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Case studies
An Enterprise Maintenance Application

An Enterprise Maintenance Application

The client

The client is a Canadian consulting and product development group. To improve the low office efficiency caused by fast growing business, it is in dire need of a system that provides the maintenance for the enterprise object XML files with a Mozilla XUL UI.

What the client wanted

Currently, at the end-users' side, product information are typically created and updated by mailing Excel spreadsheets or Word documents around. They want to keep the familiarity of being able to email or save a local copy of a product description while working on it, while at the same time improving the accuracy and efficiency of the process. The problem with the current method is that the information is converted to SQL based on a Word document or Excel spreadsheet when it is time to update the Database with the results. This makes error prone and time consuming because everything must be retyped, and requires IT staff.

The new system will make it possible for everyone to submit suggested updates or new product information by filling in a simple XML document. The objective is not for users to directly edit the XML but helps constrain their choices and ensure the document is correct.

This project is to open, create, edit and save the XML files with a simple Mozilla XUL UI. The main objective is to create a client user interface that allows XML descriptions of some enterprise objects to be read and modified. This should allow updates to existing objects as well as the creation of new objects. The purpose of separating the client and server is to allow product and mapping descriptions to be treated as documents which can be e-mailed, compared, put into CVS, and shared in the file system for future reference. This decouples the description of the information from the enterprise system and database so that changes can be scheduled in a rational fashion.

Challenges

  • The adoption of latest technology of XUL.
  • JavaScript code should be structured and object-oriented.
  • The set of object properties are not final, so the code needs to be flexible and maintainable.

Approach

First we thoroughly studied XPCOM, the Cross Platform Component Object Model. It is a framework for developing cross-platform and modular software. The application's running platform, Mozilla Firefox, uses the XPCOM technology.

The client needed the code is as structured and object-oriented as possible, we wrote the enterprise entity "interface" into a separated js file, included it into XUL UI codes as JavaScript library. Its implementation took place in each of the entity classes¡' scripts.

The names of each entity properties are not stable, nor the order of the properties. We introduced the XPath technology to do this string matching for inconstant order of properties (elements). And for the property (element) names, which now become bunch of XPath expressions literals. We extracted them out as constants and stored them as parts of the framework, in order to keep the code as structured as possible.

Benefits

  • OOD method makes it easy for further implementation.
  • Great flexibility and maintainability can be accessed for non-IT staff users.
  • Easy to deploy, all it needs is a browser which supports the XUL and XPCOM such as Firefox or Mozilla..
  • Cross-platform application is available.
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