Last month, we discussed how to find and download IBM i Access Client Solutions, the new Java-based client software that is intended to replace the older platform-specific IBM i Access family offerings. Now that you’ve solved the maze IBM wants you to navigate in order to download the product, let’s talk about what’s next.
Note: This assumes you are on a Windows PC and are moving from IBM i Access for Windows, but most of these concepts work the same on other platforms.
Client Solutions comes as a single .zip file from the ESS website. As a Java-based program, installation is as simple as extracting the contents of the archive. You can place the software anywhere you like, but for a single-PC installation the easiest option is to place it into a new folder on your C: drive.
The best way to start Client Solutions is to use one of the startup programs IBM has supplied in the download package. These programs make sure that Java starts with the right options to support the software and they provide a target for file associations, which we will discuss later. Open the location where you extracted the .zip file earlier and look inside the Start_Programs folder for the one that matches your system (use Windows 32-bit if you’re not sure). These programs need to stay where they are to work properly, but you can create a shortcut to the correct one to make it easier to start Client Solutions.
The main screen for Client Solutions provides a drop-down box to select a system to work with and a list of actions and tools you can launch. Hovering over each link will cause a brief description of that tool to appear in the right-hand panel. You’ll need to tell Client Solutions about a system before you can connect to it. Fortunately, a connection migration utility is included to copy your existing Access for Windows connections over into Client Solutions in one easy step. To access it, select “Copy Connections” from the File menu. Client Solutions will display a list of your Access for Windows environments and the systems defined within them. Use the arrow buttons in the middle to copy connection profiles back and forth between the two products. Once your connections are migrated and you are back on the main screen, starting your first 5250 session is as simple as selecting the target system from the drop-down and clicking the “5250 Emulator” link.
Client Solutions has its own session profile format (.hod), which it will use to save emulator sessions. It can also read the .ws format which Access for Windows uses (but keep in mind that AfW cannot open .hod files). If you used the Windows startup program earlier to start Client Solutions, then you will find a “File Associations” link on the Tools menu which you can use to associate these file types with Client Solutions. Setting the associations will allow you to start a 5250 emulator session directly by double-clicking a profile, bypassing the main menu.
As a relatively new product, Client Solutions is still growing. While it does provide a complete replacement for all of the core Access for Windows functionality, you may find a few places where you need to re-learn how to do things. For example, the Excel plug-in has been replaced with an option in Data Transfer to import directly into the active Excel sheet, so anyone using this feature will now need to open Excel, switch over to Client Solutions to perform the transfer, and then switch back to Excel. Another change is the lack of System i Navigator, which has been dropped in favor of Navigator for i (although Client Solutions does provide a link to Navigator for you). While no one likes change very much, it seems IBM is determined to force this one upon us since Access for Windows will not be supported past Windows 8.
By now you’ve probably noticed that there is a lot more in the download package than just the Java program and a few launchers; IBM provides quite a bit of documentation as well as other bits and pieces which come in handy if you’re interested in deploying the program across a network or customizing your installation. The team here at iTech has been using Client Solutions since it was available as a technology preview back in 2012, so we can tell you from experience that green screen is just scratching the surface of what it can do! If you would like us to help you with the migration, please send us an email.