By mvaughan on Jun 21, 2012
By Killian Evers, Oracle Applications User Experience
Changing the user interface (UI) is one of the most common modifications customers perform to Oracle Fusion Applications. Typically, customers add or remove a field based on their needs. Oracle makes the process of tailoring easier for customers, and reduces the burden for their IT staff, which you can read about on the Usable Apps website or in an earlier VoX post.
This is the first in a series of posts that will talk about the tools that Oracle has provided for tailoring with its family of composers. These tools are designed for business systems analysts, and they allow employees other than IT staff to make changes in an upgrade-safe and patch-friendly manner.
Let’s take a deep dive into one of these composers, the Oracle Composer.
Oracle Composer allows business users to modify existing UIs after they have been deployed and are in use. It is an integral component of our SaaS offering. Using Oracle Composer, users can control:
• Who sees the changes
• When the changes are made
• What changes are made
Change for me, change for you, change for all of you
One of the most powerful aspects of Oracle Composer is its flexibility. Oracle uses Oracle Composer to make changes for a user or group of users – those who see the changes. A user of Oracle Fusion Applications can make changes to the user interface at runtime via Oracle Composer, and these changes will remain every time they log into the system. For example, they can rearrange certain objects on a page, add and remove designated content, and save queries.
Business systems analysts can make changes to Oracle Fusion Application UIs for groups of users or all users. Oracle’s Fusion Middleware Metadata Services (MDS) stores these changes and retrieves them at runtime, merging customizations with the base metadata and revealing the final experience to the end user.
A tailored application can have multiple customization layers, and some layers can be specific to certain Fusion Applications. Some examples of customization layers are: site, organization, country, or role.
Customization layers are applied in a specific order of precedence on top of the base application metadata.
This image illustrates how customization layers are applied.
What time is it?
Users make changes to UIs at design time, runtime, and design time at runtime. Design time changes are typically made by application developers using an integrated development environment, or IDE, such as Oracle JDeveloper. Once made, these changes are then deployed to managed servers by application administrators.
Oracle Composer covers the other two areas: Runtime changes and design time at runtime changes. When we say users are making changes at runtime, we mean that the changes are made within the running application and take effect immediately in the running application. A prime example of this ability is users who make changes to their running application that only affect the UIs they see.
What is new with Oracle Composer is the last area: Design time at runtime. A business systems analyst can make changes to the UIs at runtime but does not have to make those changes immediately to the application. These changes are stored as metadata, separate from the base application definitions. Customizations made at runtime can be saved in a sandbox so that the changes can be isolated and validated before being published into an environment, without the need to redeploy the application.
What can I do?
Oracle Composer can be run in one of two modes. Depending on which mode is chosen, you may have different capabilities available for changing the UIs. The first mode is view mode, the most common default mode for most pages. This is the mode that is used for personalizations or user customizations. Users can access this mode via the Personalization link (see below) in the global region on Oracle Fusion Applications pages. In this mode, you can rearrange components on a page with drag-and-drop, collapse or expand components, add approved external content, and change the overall layout of a page. However, all of the changes made this way are exclusive to that particular user.
The second mode, edit mode, is typically made available to select users with access privileges to edit page content. We call these folks business systems analysts. This mode is used to make UI changes for groups of users. Users with appropriate privileges can access the edit mode of Oracle Composer via the Administration menu (see below) in the global region on Oracle Fusion Applications pages. In edit mode, users can also add components, delete components, and edit component properties.
While in edit mode in Oracle Composer, there are two views that assist the business systems analyst with making UI changes: Design View and Source View (see below).
Design View, the default view, is a WYSIWYG rendering of the page and its content. The business systems analyst can perform these actions:
- Add content – including custom content like a portlet displaying news or stock quotes, or predefined content delivered from Oracle Fusion Applications (including ADF components and task flows)
- Rearrange content – performed via drag-and-drop on the page or by using the actions menu of a component or portlet to move content around
- Edit component properties and parameters – for specific components, control the visual properties such as text or display labels, or parameters such as RSS feeds
- Hide or show components – hidden components can be re-shown
- Delete components
- Change page layout – users can select from eight pre-defined layouts
- Edit page properties – create or edit a page’s parameters and display properties
- Reset page customizations – remove edits made to the page in the current layer and/or reset the page to a previous state.
Detailed information on each of these capabilities and the additional actions not covered in the list above can be found in the Oracle® Fusion Middleware Developer's Guide for Oracle WebCenter.
This image shows what the screen looks like in Design View.
Source View, the second option in the edit mode of Oracle Composer, provides a WYSIWYG and a hierarchical rendering of page components in a component navigator. In Source View, users can access and modify properties of components that are not otherwise selectable in Design View. For example, many ADF Faces components can be edited only in Source View. Users can also edit components within a task flow.
This image shows what the screen looks like in Source View.
Detailed information on Source View can be found in the Oracle® Fusion Middleware Developer's Guide for Oracle WebCenter.
Oracle Composer enables any application or portal to be customized or personalized after it has been deployed and is in use. It is designed to be extremely easy to use so that both business systems analysts and users can edit Oracle Fusion Applications pages with a few clicks of the mouse. Oracle Composer runs in all modern browsers and provides a rich, dynamic way to edit JSF application and portal pages.
From the editor: The next post in this series about composers will be on Data Composer. You can also catch Killian speaking about extensibility at OpenWorld 2012 and in her Faces of Fusion video.