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Learning SQL*Forms tips

Oracle Database Tips by Donald Burleson


Question:  What's the best way to learn SQL*Forms and Reports?  I'm changing careers from retails sales to computer professional, and I just passed my OCA exam.  I have a job interview next week where they want knowledge of online systems development, and the job involves PHP, SQL*Forms and Reports and HTML-DB.  I can download the SQL*Forms software, but what do I study to learn SQL*Forms and Reports fast?


Answer: Learning SQL*Forms requires many prerequisite skills, and it's not recommended as a "first language".  Most universities teach  basic procedural languages (C++, Java, MS-Access) as a first language, before introducing interactive systems development tools. 


You don't mention your background, but to be competitive, you need to learn the equivalent of a college concentration in Information Systems or Computer Science.  It can be done, but it takes years of catch-up work, learning on evenings and weekends.  As a review of the skills required, lets review the worlds largest employer of Oracle SQL*Forms developers (Oracle Corporation) and see what Oracle does when hiring help:

Oracle internal developers job are the most difficult to snag, usually reserved for those who have demonstrated a commitment to the profession by graduating from a challenging university (MIT, &c).  Oracle is quite selective about hiring their own developers, preferring to let a challenging university screen-out the sub-optimal candidates:

"unless you're coming out of MIT, Stanford or another of a handful of brand-name tech universities, you're very likely out of luck."

While it's not possible to get a developer job at Oracle without a college degree, you may be able to get a junior developer job at companies with less stringent requirements, but you must be able to demonstrate a passion for Oracle, natural talent, and a demonstrable commitment to pursuing Oracle as a profession.


Some of the skills for SQL*Forms programming (as well as Apex and JDeveloper) include these basic skills:

  • Collecting functional specifications - You need to have college-level English communications skills and be able to interact with end-users in a variety of business areas (i.e. finance, marketing, accounting), and write understandable documents that can be easily translated into SQL*Forms screens.

  • Screen Data Flow Analysis - know how to collect and create end-user screen specs, build architectural specifications and process logic diagrams.

  • Screen & Reports Design - You must understand online system architecture components (pre-map processing, map-out, response processes) and inter-screen communications.

  • Procedural Language Coding - You will need to understand PL/SQL, as best practices dictate that all non-screen code reside inside oracle stored procedures, safe inside the database.  SQL*Forms developers are also proficient in Java (for J2EE and AJAX), and sometimes PHP, C++, Ruby on Rails, etc.

  • SQL*Forms - You need proficiency in screen layout skills, querying Oracle data, managing repeating items, and building widgets (drop-downs, auto-fill, AJAX fill-in).

Here are some related notes for self-study in SQL*Forms and Reports, JDeveloper, Oracle PHP, Oracle Apex (HTML-DB), and PL/SQL.

Training for online systems development skills

Oracle University offers offline CD-based learning, but this approach is not nearly as effective as personal attention from an experienced Oracle developer. 

Counting college tuition and Oracle training costs, expect to pay at least $30 for the minimum requisite knowledge.  There are no shortcuts, and it very rare for anyone, no matter how talented, to self-teach these complex concepts.  There is no substitute for a good education.

Books or learning Oracle systems development (SQL*Forms, PHP, Apex, AJAX, JDeveloper)

Oracle technology is always changing and it's hard to get current technical information.  If you don't mind learning with older technology (e.g. Oracle 9i), you can get great deals on used Oracle books at

The web is polluted with misinformation, and it's critical to understand how to identify trustworthy sources when learning in the web.

I helped created the Rampant Oracle Book Series to provide affordable books for Oracle professionals:

Rampant Oracle Books

Training resources for learning Oracle systems development (SQL*Forms, PHP, Apex, AJAX, JDeveloper)

In a perfect world, you can hire Oracle mentors to tutor you, but many companies prefer on-site training with follow-up mentoring, using an Oracle expert to develop a custom course on the tools required to succeed in their environment.  The Oracle University training courses can easily cost over $40,000 per employee, and on-site training is far better:

Oracle AJAX & ADF Faces Training

Oracle XML Publisher Training

Oracle XML Developer Training Course

Oracle Application Express for Rapid Application Development

Oracle10g New Features for Application Developers

Oracle PHP Developer Training Course

Oracle XML Developer Training Course

Oracle Object Technology for Developers

Oracle PL/SQL Programming & Tuning

Java & Oracle Fundamentals

Oracle JDeveloper Java J2EE Training

Oracle Application Server 10gAS Training

Oracle Developer 6i Forms

Oracle Developer 9i Forms

Oracle Developer Reports

Oracle App Server Portal Training Course

Advanced Oracle Developer Forms & Reports

Oracle Developer Forms Troubleshooting & Debugging

Systems Analysis & Design for Oracle





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