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Oracle Forms is sold and released separately from the Oracle Database. However, major releases of an Oracle database usually result in a new major version of Oracle Forms to support new features in the database.
Oracle Forms started as Interactive Application Facility (IAF), which had two main components: the compiler (Interactive Application Generator - IAG) and the runtime interpreter (Interactive Application Processor - IAP). Released with Oracle Database version 2, IAF provided a character mode interface to allow users to enter and query data from an Oracle database. It was renamed to FastForms with Oracle Database version 4 and added an additional tool to help generate a default form to edit with IAG, the standard tool. The product saw one more name change before gaining its current moniker, called SQL*Forms version 2 with the Oracle 5 database.
Oracle Forms 2.3 was character-based, and did not use PL/SQL. The source file was an *.INP ASCII file. This enabled developers to commonly edit the INP file directly, although that editing method was not supported by Oracle. This version used its own primitive and unfriendly built-in language, augmented by user exits—compiled language code linked to the binary of the Oracle-provided run-time.
Oracle Forms 3 was character-based, and by using PL/SQL was the first real version of Forms. All subsequent versions are a development of this version. It could run under X but did not support any X interface-specific features such as checkboxes. The source file was an *.INP ASCII file. The IDE was vastly improved from 2.3 which dramatically decreased the need to edit the INP file directly, though this was still a common practice. Forms 3 automatically generated triggers and code to support some database constraints. Constraints could be defined, but not enforced in the Oracle 6 database at this time, so Oracle used Forms 3 to claim support for enforcing constraints. There was a "GUI" version of Forms 3 which could be run in environments such as X Window, but not Microsoft Windows. This had no new trigger types, which made it difficult to attach PL/SQL to GUI events such as mouse movements.
Oracle Forms version 4.0 was the first "true" GUI based version of the product. A character-based runtime was still available for certain customers on request. The arrival of Microsoft Windows 3 forced Oracle to release this GUI version of Forms for commercial reasons. Forms 4.0 accompanied Oracle version 6 with support for Microsoft Windows and X Window. This version was notoriously buggy and introduced an IDE that was unpopular with developers. The 4.0 source files became binary and were named *.FMB. This version was not used by the Oracle Financials software suite.
Oracle Forms version 4.5 was really a major release rather than a "point release" of 4.0 despite its ".5" version number. It contained significant functional changes and a brand new IDE, replacing the unpopular IDE introduced in 4.0. It is believed to be named 4.5 in order to meet contractual obligations to support Forms 4 for a period of time for certain clients. It added GUI-based triggers, and provided a modern IDE with an object navigator, property sheets and code editor.
Due to conflicting operational paradigms, Oracle Forms version 5 accompanied Oracle version 7. It featured custom graphical modes tuned especially for each of the major systems, though its internal programmatic interface remained system-independent. It was quickly superseded by Forms 6, which was released with Oracle 8.0 database and was rereleased as Forms 6i with Oracle 8i. This was basically Forms 4.5 with some extra wizards and bug-fixes. But it also included the facility to run inside a web server. A Forms Server was supplied to solve the problem of adapting Oracle Forms to a three-tier, browser-based delivery, without incurring major changes in its programmatic interface. The complex, highly interactive form interface was provided by a Java applet which communicated directly with the Forms server. However the web version did not work very well over HTTP. A fix from Forms 9i was retrofitted to later versions of 6i to address this.
The naming and numbering system applied to Oracle Forms underwent several changes due to marketing factors, without altering the essential nature of the product. The ability to code in Java, as well as PL/SQL, was added in this period. Forms 7 was never release to the public and only existed internally as Project Cherokee. Version 8 did not exist; This number was jumped over in order to allow the Oracle Forms version number to match the database version in v9. Forms 9i included many bug fixes to 6i and was a stable version, but it did not include either client–server or character-based interfaces, and three-tier, browser-based delivery is the only deployment option. The ability to import java classes means that it can act as a web service client.
Forms 10g is actually Forms version 9.0.4, so is merely a rebadged forms 9i. Forms 11 includes some new features, relying on Oracle AQ to allow it to interact with JMS.
Read more about this topic: Oracle Forms
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