points with other applications.

For those of you that travel, you reach a time where you know exactly what you need to pack for four days away from home and generally pack it the same way. When I unpack at the hotel there is confidence that I have everything I need.  For this article I would like to summarize some essentials that I believe are important to “pack” for your solution. The emphasis will be on Web Experience Factory with the mindset no application is an island to itself. My challenge to you is to give feedback some of your experiences in these areas and some essentials that you may have in your WEF suitcase. Together we can help Web Experience Factory as it continues to mature into a world-class framework.

Essential: Coding Standards

Even though a large part of Web Experience Factory is builder based, we still need to establish coding standards. The table below is a list of some standards we have used in the past.   In Agile fashion, our standards can and have changed as we worked through their implementation. Some examples are:

  • Project Names and Project Folder Structure
  • Model Names and Folder Structure
  • Builder Names / Setting
  • Java Objects
  • Custom JavaScript

Besides the naming conventions, you need to establish what patterns are required. We came into one project where there were no output variables in the providers. It turns out that the developers were new to WEF and they used Shared Variables in the provider and consumer models to pass data. It worked but it broke the standard separation of layers that the provider / consumer pattern provides. Another important area is the balance between using a WEF builder and custom JavaScript. Our policy is to always try to use a builder first and then resort to custom JavaScript if the builder did not fit the requirement.

The standards established above should be published. You could use a wiki or a document, but the developers and leads need to know the standards.

Essential: Code Reviews

Standards are of no use unless they are followed and that leads to code reviews. Depending on the size of the team, the review can be very formal or just having a peer review. Code should be reviewed as it is being released to the Development environment so that it will be corrected before moving up to higher environments.

Note that you need to review not just the models and builders, but you also will have Java code, JavaScript, and Html to review.

Essential: Application Documentation

Documentation has many different levels and layers. This article is about documentation located in the WEF project

One common way to document models is using Comment Builders to organize builders.   We have established a basic outline of comments for our service provider and consumer models. A shell model is used for each one in our common folder. This allows the developer to just copy and paste the comments into a new builder. You also can create your own builder based on the Comment builder where you formatted the comment pane based on the type of Comment.

Experience Factory has a “Model Report” that can be run from the Eclipse designer. The information is good, but we want to pull out key information that can help us analysis or debug our application. For example we want to know all of the “Post-Action Behavior” selections in a model since one incorrect selection can affect the whole page. Peter Wilkerson (Davalen) has done some great work in this area.   He has created documentation of the model directly from the generated XML.

Any decision made in the project that is not a “normal” setting should be documented. For example if it is decided in a Service Consumer builder to check the “Use Request-Scoped Result Variables”, this is something that needs documented for future developers. One way to do this is to put a short comment in the builder itself and then use the technique in the previous paragraph to pull out the comments into a summary document.

One other area of documentation to mention is any integration points with other applications. That would include products of the Digital Experience Suite such as IBM Connections and IBM Web Content Management. Those “integration points” will be important for the next essential.

Essential: Testing

Testing is also one of the essential items in the success or failure of your digital experience. An application with many integration points becomes a challenge for the developer to test as changes and updates are made. Those often become “points of truth” when the application has errors. You may be told “Portal is down” when it turns out that the “point of truth” is that the Connections server is down or the Web Services have been changed.

One tool that we use is Selenium for automating our application. Using the tool we were able to automate the successful “happy path” and over time add alternate paths. This allows the developer to quickly regression test the latest changes.

For applications that use SOAP services we use SoapUI to setup the valid requests to the services. As we setup the application we can test the services and then later if something is down then we can first test the service and then work up if it is working.

Overall for testing, we try to maintain the loose coupling of layers so that each layer can have its own set of tests.

This has been a brief look at some essentials for your application. They each have much more depth. It’s the customer and the solution that are the focus. The essentials help us to “deliver exceptional customer experiences.”

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About the author: David Wade is a Portal / Web Experience Factory Consultant with expertise as a developer, team lead, and architect. Before joining Davalen, David was an employee of IBM as a Senior Specialist and as the Portlet Factory Lead for GBS and recently an independent consultant. He has worked on major Portal projects across the United States.  David’s Portal / Portlet Factory background began as a consultant at a manufacturing company in SC. After IBM purchased Portlet Factory from Bowstreet in 2005, he developed and implemented a complete production line system using Portlet Factory on WebSphere Portal connecting with the iSeries. Prior to his Portal experience David spent 20+ years as an iSeries Applications consultant delivering solutions in the manufacturing, education, and media industries.

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This article is from our monthly resource e-Newsletter. Did you miss it in your inbox? Visit our eNewsletter archives for past editions or if you want to receive our monthly newsletter automatically, simply write to Ruth O’Keefe and request to be added to our E-Newsletter list. You can also view the Master Series Archives.

Come Discuss Your “Kneads” with Davalen at IBM Digital Experience 2014

digital_exp2014We all know a full day on your feet going from presentation to presentation can be invigorating for your mind but sore on the body! As 7 time sponsors and attendees of the IBM Digital Experience event, Davalen is all too familiar.

 

How will you combat your fatigue? With a free massage and thinking putty of course!

For the third year in a row Davalen will be providing free chair massages (and the massage therapists to go along with them) to all attendees during open expo hours!

First come, first serve you won’t want to miss this chance to grab a bite to eat, get some relaxation, and discuss your business and technology needs! It’s a win-win!

Don’t have time for a 5-10 minute chair massage? Come grab some Thinking Putty and let your fingers work out during your sessions!

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Look for the complimentary ticket in your conference bag OR simply show up to our Booth #101 – It’s the big one in the expo hall, it should be hard to miss!

 

Massage/Booth Hours:

MONDAY, JULY 21: 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM Welcome Reception and Solutions Expo

TUESDAY, JULY 22: 12:15 PM – 1:45 PM Lunch and Solutions Expo

TUESDAY, JULY 22: 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM Reception and Solutions Expo

WEDNESDAY, JULY 23: 12:15 PM – 1:45 PM Lunch and Solutions Expo

 

And don’t miss the Davalen Presentations:

How ANICO Brought Subsidiary Systems Together to Communication with Policyholders & Claimants in IBM WebSphere Portal

BUS-S05

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

11:15 AM – 12:15 PM

Pacific Ballroom A, Hilton Anaheim

Learn how this organization developed the business case and implemented the project to build an integration solution between disparate systems to more effectively communicate with policyholders and external claimants in their Property and Casualty subsidiaries of American National Insurance Company.  Understand the achievements of this multi-channel solution, best practices and lessons learned, and future directions.  Read more.

 

PDF Generation and Linked Java Object Management in IBM Web Experience Factory

TECH-D23

Tuesday, July 22

03:15 PM – 04:15 PM

Pacific Ballroom B, Hilton Anaheim

This session will use an example scenario to illustrate multiple best practices and general approach to two development problems: generating PDF documents from application data, and how to manage Linked Java Objects (LJOs) in a Web Experience Factory application. The session’s primary focus will be more at the architecture level than at the coding leve, but we’ll certainly be looking at code directly as well. There should be plenty to get your idea factory churning! (Level: Intermediate). Read more.

 

Davalen – Your Platinum Sponsor
800-827-8451
http://www.davalen.com

Booth #101

Come Discuss Your “Kneads” with Your Award-Winning and Trusted Solutions Advisor of 20+ Years

Come visit us at Booth #101 for a complimentary chair massage and thinking putty to help work out the kinks and discuss your business needs.

Award-winning, certified staff, IBM Business Partner for more than twenty years, and a reputation for excellence, Davalen is recognized for leadership among advanced IBM technologies and the practical application of that technology in a business environment.

Davalen takes burdensome business processes and replaces them with a modern Digital Experience that creates competitive advantage. This transformation is facilitated by a service layer design that exposes business Big Data to user experience designers in a way that makes new approaches to online business processes possible.

Specializing in Web Content Management, external and internal portal implementations, mobile solutions, Web Experience Factory development, search and analytics, and SmartCloud for Social Business integrations, when it comes to IBM technology, Davalen’s consultants and contractors have been project managers, architects, mentors and developers on the largest projects cross-industry.

Senior Consultant, Kevin Wilmeth, to Present at IBM Digital Experience 2014 on PDF Generation and Linked Java Object (LJO) Management in IBM Web Experience Factory (WEF)

kevin-wilmethKevin Wilmeth is a senior consultant and instructor at Davalen and has been working with IBM Web Experience Factory (WEF) since 2001 as a field developer, trainer, coursewriter, mentor, and architect.  He came to the Factory from a prior career with Lotus Notes/Domino, where he served the same roles in much the same depth, and for a while specialized in integrating the two technologies.  Kevin has also spent some time in the education technology industry, bringing both the technology and the education to people and places that just didn’t have it before.  He lives on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, where the fish laugh at him and musical instruments shudder at his very approach.

 

Tuesday, July 22

03:15 PM – 04:15 PM

Pacific Ballroom B

 

Track 5: Developing Exceptional Digital Experiences

TECH-D23 PDF Generation and Linked Java Object Management in IBM Web Experience Factory

This session will use an example scenario to illustrate multiple best practices and general approach to two development problems: generating PDF documents from application data, and how to manage Linked Java Objects (LJOs) in a Web Experience Factory application. We will look at how to push application data through XSL-FO stylesheets to generate PDFs dynamically, how to render generated documents in the application, and how to delegate different component tasks to the service and UI application layers. We’ll also take a look at how to construct a friendly and understandable LJO architecture to support integrations that use lots of LJOs. The session’s primary focus will be more at the architecture level than at the coding leve, but we’ll certainly be looking at code directly as well. There should be plenty to get your idea factory churning! (Level: Intermediate).