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Understanding The Truth About Screen-Scraping




In this ever-growing technological age, we live in today, companies simply cannot afford to be behind the times when it comes updating their tools. The unfortunate reality regarding computer applications is that many businesses are not up-to-date, and are using highly outdated products and tools. A great example of this is the continual use of green-screens. 


This outdated technology should be thing of the past, but companies continue to use them. Why? Because they have an excellent track-record when it comes to being secure. The other reason they are still in use is because they generally hold many years’ worth of business data on them. These reasons alone explain why it is increasingly challenging to get rid of green-screens, even though they are not compatible with today’s integration standards. On top of that, they make new-hire training next to impossible, and add great difficulty when it comes to creating smooth business operations. With these pieces of information, it is essential that developers come up with tools which will help to bridge the gap that exists between old technology and new information.  





Enter screen-scraping. With all of the above negatives regarding green-screens, screen-scraping is a helpful method of updating and modernizing applications on green-screens so that they become web-based. When screen-scraping is done properly, the issue of trying to modernize outdated technology is essentially resolved. Even though screen-scraping does elicit some negative comments at times, many of them are not warranted or even truth-based. Below you will see some of the most frequently repeated myths when it comes to screen-scraping.


MYTH #1:  Screen-scraping is essentially just putting the green-screen in the browser. 


Traditional screen-scraping did make the above myth some what true, but when approached from a modern stance, this is not actually what is happening. In fact, the modern approach to screen-scraping fixes the user-interface so that information can easily be transferred, making it available to the user on their terms with respect to time and space. By scraping this myth and understanding what current screen-scraping techniques actually offer, you can see how helpful this method is in assisting with and smoothing out business operations. 



MYTH #2:  Keeping the host and GUI in sync poses an incredible challenge. 


It is a common fact that maintaining APIs is no easy task. In fact, it is really quite challenging, so when the topic comes up that users are switching from green-screens, many wonder how users will in turn handle their GUIs. This is a great question. In order for the host and the GUI to be in sync, there must be plenty of stored screen maps available during the mobile app development process and maintenance routines of the application. When these maps are easily accessible, developers can seamlessly manage unique GUIs for the actual applications being worked on. After the screen changing work is done, an automated sync feature becomes available, allowing developers the chance to sync GUI applications with the screen APIs.

It is essential that two key areas are addressed prior to the host and GUI becoming synchronized. The first important piece of information is that the GUI must know the information on each particular screen, and must have the ability to access it. The second key area that needs to be addressed is that the GUI must have knowledge of what host fields should be used with each screen. 



MYTH #3:  Trying to maintain an application after screen-scraping is incredibly difficult.


Though this myth may have proven true in traditional cases, when modern tools are used to screen-scrape, the synchronization happens automatically! This is a huge relief for many. In fact, to make things even better, developers are now able to organize the time that they would like the GUIs and host screens to be in sync. One could only have dreamed of such ease years back. Another benefit to using modernized screen-scraping methods is that now developers don’t need to baby sit the processes like they did in the past, but only need to customize the GUIs for each new host screen. 



MYTH #4:  Trying to manage screen-scraping projects is nothing but a burden.


Similar to myth #3, many that are used to traditional methods of screen-scraping think of it simply as a quick-fix when it comes to finishing a task. It makes sense that people feel this way. Did you know that with traditional screen-scraping methods, developers were not able to see what amount of work was required of them? Unfortunately, when working with live-screens, this is also true, as well as having an unclear picture of maintenance cost, but there is good news ahead! When using modernized screen-scraping methods, developers will gain a clear understanding of whatever screen they are working on. They are able to see what amount of work they must to do in order to finish, especially with the help of screen repositories. Because of these modern solutions, developers can view screen-scraping as a helpful tool and not as a burdensome task. 



MYTH #5:  Screen-scraping does not allow SOA to be possible. 


Have you ever heard of the term “service-enablement?” Maybe you have, but in the event you have not, it is a very helpful tool that allows users to incorporate existing business tasks into a callable service. Here is an everyday example of what service-enablement looks like: let’s say a business function, such as looking up a customer address, is needed. Users are able to put this function into a relevant service, such as a web service. This then allows other applications to use this service and is thus a piece of the big picture of SOA (service-oriented architecture). Modern approaches to screen-scraping make this service-enablement possible.                                                         

To end this defense of modern screen-scraping, hopefully you have seen how to differentiate the facts from the myths. As you can see, there are many falsehoods in relation to screen-scraping that get recycled in various circles over time. Traditional screen-scraping does elicit some negative feedback, and rightly so. However, in light of the modernization of this method, screen-scraping should be looked at as a lucrative tool within the IT world. Not only does it allow businesses the ability to operate in a smooth manner, but it also assists with creating seamless transactions. Arguably one of the best attributes of modern-day screen-scraping though, is that it allows companies the chance to keep their old information, but helps modernize and update the ways in which transactions and trainings are carried out. This is essential in a day when technology is changing at the speed of light!


Lily Luo is a marketing manager for Rocket Software. She covers topics about terminal emulation and enterprise mobility.


Tags: mobile app development, screen-scraping

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