Saturday, July 7, 2012

Tools of the trade

Five years of Siebel EAI development, and I am still learning every day. One thing I quickly realized was that the Siebel Tools and Application system is not like the contemporary Integrated Development Environment (IDE) used in Java and .NET development. Sure, Tools can solve most of your problems, but every Siebel developer will eventually face a problem which has to be solved using some other tool/utility/script which may have to be written from scratch. Today, I thought I’d share what’s in my arsenal of tools.

Siebel Development

  1. A good text editor is essential for any development need. For years I have been relying on window’s default notepad utility, which is good enough. But it is seriously lacking in features, and hangs when you try to open huge files. I use Notepad2 , Notepad++ and EditPlus. Each has first class CR/LF support, ANSI to Unicode switching, whitespace and line ending graphics and Mouse Wheel Zooming. EditPlus even has ability search and replace special characters (\n,\t) and works nicely with huuge files.
  2. If you work deals with XMLs/XSLs, you will need a good XML/XSLT/WSDL editor. XmlSpy  has been my number one choice, followed by Oxygen. Though I have noticed that there are some minor differences in the XMLSpy XPATH engine between older and newer versions. The XPATH engine in Spy version 6 is similar to Siebel’s own EAI XSLT service. Some of the fine working XSLTs were throwing validation errors in the newer version of Spy, but they worked perfect in Siebel.
  3. SOAP UI. This one deserves a special mention. Not only is it free, it has support for secure webservices , proxies and many other protocols. Its so easy to set up a stub/mockservices, and these have saved my life more than once.
  4. Fiddler. I first used this way back in college, when I wanted to intercept and see the http messages being sent from my system for a project. It’s a free utility from Microsoft, and comes in handy in diagnosing web service related issues. Its got a scripting system, and can be used as mockservice too.
  5. Network tools like PuTTy, WinSCP and FileZilla come here. I also use PuTTY to setup ssh tunnels when I want to route a request via another server.
  6. UnixUtils. A unix developer swears by the huge number of commands at his disposal. Sadly, windows does not provide that many commands, and I thank the geeks for porting these awesome Unix commands over to Win32. These allow me to build bat files and scripts to solve recurring issues.
  7. Although UnixUtils has windows port of grep and tail commands, the UI of BareGrep and BareTail and much more developer friendly.
  8. Oracle SQLDeveloper, TOra and my old favorite, TOAD. You can’t be a Siebel developer without knowing SQL !
  9. I’m sure all you Siebel developers have been in this situation: You have list of data you need to query in Siebel :

The searchspec you need to build is : “val OR val2 OR val3” . Well, that’s all that Orit does. Frankly, I don’t know who developed this utility, but it is something developed by a Siebel developer. All it does is simply concatenate column wise data with ‘OR’ in between.

Other Siebel Things I found on the net

Its sad that Siebel does not provide an Out-of-box documentation feature, which can be used during and development. This is just one of the many problems I have faced.Nice thing is others have faced the same problem, and developed their own solutions for the problem.
  1. The good folks at the Only Siebel blog have released Excel Macro tools which can pull config data for documentation.
  2. Oli has graciously released a lot of his tools for free download. There are script analysers, data loaders and Tracer Tools.
  3. Some useful utilities at the website of Sea Marvel Tech Solutions
  4. Wait…one more utility for Siebel Documentation here.
  5. Here is my own attempt at making an SQL Tracer.
  6. Siebel provides dbisqlc to connect and run SQL statements on your localdb. But I find it painful when there are too many columns in the output, I have to scroll to see the data, and export. Sel2XL is a nice excel macro which does the same thing, and it allows excel formatting.
  7. Sometimes, the easiest way out is direct SQL into the the database. There are SQLs for siebel issues, EIM Mappings, for UI mappings, and so many other issues.

General Use

  1. Window’s default search feature can get irritatingly slow, specially if you need to search across drives and have to run complex search patters. Everything is an awesome ,high speed ,instant search utility for the NTFS file system. You have to try it to see the magic. And did I mention it is free ?
  2. Teracopy is the default copy utility on my systems. Sure, the latest multicopy feature on Windows 7 & 8 are cool, but I still feel Teracopy’s interface is better.
  3. Free Download Manager. For all those loong downloads.
  4. Microsft’s Virtual PC. I use this to setup virtual machines for my Siebel POCs. Its free and no fuss to setup and use. This new version of Windows Virtual PC lets you run Windows XP applications next to your Windows 7 apps for the ultimate in backward-compatibility.
  5. I have been using Liberkey suite since they came out some years ago. They have a free utility for all your day to day needs. NirSoft Utilities Collection is also a good choice.
  6. Autohotkey, DoItAgain. Ultimate Windows Automation.

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