Automation and Terminal Emulation: ActiveX

Character based terminals are, by their nature, not the most user friendly of environments and accomplishing seemingly simple tasks can often require complex commands beyond the abilities of all but power users. This article looks at possibilities for automating complex terminal emulation tasks using ActiveX.

What is ActiveX?
ActiveX is a set of technologies developed by Microsoft which enables software components to to share data and capabilities within other software. Put simply, a piece of software can use an ActiveX control from our windows terminal emulator TTWin to create and control sessions to a host system. As ActiveX is a Microsoft technology it is, in practice, available only to Windows operating systems.

Internet Explorer, the Web and ActiveX
Possibly the most widely known implementation of AcitveX technology is through Microsoft’s Internet Explorer web browser, where ActiveX controls can be embedded in web pages to provide functions which would otherwise be beyond the capabilities of browser software. An classic example is the handling of 'rich media' such as the playback of an mp3 file or a video or perhaps something along the lines of viewing of a spreadsheet - all directly within a web page. A more relevant terminal emulation example is TTWeb, Turbosoft’s web to host terminal emulator which utilizes ActiveX to enable host connectivity directly through a browser.

TTerm Connect Turbosoft’s web deployable terminal emulator TTWeb has been retired and is no longer offered. Users looking for a web-to-host terminal emulation solution should look to our new HTML5 based, centrally managed terminal emulator for enterprise, TTerm Connect.
In Applications
The use of ActiveX is not limited to the simple embedding of a control within a web page. ActiveX controls can be used like building blocks within applications, and the capabilities provided by each controls harnessed to add extra functionality. For developers creating their own applications with a terminal emulation requirement, Turbosoft offers TTWin Integrator, our ActiveX toolkit.

TTWin integrator provides complete control and access to the host data stream, allowing a developer to seamlessly run terminal emulation sessions from within their application and make use of the software and data stored on the host system.

What’s more, as ActiveX controls are programming language independent TTWin Integrator can provide terminal emulation services to a Windows application regardless of the development path and tools that have been chosen.

Typically, mainframes and host systems contain vast amounts of data that remains valuable to an organization regardless of the system age or origin. The challenge lies in accessing that data in way that suits your user base - in many cases where character based terminal emulation may not be suitable ActiveX technologies offer a viable alternative.

Other Alternatives
While this option is obviously an advanced solution catering to users who are developing their own applications their is scope for automation within our terminal emulation software itself. The entry level for automation lies in using built in Macros, a feature which offers more than enough power for most tasks. More advanced users can take advantage of TTWin Basic, our Visual Basic modelled scripting language. We’ll be taking a look at both scripting and macros in future blog posts.

|