Delphi Programming Guide
Delphi Programmer 

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Part I - Foundations
  Chapter 1 Delphi 7 and Its IDE
  Chapter 2 The Delphi Programming Language
  Chapter 3 The Run-Time Library
  Chapter 4 Core Library classes
  Chapter 5 Visual Controls
  Chapter 6 Building the User Interface
  Chapter 7 Working with Forms
Part II - Delphi Object-Oriented Architectures
  Chapter 8 The Architecture of Delphi Applications
  Chapter 9 Writing Delphi Components
  Chapter 10 Libraries and Packages
  Chapter 11 Modeling and OOP Programming (with ModelMaker)
  Chapter 12 From COM to COM+
Part III - Delphi Database-Oriented Architectures
  Chapter 13 Delphi's Database Architecture
  Chapter 14 Client/Server with dbExpress
  Chapter 15 Working with ADO
  Chapter 16 Multitier DataSnap Applications
  Chapter 17 Writing Database Components
  Chapter 18 Reporting with Rave
Part IV - Delphi, the Internet, and a .NET Preview
  Chapter 19 Internet Programming: Sockets and Indy
  Chapter 20 Web Programming with WebBroker and WebSnap
  Chapter 21 Web Programming with IntraWeb
  Chapter 22 Using XML Technologies
  Chapter 23 Web Services and SOAP
  Chapter 24 The Microsoft .NET Architecture from the Delphi Perspective
  Chapter 25 Delphi for .NET Preview: The Language and the RTL
       
  Appendix A Extra Delphi Tools by the Author
  Appendix B Extra Delphi Tools from Other Sources
  Appendix C Free Companion Books on Delphi
       
  Index    
  List of Figures    
  List of tables    
  List of Listings    
  List of Sidebars  

 
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Introducing IntraWeb

IntraWeb is a component library currently produced by Atozed Software (www.atozedsoftware.com). In Delphi 7 Professional and Enterprise, you can find the corresponding version of IntraWeb. The professional version can be used only in Page mode, as you'll see later in this chapter. Although Delphi 7 is the first version of the Borland IDE to include this set of components, IntraWeb has been around for several years; it has received appraisal and support, including the availability of several third-party components.

Tip 

IntraWeb third-party components include IWChart by Steema (the makers of TeeChart), IWBold by Centillex (for integration with Bold), IWOpenSource, IWTranslator, IWDialogs, IWDataModulePool by Arcana, IW Component Pack by TMS, and IWGranPrimo by GranPrimo. You'll find an updated list of third parties on www.atozedsoftware.com.

Although you don't have the source code for the core library (available on request and upon a specific payment), the IntraWeb architecture is fairly open, and the full source code of the components is readily available. IntraWeb is part of the Delphi standard installation now, but it is also available for Kylix. Written with care, IntraWeb applications can be fully cross-platform.

Note 

In addition to the Delphi and Linux versions, C++ Builder and Java versions of IntraWeb are available. A .NET version is in the works and will probably become available along with a future Delphi for .NET version.

As an owner of Delphi 7, you're entitled to receive the first significant update release (version 5.1) and can upgrade your license to a full IntraWeb Enterprise edition including upgrades and support from Atozed Software (see their website for details). More serious documentation (help and PDF files) will be available in this 5.1 upgrade.

From Websites to Web Applications

As I mentioned earlier, the idea behind IntraWeb is to build web applications rather than websites. When you work with WebBroker or WebSnap (covered in Chapter 20, "Web Programming with WebBroker and WebSnap"), you think in terms of web pages and page producers, and work closely at the HTML generation level. When you work with IntraWeb, you think in terms of components, their properties, and their event handlers, as you do in Delphi visual development.

For example, create a new IntraWeb application by selecting File ® New ® Other, moving to the IntraWeb page of the New Items dialog box, and choosing Stand Alone Application. In the following dialog box (which is part of Delphi, not of the IntraWeb wizard) you can choose an existing folder or enter a new one that will be created for you (I'm mentioning this because it is far from clear in the dialog). The resulting program has a project file and two different units (I'll cover this structure later).

For the moment, let's create an example (called IWSimpleApp in the book's source code). To build it, follow these steps:

  1. Move to the main form of the program and add to it a button, an edit box, and a list box from the IW Standard page of the Components palette. That is, don't add the VCL components from the Standard page of the palette—instead, use the corresponding IntraWeb components: IWButton, IWEdit, and IWListbox.

  2. Slightly modify their properties as follows:

    object IWButton1: TIWButton
      Caption = 'Add Item'
    end
    object IWEdit1: TIWEdit
      Text = 'four'
    end
    object IWListbox1: TIWListbox
      Items.Strings = (
        'one'
        'two'
        'three')
    end
    
  3. Handle the OnClick event of the button by double-clicking on the component at design time as usual and writing this familiar code:

    procedure TformMain.IWButton1Click(Sender: TObject);
    begin
      IWListBox1.Items.Add (IWEdit1.Text);
    end;
    

That's all it takes to create a web-based application capable of adding text to a list box, as you can see in Figure 21.1 (which shows the final version of the program, with a couple more buttons). The important thing to notice when you run this program is that every time you click the button, the browser sends a new request to the application, which runs the Delphi event handler and produces a new HTML page based on the new status of the components on the form.

Click To expand
Figure 21.1:  The IWSimpleApp program in a browser

As you execute the application, you won't see the program output in the browser, but rather IntraWeb's controller form, shown in Figure 21.2. A stand-alone IntraWeb application, is a full-blown HTTP server, as you'll see in more detail in the next section. The form you see is managed by the IWRun call in the project file created by default in each stand-alone IntraWeb application. The debug form allows you to select a browser and run the application through it or copy the URL of the application to the Clipboard, so you can paste it within your browser. It's important to know that the application will by default use a random port number, which is different for each execution; so, you'll have to use a different URL every time. You can modify this behavior by selecting the server controller's designer (similar to a data module) and setting the port property. In the example I've used 8080 (one of the common HTTP ports), but any other value will do.

Click To expand
Figure 21.2: The controller form of a stand-alone IntraWeb application

IntraWeb code is mainly server side, but IntraWeb also generates JavaScript to control some application features; you can also execute extra code on the client side. You do so by using specific client-side IntraWeb components or by writing your own custom JavaScript code. As a comparison, the two buttons at the bottom of the form in the IWSimpleApp example show a message box using two different approaches.

The first of these two buttons (IWButton2) shows a message using a server-side event, with this Delphi code:

procedure TformMain.IWButton2Click(Sender: TObject);
var
  nItem: Integer;
begin
  nItem := IWListbox1.ItemIndex;
  if nItem >= 0 then
    WebApplication.ShowMessage (IWListBox1.Items [nItem])
  else
    WebApplication.ShowMessage ('No item selected');
end;

The second of these two buttons (IWButton3) uses JavaScript, which is inserted in the Delphi program by setting the proper JavaScript event handler in the special property editor for the ScriptEvents property:

A First Look Behind the Scenes

You have seen that creating an IntraWeb application is as simple as creating a Delphi form-based program: You place components on a form and handle their events. Of course, the effect is rather different, because the application runs in a browser. To give you a feel for what's going on, let's briefly look behind the scenes of this simple program. Doing so should help you understand the effect of setting the component properties and of working with them in general.

This is a browser-based program, so there is no better way to understand it than by looking at the HTML it sends to the browser. Open the source of the IWSimpleApp program's page (not listed here, because it would waste too much book space), and you'll notice it is divided into three main sections. The first is a list of styles (based on the HTTP style tag) with lines like the following:

.IWEDIT1CSS {position:absolute;left:40;top:40;z-index:100;
  font-style:normal;font-size:10pt;text-decoration:none;}

IntraWeb uses styles to determine not only the visual appearance of each component, such as its font and color, but also the component's position, using default absolute positioning. Each style is affected by a number of the IntraWeb component's properties, so you can easily experiment if you have some knowledge of style sheets. If you aren't familiar with style sheets, just use the properties and trust that IntraWeb will do its best to render the components in the web page.

The second block consists of JavaScript scripting. The main script block contains initialization code and the code of client-side event handlers for the components, like the following:

function IWBUTTON1_OnClick(ASender) {
  return SubmitClickConfirm('IWBUTTON1','', true, '');
}

This handler invokes the corresponding server-side code. If you've provided the JavaScript code directly in the IntraWeb application, as discussed earlier, you'll see this code:

function IWBUTTON3_onClick(ASender) {
  window.alert(ASender.value);
}

The scripting section of the page has also references to other files required by the browser and made available by IntraWeb. Some of these files are generic; others are tied to the specific browser: IntraWeb detects the browser being used and returns different JavaScript code and base JavaScript files.

Note 

Because JavaScript is not identical on all browsers, IntraWeb supports only some of them, including all recent versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator, and the open-source Mozilla (which I've used while writing this chapter). Opera has more limited JavaScript support, so by default if it is recognized IntraWeb will issue an error (depending on the SupportedBrowsers property of the controller). Opera can be used with the free Arcana components and will officially be supported in IW 5.1. Keep in mind that a browser can fake its identity: For example, Opera is often set to identify itself as Internet Explorer, preventing a proper identification to make it possible to use sites restricted to other browsers, but possibly leading to run time errors or inconsistencies.

The third part of the generated HTML is the definition of the page structure. Inside the body tag is a form tag (on the same line) with the next action to be executed:

<form onsubmit="return FormDefaultSubmit();" name="SubmitForm"
  action="/EXEC/3/DC323E01B09C83224E57E240" method="POST">

The form tag hosts the specific user interface components, such as buttons and edit boxes:

<input type="TEXT" name="IWEDIT1" size="17" value="four"
  id="IWEDIT1" class="IWEDIT1CSS">
<input value="Add Item" name="IWBUTTON1" type="button"
  onclick="return IWBUTTON1_OnClick(this);"
  id="IWBUTTON1" class="IWBUTTON1CSS">

The form has also a few hidden components that IntraWeb uses to pass information back and forth. However, the URL is the most important way to pass information in IntraWeb; in the program it looks like this:

http://127.0.0.1:8080/EXEC/2/DC323E01B09C83224E57E240

The first part is the IP address and port used by the stand-alone IntraWeb application (it changes when you use a different architecture to deploy the program), followed by the EXEC command, a progressive request number, and a session ID. We'll get back to session later on, but suffice to say that IntraWeb uses a URL token instead of cookies to make its applications available regardless of browser settings. If you prefer, you can use cookies instead of URLs by changing the TrackMode property in the server controller.

Warning 

The version of IntraWeb that shipped with Delphi 7 had a bug involving cookies and some time zone settings. It has been fixed, and the patch is available as a free update on the Atozed software website.

IntraWeb Architectures

Before I write more examples to demonstrate the use of other IntraWeb components available in Delphi 7, let's discuss another key element of IntraWeb: the different architectures you can use to create and deploy applications based on this library. You can create IntraWeb projects in Application mode (which accounts for all of the features of IntraWeb) or Page mode (which is a simplified version you can plug into existing Delphi WebBroker or WebSnap applications). Application mode applications can be deployed as ISAPI libraries, Apache modules, or by using IntraWeb Standalone mode (a variation of the Application mode architecture). Page mode programs can be deployed as any other WebBroker application (ISAPI, Apache module, CGI, etc.). IntraWeb features three different but partially overlapping architectures:

Standalone Mode  Provides you with a custom web server, as in the first example you built. This is handy for debugging the application (because you can run it from the Delphi IDE and place breakpoints anywhere in the code). You can also use Standalone mode to deploy applications on internal networks (intranets) and to let users work in offline mode on their own computers, with a web interface. If you run a stand-alone IntraWeb program with the –install flag, it will run as a service, and the dialog box won't appear. Standalone mode gives you a way to deploy an Application mode IntraWeb program using IntraWeb itself as web server.

Application Mode  Allows you to deploy an IntraWeb application on a commercial server, building an Apache module or an IIS library. Application mode includes session management and all the IntraWeb features and is the preferred way to deploy a scalable application for use on the Web. To be precise, Application mode IntraWeb programs can be deployed as stand-alone programs, ISAPI libraries, or Apache modules.

Page Mode  Opens a way to integrate IntraWeb pages in WebBroker and WebSnap applications. You can add features to existing programs or rely on other technologies for portions of a dynamic site based on HTML pages, while providing the interactive portions with IntraWeb. Page mode is the only choice for using IntraWeb in CGI applications, but it lacks session-management features. Stand-alone IntraWeb servers do not support Page mode.

In the examples in the rest of the chapter, I'll use Standalone mode for simplicity and easier debugging, but I'll also cover Page mode support.


 
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