If you want to learn Oracle APEX, you’ll need good sources of information. Finding them is easier now than a decade ago, but not every possible learning material will be a good choice. Here’s some insight from an Oracle APEX developer with almost 20 years of experience in IT.
Let’s start with the obvious: this article is not for everyone – experienced APEX developers probably won’t find anything interesting here, because I’m writing about things that are obvious to people in the APEX community.
I assume this article is for people who would like to learn about Oracle Application Express and are not necessarily professional developers. I’ve described suggestions and tips that will save such APEX beginners a few hours or even days of searching for valuable sources related to this technology. If I can convince even a few new people to use it, it will be a big success for me personally.
Oracle Application Express – APEX – is a low-code platform, which means it’s a solution that can be used to create software a lot faster and easier than in the case of traditional development, and with much less coding required. It’s a great solution, especially if you aim to make database centric web applications.
You build APEX applications from ready-made elements that can be customized through intuitive wizards. With a little bit of guidance, even non-technical people (for example, business managers or employees performing other job roles, not related to IT) can take part in the process of software development.
After that short introduction, I’d like to focus on the first steps a low-code developer should take. I’ll show you how to start working with this technology, and try to answer the question: is it worth it to be a low-code developer?
My first steps with APEX were made in 2010 when Oracle released version 3.2. Back then, applications created in this technology looked quite dated – like something taken straight from the late 1990s.
Despite this, APEX was a breakthrough, because it allowed you to create a working business application without any specialist knowledge – or at least that’s how it seemed to me until I took on my first project. It was an application for handling complaints that was supposed to be used by a French company.
After 6 months of learning and development, a tool was created that was used by around 80 people in total. The application worked without fail until 2019 when it was superseded by a solution that came from the head office. However, the process of learning and developing that app was a real ordeal for me. This was mainly due to the lack of good sources of information and not knowing people who could help me in difficult moments.
My first step with this technology was visiting the website of its producer, Oracle. Unfortunately, 12 years ago the documentation for APEX wasn’t very detailed and rich, and after I saw what it had to offer, I had an urge to just go cry in a corner, lamenting my miserable fate.
There were problems with pretty much everything. The very installation of APEX on an Oracle database was a challenge, and the same goes for server configuration. When a Google search didn’t offer too many answers to my problems, I decided to look for knowledge in books. APEX-related books available on Amazon were a big help here, such as Beginning Oracle Application Express (by Rick Greenwald) and Pro Oracle Application Express (by John Scott, and Scott Spendolini).
In retrospect, while these books were a very good source of specialized knowledge, this form of learning wasn’t vivid enough for me personally – I prefer learning by example and being able to independently test how the acquired skills work in practice.
Nowadays everything can be found on the Internet – often in excess. On one hand, it makes searching for knowledge easier, but on another, it also makes the situation a bit confusing at times. Sometimes you feel as if you’re looking for a valuable piece of information in a big dumpster, full of many different things – some of them quite useful, others, not so much.
Of course, there’s a large APEX development scene in India – it’s a huge country, and Oracle is very popular there. In fact, sometimes I get the feeling that India’s whole IT sector is based on Oracle technology – every second specialist from this part of the world is a database administrator or an Oracle developer. However, due to the language difference, I can’t make use of these learning materials – I don’t know Hindi, and only a small part of these sources are translated into English. I’m willing to bet you’re in the same boat, so I’ll focus on the information available in English.
Finally, there’s one more detail I’d like to mention: when you look for knowledge about Oracle APEX on Google or YouTube, using phrases such as “APEX”, and “developer” you might encounter sources that describe products of a company called Salesforce. They have nothing to do with Oracle APEX – it’s a completely different technology.
The evolution of APEX and what it means for you
Since 2010, the APEX environment has evolved substantially. There was version 4.2, and then, a few years later, the revolutionary version 5.0 was released. Major changes have been made in the last 5 years. In fact, since version 18.1, we get new elements, and improvements to some solutions practically every year.
At the moment of writing this article, Oracle is releasing APEX version 21.2, but this detail isn’t that important for people starting their adventure with APEX. The basic solutions and ideas haven’t changed drastically since version 18 or 19, which means you can still use learning materials created with those versions of the environment in mind. However, knowledge related to APEX 4.2 or 5.0 may be outdated already, so I’d advise you to treat such sources only as a curiosity (or a history lesson).
Let’s start with official materials – and there are really a lot of them. We have the documentation, articles, webinars and videos prepared by Oracle. Personally, I prefer to learn by example, so materials on YouTube and other video tutorials are the best first source of knowledge for me. I then look for articles provided by experts, and finally, I reach for the documentation.
Environment setup and learning from the official website
The first step worth taking is to study the APEX’s official website called Getting Started – Oracle APEX. It’s full of useful information about both the technology and the environment in which web applications are created.
As you probably know, Application Express can be described as a more powerful overlay on top of the Oracle Database, and it won’t work without it. The whole logic of APEX is based on the Oracle DB and database objects contained therein. It means that in order to create an application, you either need to install the APEX library on your own Oracle Database or use cloud solutions and create an account with access to this technology.
Basically, you have three options:
- Always Free APEX Service
- Free APEX workspace
- Downloading and installing Oracle APEX locally
Regardless of what you choose, you will have virtually the same APEX development environment at your disposal. However, for your first steps with APEX, I suggest the option I bolded above – setting up the APEX workspace. It’s a free solution and it’ll allow you to concentrate on application development rather than configuration and installation. I know from experience that you can waste a lot of time creating an environment and know next to nothing about developing your first application.
Creating an account with your APEX Workspace (you can request one here) will give you an “APEX learning space” in minutes.
Want to join a passionate APEX development team? 🔥 Check out our job offers – we’re always on the lookout for new talent!
When you have access to the APEX environment, it’s time to learn the basics. The official Oracle APEX channel – and especially the Build Apps with Oracle APEX 19.x playlist – will be an invaluable help here.
The next step I would suggest going through is the official Hands on Labs tutorials where you’ll find some examples of how to build your first application.
Once you’ve mastered the interface and logic of the APEX environment, you should look for new challenges. At this point, I advise you to take a look at the unofficial tutorials by the retired lecturer Jennifer Kreie which are available on her YouTube channel. This series of videos is one of my favorite sources of APEX knowledge. It’ll show you, step by step, how to build an animal shelter management application. Each video shows a different challenge and describes one piece of the future application. The videos are divided into several groups:
- APEX – a concept for creating a web application
- APEX: Database – the database concept
- APEX: SQL – the SQL fundamentals necessary to use APEX
There’s also a simple website (without SSL, unfortunately) that’ll offer you access to materials required in the steps outlined in the videos.
One important thing to note at this point: while it’s fun to watch how other people create a project, in reality, it takes a lot of time to understand the client’s requirements and how to translate them into an APEX project (and even more time to learn to do it all yourself). Don’t expect you’ll create a complex database application just after you finish watching your first tutorial (or even two of them).
After this introduction, you should know the basics, understand how to create a report or form, secure a page, and – in general – create a simple application that can handle different kinds of data.
However, in my experience, each project that I had the opportunity to implement or participate in, was different. While quite often the same technology is a common denominator for many different systems and applications, and some of your knowledge and experience can be used again to some extent, in the case of many development projects the specificity of the business or sector in which the client operates makes this new project a completely new challenge.
For this reason, I believe that the best way to learn is to carry out new projects – you can be sure the clients will surprise you and raise the bar once again. It’s also worth mentioning that nowadays it’s hard to be alpha and omega in everything, and APEX developers typically specialize in some elements of this technology. For example, there are programmers who are great at creating fantastic dashboards or reporting tools, and there are those who make fantastic add-ons (plugins for APEX).
One important place that everyone comes back to regularly is APEX’s “Shortcuts” section where you will find the most important links related to APEX:
- General Shortcuts – links to communities, presentations, the “Office Hours” periodic webinars
- Learning – videos, books, information about certification, etc.
- Sample Apps – sample applications to install in your APEX environment
- Social Media – the most important social media channels that’ll help you keep in touch with Oracle APEX
Finally, there’s a wealth of knowledge you can find in the unofficial content created by the APEX-loving community. Here are two sources I personally follow:
- APEX Office Hours events – these are the webinars that I’ve mentioned already. They’re my go-to source for news on APEX or certain solutions
- ORCLAPEX Slack channel – it’s a useful place to know. You can always ask for help there when you encounter any problems or want to ask about advanced topics
One thing that I really like about the Oracle community is that people here are always willing to help and share knowledge. Several times when I had some kind of a problem with my application, all I had to do was ask on the Slack channel. Sometimes, you might even get help from someone from the Oracle APEX Development Team. Two years ago I had a big problem with API and web service integration. I got a helping hand from Carsten Czarski (Consulting Manager of Technical Staff and a member of the Oracle APEX Development Team), who not only replied to my post but also devoted his time to help me find the source of errors in my environment.
In general, the APEX community is full of very open-minded people. Of course, I don’t necessarily recommend writing about every small bug 5 minutes after it happens – it’s always a good idea to look for a solution by yourself. However, when you really get stuck, remember that there is someone you can ask for help, and you don’t need to fear making use of that opportunity.
Also, if you want to learn APEX, you should know that it’s a solution that’s constantly evolving and that there are at least five paths behind every door.
Other sources of knowledge
It’s also a good idea to look at companies specializing in Low-Code that have knowledge sharing in their DNA. If you’re reading this blogpost, you already know that one of such companies is Pretius. Our Pretius Blog has been around for a while now, and you can find many articles there that’ll show you how to use APEX technology and other Oracle solutions in a cool way. Here are a couple of examples:
- Oracle APEX interview questions 2021: Technical and soft skills you need to have
- Oracle APEX tutorial: Uncover Oracle’s best-kept low-code secret
- How to integrate Google Workspace with Oracle APEX and Oracle Database: The ultimate guide
- Oracle APEX Global Notification messages: An easy way to make them look better
Pretius also has its official channel on YouTube channel, where you can find interesting materials about APEX (and not just that).
We’re responsible for creating great, well-known solutions for APEX developers, such as Translate APEX and the Pretius Development Tool. The former is a project that, thanks to the APEX community, allows you to translate your application into languages that Oracle does not officially support. The latter is a plugin created specifically for developers, offering several useful features that’ll make your life much easier.
If you’re reading this article because you want to introduce APEX in your company, maybe we can help you with that and assemble a great APEX development team for your project. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us what you need – we’ll get back to you in 48 hours.
APEX is a powerful low-code platform, and nowadays it’s much easier to learn than when I started my journey. There’s no shortage of sources and tutorials, so be sure to use them to your advantage. However, remember that the most important thing is to simply work with the technology – fiddle with it, test what you’ve learned, try new things, get new experiences and constantly look for ways to improve. I’m sure you’ll start making great apps in no time.
Last word for the end: the fact that APEX is a low-code tool doesn’t mean using it doesn’t require any effort, and that low-code developers aren’t real programmers. 🙂
However, in real-life circumstances, when you meet requirements specified by the clients regarding future business applications, you’ll quickly see that a platform like Oracle APEX can offer you many business advantages during the project’s development – I’m sure of it! Try it out and see for yourself.