As Published In
Oracle Magazine
July/August 2009

COMMENT: In The Field

Choosing the Right Tool

By Mike Riley

Evaluate your organization’s needs against Oracle tool releases.

Airplane passengers often hear, “We know that you have a choice of airlines, and we appreciate your decision to fly with us today.” Hearing that on a recent flight got me thinking about the many choices we are faced with when developing a custom-built application.

As president of Oracle Development Tools User Group (ODTUG), I am often asked this question: “Which Oracle tool should I use—Oracle Forms, Oracle JDeveloper (for Java applications), or Oracle Application Express?” This question is certainly not new, but it deserves to be revisited with each new tool release and changes in the business environment or requirements that each organization faces. This topic is also the subject of an interactive session at ODTUG Kaleidoscope, running from June 21 through 25, 2009. Each choice has pros and cons, and many factors go into making that choice.

In my 20 years as an Oracle developer, I’ve had the opportunity to use all three of these tools at one time or another. One very mature product that continues to perform is Oracle Forms.

Oracle Forms: Legacy Choice

Many companies have a considerable investment in custom-built legacy applications using Oracle Forms. This is not surprising to me, considering that my background with the product reaches to 1989, before PL/SQL. (Do you remember V2 triggers, with the choices for each step such as Reverse Return Code, Succeed on Abort, and Abort on Failure?) If your company is invested in Oracle Forms, if you have experience with it, and if there is no overriding business need to move to a Web environment, using and maintaining Oracle Forms still might be a good choice. Results of ODTUG’s most recent tool usage survey indicate that 40 percent of respondents use Oracle Forms, down from 55 percent two years ago, and 57 percent still consider their productivity above average using this tool.

Oracle JDeveloper: For the Web

With the newest release of Oracle JDeveloper 11g, development shops with a lot of Java expertise and the need to have an external Web presence might choose this option. Oracle has invested heavily in making the Oracle JDeveloper integrated development environment as declarative as possible, making it more attractive to developers and shops with more Oracle Forms experience than Java experience. Our survey shows a sharp increase in Oracle JDeveloper usage, up almost 60 percent from the survey two years ago. This dramatic increase backs up the notion that many shops are constantly evaluating their development options and that Oracle JDeveloper is becoming a good choice for creating Web applications.

Oracle Application Express: Newbie

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Oracle Application Express is the newest of these three choices, and interest in it is high. Oracle Application Express will be featured in more than 50 presentations and 6 hands-on training sessions at ODTUG Kaleidoscope 2009, and I believe that attendees will come away convinced that Oracle is committed to this rapid application development tool.

You can leverage your PL/SQL knowledge in the tool to build some applications in little or no time at all. Within the bounds of the Oracle Application Express development framework, you can also build some enterprise-class applications. I’ve built some very useful applications using Oracle Application Express, and its versatility has convinced me that it should be evaluated alongside Oracle Forms and Oracle JDeveloper 11g, especially as your company’s needs and the technology change.

So which tool is right for you? I’m not sure there is a single answer to this. You should evaluate each development option keeping in mind the business needs; your development team’s relative strengths and weaknesses; your hardware and software capabilities; and the cost of licensing, support, and training, along with the anticipated time to market for using each of the options to build your application.

Check out Oracle Technology Network for more information on these Oracle tools. You’ll also find excellent resources from experts in each of these technologies at the ODTUG Web site. The associate membership is free and gives you access to most of the content on the site. While you’re there, weigh the benefits of regular membership and consider joining. Participating in any user group—international, national, regional, or local—is one of the best ways to leverage your knowledge. Being better informed helps you make better choices.


Mike Riley ( is the president of ODTUG. Riley has worked as a project manager/DBA for Hortica Insurance & Employee Benefits, in Edwardsville, Illinois, for the past 20 years developing applications using the Oracle database and tools. Riley was ODTUG’s vice president for 2007 and 2008 and the Kaleidoscope 2008 conference chair.

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