Oracle has a keen interest in the low-code/no-code market, operating not one but two distinct platforms – Oracle Visual Builder Cloud Services and Oracle APEX. How are these technologies similar, and how do they differ? When should you use each of them? I have used both these platforms during my long adventure with low-code (over 16 years now!), and I’ll try to answer all these questions (and more) below.

Oracle APEX – what is it, and what makes it interesting?

A screen showing APEX logo.

Oracle APEX, previously known as Oracle Application Express (and also Flows and Project Marvel before that), is the more mature of the two low-code tools I’ll focus on in this article – it’s been around for over 20 years. It’s a great platform for building various data-driven, responsive web applications.

One thing to understand about APEX is that it is, in essence, a tool built for the same people who have dealt with software for decades, i.e., programmers, database experts, etc. Sure, it allows you to simplify and speed up development considerably, and it might encourage citizen development (enabling people without tech skills to take a more active role in the software development process), but to get the most out of it, you’ll still need some coding and knowledge about SQL, PL/SQL, relational databases, CSS, etc. 

This also means that, despite its modern nature, APEX is rooted deeply in a somewhat old tech stack that many younger developers might find unattractive.

However, currently – and in the foreseeable future – APEX is also Oracle’s main development platform. They’ve made it an important part of their business, invest a lot of money in it, and improve it constantly. Just look at the APEX new features realeased in several last versions of the platform.

🔥 Want to learn more about Oracle APEX? Check out the fantastic article written by my colleague – also an Oracle ACE Pro – Matt Mulvaney: Oracle APEX tutorial: Uncover Oracle’s best-kept low-code secret

Oracle APEX main advantages

Here are some of the most interesting things about APEX and reasons why it’s a great low-code development platform:

  • APEX exists within Oracle Database (DB) and, crucially, is free if you have already paid for the database (which many companies rely on)
  • It standardizes the process of software development
  • It’s a low-code tool – it allows you to create many things using the built-in features and wizards, but you can extend its functionality with coding
  • You can run it anywhere – on the cloud, on-premise, etc. APEX apps can be easily deployed across any environment – you just need an Oracle Database behind it 
  • My honest opinion (based on years of experience in “normal” and low-code development) is that APEX is very secure, flexible and powerful – despite the ease of use

APEX use scenarios

APEX can be used for building many kinds of solutions – not just simple apps, but entire complex systems, solutions, and products. Here are some examples:

It’s also worth noting that APEX is a great tool when you want to modernize your legacy applications – especially ones built on outdated Oracle solutions like Forms, Reports, Discoverer and OBIEE.

🚀 Interested in low-code application development? Reach out to us at, and tell us what you need!

What is Oracle Visual Builder?

An image showing VBCS logo.

Oracle Visual Builder (also known as Visual Builder Cloud Services or just VBCS) is much newer than APEX – its first version was released just 6 years ago, in 2018. The idea behind its creation was also different. 

Despite being one of the leading global software companies, Oracle initially didn’t seem all that interested in the cloud – they didn’t offer such services at first and allowed other companies, like Microsoft, Amazon and Google, to take the lead in this area (even though now their OCI – Oracle Cloud Infrastructure – is probably the best service of its kind, but that’s a topic for another article). 

Their approach started to change only when they saw that the cloud allowed them to do what they were truly interested in – sell even more software. The strategy was simple enough: they ported many of their old applications – based on Forms, ADF, etc. – to the cloud and started selling them as SaaS (Software as a Service). Some examples of such SaaS apps include Fusion Cloud Financials, Oracle Procurement, Logistics Network Modeling, Warehouse Management, etc.

However, it quickly turned out that customers wanted more – they needed a way to customize these services to make them better compatible with their needs and systems. 

Visual Builder was Oracle’s answer to this need. It’s a comprehensive platform that allows you to modify and enhance your Oracle Cloud Infrastructure apps/services in various ways. VB is more no-code than low-code, meaning it requires close to no coding and allows you to do most things via a visual interface (but to meet some of the more complex requirements, you might still need some JavaScript skills).

Visual Builder is much newer than APEX and based on a newer tech stack – Oracle JET (JavaScript Extension Toolkit), so essentially JavaScript. The platform was designed from scratch and holds an advantage over APEX in some areas, like code management, CI/CD, etc. 

It’s also clear that Oracle Visual Builder was built for a different crowd than Oracle APEX. Thanks to the newer tech stack, it’s more attractive for younger developers who are not necessarily interested in dabbling in SQL and PL/SQL. Its no-code nature means it can also be used by non-technical people – even more so than APEX.

Oracle VB advantages

Here are the things that make Oracle Visual Builder stand out:

  • It’s free for companies that bought specific Oracle SaaS software based on OCI (Oracle Cloud Infrastructure). However, you can pay to acquire VB separately
  • It’s newer tech and more attractive to young developers
  • It offers plenty of native connectors, so seamless integration with your Oracle services is very easy
  • It offers native mobile support. However, it’s limited in some regards – for example, theoretically, VB has an offline service, it caches data, but it doesn’t synchronize it and doesn’t give access to all functionalities while offline
  • It offers a dedicated CI/CD service called Visual Builder Studio

Visual Builder use scenarios

  • Oracle Visual Builder has one main use case – enhancing some of the Oracle SaaS applications your business uses or wants to use
  • In theory, you can use VBCS for creating web applications. These can then be exported as files you can run on a PC as desktop applications. However, in such a scenario, you’ll lose access to most integrations, which means the app’s functionality may be severely limited

Oracle Visual Builder vs Oracle APEX – key differences

Now that we’ve summarized both tools, let’s highlight the key differences between them to help you better understand which fits your needs.

Oracle APEX Oracle Visual Builder
Type Low-code platform  Closer to no-code than low-code
Tech stack Based on SQL and PL/SQL Based on JET (JavaScript Extension Toolkit)
Licensing Free if you already have any DB license – including free Oracle XE

You can also buy dedicated cloud environment or use free OCI instance
Free if you use specific Oracle SaaS software based on OCI
History Long history dating back over 20 years, it’s an evolution of older concepts and products The first version premiered in 2018, designed and built from scratch
CI/CD Very limited built-in CI/CD (but you can use other tools such as Liquibase) You can use a separate Visual Builder Studio service for CI/CD, versioning, etc.
Requirements You can use it anywhere there’s an Oracle database You can use it only in the Oracle Cloud

Summary: Oracle VB or APEX – It’s up to you

An image showing a laptop.

To summarize, both tools have their place and distinct advantages. In my opinion, in most cases, when you want to build a complex system – like a sales commission platform, a corporate management portal, or whatever else – APEX will be a better choice. It’s much more versatile and can be used anywhere there’s a database. 

However, Oracle Visual Builder can still be an interesting alternative in some situations – it’s a no-brainer when you’re interested in enhancing cloud applications based on OCI, and it has better (but not perfect) mobile support than APEX. The fact that it has an even shallower learning curve and is more attractive for younger developers is also not without merit. 

Moreover, in some cases, you can also mix both of these solutions. For example, use VB to develop a mobile application for a system based on APEX, etc. Both are part of the Oracle tech stack, so they complement each other very well.

Interested in Oracle low-code and no-code tools?

Pretius has extensive experience with various low-code and no-code platforms. We focus on Oracle APEX but are proficient in other technologies such as OutSystems, MS PowerPlatform, Mendix, Oracle Visual Builder, etc. If you’re interested in starting a low-code project and are looking for a partner, write to us at (or use the contact form below). We’ll respond within 48 hours and help you choose the best technology for your business.

Oracle VBCS vs Oracle APEX – FAQ

Here are answers to some common questions regarding Oracle APEX and Visual Builder Cloud Services.

What is VBCS?

VBCS – Oracle Visual Builder Cloud Service – is a no-code app development platform created by Oracle to allow customers to enhance Oracle cloud services.

Is Oracle Visual Builder free?

No, you’ll need to purchase some Oracle Cloud Services to acquire it. However, it’s also included in the free $300 trial offered for Oracle Cloud Services.

Which is better – VBCS or APEX?

It depends. VBCS for expanding existing Oracle Cloud Services, APEX for developing complex systems much easier, with top-notch security and in record time.