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AppGiniCode Generator
For MySQL v4.61
by BigProf Software

Review

Appgini has a free edition and a pro edition – so what are the “free” restrictions? Well from what I can see there are only 2: a) you cannot save your project meaning that if you want to make changes you’ve got to start again from scratch and b) you can only have a maximum of 4 tables.

Therefore, if you have a small database with 3-4 tables and just want to build a quick web CRUD interface without any regular tinkering with it then you could probably get away with using the free edition.

However at time of writing the PRO edition is pretty cheap at only $59 – but does it lack features?

Well one feature it has that many don’t is the ability to create a new database from within the program. Since this is an uncommon feature it is out of the scope of this review – but suffice to say that if you are new to PHP and MySQL databases then this could prove quite useful as everything can be done in one program.

Installation

There were no issues during installation and it takes around ~8mb of disk space. Installation was straight forward and the installed program took ~15mb of disk space. It comes with the usual link to the publishers website and purchase pages along with an uninstall option.

Interface

The program starts by asking you if you would like to read help, create a new project or import an existing MySQL Database. This last option doesn’t actually import your database, it simply creates a project file by reading the structure from your MySQL Database.

Appgini Opening Screen

Appgini Opening Screen

 

AppGini Connection Screen

AppGini Connection Screen

 

The connection page holds no surprises – prompts for Host, User name, Password and Port Number and a drop down list to select the database once you’ve entered the other connection details correctly.

AppGini Select Tables

AppGini Select Tables

 

The next screen allows you to select the Tables and Views you wish to include in your application (to a maximum of 4 if you are using the free edition).

AppGini Settings

AppGini Project Destination

Finally you save the schema table and it imports it into the main program.

AppGini Main Screen

AppGini Main Screen

The Main Screen shows a row of Icon buttons along the top, with a familiar treeview of available Tables / Fields. By clicking on a Table or a Field you can see relevant options in the main panel.

Personally I feel that the program looks a little old fashioned – like WinZip circa 1994. However, it is logically laid out and that is the most important thing.

I was a little disappointed that despite our test Sakila database having Foreign Keys setup that it did not automatically setup Lookup Fields, meaning I had to go through and set them manually.

One thing I did like however is that you can select up to 2 display fields (e.g. FirstName and SecondName) with a separator between them, and if you go into Advanced you can actually edit the Query used to populate the dropdown.

Apparently it also supports AutoComplete fields, however I couldn’t find the option for this.

It supports HTML Editors which is a nice feature, it also has a date picker and a lightbox (for images) but that seems to be the extent of it’s available widgets.

AppGini Select Theme Window

AppGini Select Theme Window

 

I was not impressed by the first application I created – it looked very, very basic – however I subsequently realised that you can select an Application Theme (there are several built-in, and I believe more available for download, plus you can create your own in CSS) and these look MUCH better than the default.

AppGini Selected Theme

AppGini Selected Theme

Ok so once you’ve selected a theme you are ready to generate the code. It didn’t find my AppServ stack so I had to manually enter the path of where I wanted to create the application.

Generated Applications

AppGini Grid

AppGini Grid

 

The first time you run your application it will ask you to setup database connection details and user login info. Once you’ve done that you’re ready to try out your application.

The pages built for each selected table/view basically show a grid at the top of the page, and when you double-click on a record to edit it, a form appears at the bottom of the page (this initially confused me as it doesn’t automatically scroll down).

AppGini Form

AppGini Form

 

The forms are pretty basic, but do the job, and there is even a print preview option.

The quick search will try to match any field that contains the value you enter, and helpfully highlight the matches. Filters allow you to select one or more field, operators and values with AND and OR to link each strand.

Code / Application Structure

There are HTML templates for the grid rows and for the data entry form for tweaking layout.

The code is fairly clean and well commented, though generally procedural and may also be a little cryptic for a beginner to hand code. One of the bugbears of generated code is when you make hand coded changes then need to rebuild the application, perhaps in response to a new field or table added, you lose all your hand coded modifications. AppGini has gotten around this to some extent by providing “hooks”. Most minor hand coded modifications are likely to be before or after saving a record for example. AppGini provides a Hooks folder containing stub event functions for each table such as BeforeInsert, AfterInsert etc. This means that you can write your event code here and regenerate the application without losing your changes. You can even ask the publishers for a quotation to write the event PHP for you!

One gripe I have is that it uses the standard mysql_ commands instead of PDO which is more secure – however many applications use the standard mysql driver so it won’t be a show-stopper for a lot of people.
In terms of 3rd party plugins it uses:

DatePicker v4.4 by frequency-decoder.com
Lightbox v2.04 by Lokesh Dhakar
DHTML tip message version 1.2 by Essam Gamal
NicEdit – Micro Inline WYSIWYG Editor

Summary

AppGini is a very capable program which is easy to use and produces well commented, if procedural code. It has most of the plugins you’d expect (HTML Editor, Date Picker, Lightbox) though the lack of an autocomplete field seems to be a bit of an oversight – dropdown lists are fine when you have around 100 or less options, but not if you have a lookup table with thousands of records – though to be fair many of the applications which will be built with AppGini perhaps are unlikely to have large lookup tables.

I was quite disappointed that despite the Sakila database having foreign keys, it was unable to automatically set the options for the lookup fields. Not really an issue if you only have a few lookup fields, but can be quite tiresome with a larger database structure. I would also like to see it use PDO instead of the classic MySQL driver – speed isn’t really an issue in this kind of Web Application but security is important.

The interface of the IDE does look quite dated to my eyes, but don’t let that put you off, once you select one of the themes for your generated web application they look quite pleasing, though I’d have prefered a modal edit form rather than having to scroll down to the bottom of the page to find it.

Considering that it costs just $59 it has a lot to recommend it. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of some products, but for a quick CRUD web application you can’t really fault it – and don’t forget that if your database has 4 or less tables and you don’t mind starting from scratch every time you regenerate it, you can even use the free version!

Reviewed September 2011

AppGini Publisher's Website


If you have used this product and have any comments about this review (perhaps we missed a killer feature, or missed some major hole that only manifests itself after prolonged use) then please comment below.

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