Recommendations for DB-centric RAD/Web tool?

Discussion in 'ASP.NET Starter Kits' started by CrashAlpha, Jan 21, 2011.

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  1. I'm looking for a RAD tool that will quickly allow me to develop web apps for SQL Server 2008. Basically, I want to do the DB design then have the app generate master detail CRUD apps based on FK and PK constraints.

    So far, I've evaluated:

    IronSpeed (way too expensive for a small company, apparently obsessed with license issues)

    CodeOnTime (makes no sense to me, no visual design features, didn't generate what I expected given the declared relations)

    CodeCharge (looks promising, but frustratingly buggy, never go to see what it would generate)

    Intuit QuickBase (perfect in concept, entirely web-based design tool, but connects to proprietary DB that they host and charge a fortune for)

    I have tons of back-office programming to do, but the CRUD UI stuff is straightforward and I don't have the time for it. I have to design the DB anyway, so something which discovers all the relations and deduces the navigation hierarchy is what I am looking for. It doesn't have to be ASP.NET based - in fact, a web based SaaS/cloud/thingy would be even better.

    Please help - I'm all trial-versioned out!
  2. RayH

    RayH DiscountASP.NET Lackey DiscountASP.NET Staff

  3. The MS offering nowadays is

    It targets business types who traditionally liked to play around with spreadsheets / documents and VBA macros etc and Microsoft have decided to move the technology on to enable these people to create real applications - desktop, web and cloud (azure only I expect). Lightswitch projects and solutions are compatible with Visual Studio. It's still in beta though.

    I expect this will be the same as all of these types of tools - great to the point where you need some functionality in your application that requires you to stray from the path of: point / click / drag / drop - and it's at this point you actually have to write some code.

    Health warning: sometimes you can end up wishing you hadn't bothered with a RAD tool and had done all of the work yourself due to the limitations you end up finding in the environment your app has been developed in.
  4. In the 90's I programmed scripts for code generators, so any time we had a problem, we just created new functionality! But then again (to your point) this was because I had been so badly burned by other RAD tools...

    Great recommendation, though - the tools I've seen so far have either been either unintuitive, buggy or expensive. A Beta wouldn't be that far off. I'll give Alpha Five a go, I realised that I remember it from the xBase days - it was originally a 4GL approach to dBase aimed at power users. It still has some weird metaphor where you have to have an ADDITIONAL application server, even if you are connecting to a SQL DB. Sounds like a cross between a licensing issue and legacy requirements.

    Let's see what LightSpeed does... being an SF geek, gotta love the name. And it's Microsoft. What could go wrong? :rolleyes:
  5. I work for Alpha Software who makes Alpha Five.

    The first 5 people who email me at and reference this post will be eligible for a full copy Alpha Five (normally $349) at no charge.

    Examples of Web apps built by customers in Alpha Five are at

    Btw a lot of Access users who want to build web apps rapidly are switching to Alpha Five

    Even thought Alpha Five is a RAD tool for building AJAX web apps against SQL databases rapidly, it has a built in security framework, built in reporting and a full programming language
  6. Tried LightSwitch - (not LightSpeed as I had thought it was named). Got off to a strong-ish start and then found out that it can't be deployed (it may be a violation of the beta license but frankly I really AM doing a beta test!) and even when I DID go for deployment, I got errors. I Googled "lightswitch discountasp publish failure" or something like that, found a suggested solution listing DLL's to copy and GAC to maintain and...

    Oh, forget it. That's just the sort of thing I wanted to avoid. To be fair, Lightswitch started off strong and looked very, very slick. It was nice to work with some 21st century web technology.

    I've scripted DB-centered app generators before, using a data-first-design principle. I was even able to create a general purpose desktop utility that could browse the entire DB logically, letting you do CRUD based entirely on the relations defined in the data dictionary, letting you drill through all of the realted grids annd edit pages logically. This would easily replace the general functionality of most of the application base - but of course we wrote firendly user apps anyway.

    It proved that if you design the data right, the applications can write themselves - and this was with Clipper and DBF tables!

    Now I've got a SQL Server 2008 DB with FK's defined, it seems to me that a good tool would look at these and see the business logic and start rendering automatically from there. I haven't really seen that yet - with the possible exception of Iron Speed which appears to be targetting... well, millionaires.

    If there are any other suggestions, I'd love to hear them, but right now I'm pretty pessimistic. I'm kind of amazed, it seems like such an obvious product that I'd thought someone would have developed this, and that the copmetition would have created something that wasn't out of the realistic budget of a small company. Apparently not.
  7. Maybe Lightswitch will get there but it's early days and you're right - it is still in beta. You might have gathered from my 1st post that I'm not a fan of RAD / 4GL app generator type applications because I much prefer to have complete control of everything possible.

    That said, here's another possibility - Entityspaces. This isn't really an app creation environment/IDE but is actually an ORM framework (think MS Entity Framework, nHibernate etc) however the reason I've mentioned it is because it comes with the ability to create ASP.NET grids and editing forms based on pre-existing well designed db schema - e.g. ES WebAdminGrids.

    It's not free but not expensive and there is a free 45 day eval available so you could try it out on DASP if you wanted to.
  8. Hi there.

    The tool you're looking for exists and you've already found it; Iron Speed Designer.

    You've hit the nail on the head

    it seems to me that a good tool would look at these and see the business logic and start rendering automatically from there

    Iron Speed Designer does precisely this, generating you a well-structured ASP .Net application that you can then customise with your business logic. It does everything you're looking for and does it extremely competently.

    Your issue with the cost of the product is understandable - to a point. Purchasing Designer may appear to be expensive but you have to look at the full cost of ownership. How much does your time cost? How many hours of your time is Designer going to save you?

    I'd strongly recommend you download the free version of Designer and check it out. Once you've seen what it can do for you, I'd be amazed if you didn't realise it was excellent value.

    We use Designer all the time (for some apps hosted on Discount ASP .Net too) and it paid for itself with the first project.

    James Whistler
  9. I echo James' sentiments. I have used Iron Speed Developer for several years now and watched the product mature and come to be something truly amazing. My license and support costs are recouped in the first project each year. In my experience, Iron Speed doesn't cost as much as it pays.
    Michael Weiss
    Occasio Systems Development LLC
  10. I completely agree with Michael. Iron Speed just works. No runtime licensing fees, no proprietary coding language etc. Pure .NET, with a health mix of AJAX and javascript. And you don't even need to code in most cases. Deployment is straightforward too!

    Miles Gibson
  11. mjp

    mjp DiscountASP.NET Staff

    Wow, so many first post users with such glowing things to say! What are the odds?

    I think I'll close this promotional thread now. You guys need to learn to dial it back a little bit. You're being way too obvious.
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