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Creating a TopBraid mobile web app with SPARQL Web Pages

Posted by Bob DuCharme on November 22, 2011

I've written here before about how SPARQL Web Pages (SWP) let you convert your RDF to HTML or XML by embedding SPARQL queries into the appropriate markup. In that very simple example, I showed how to create a web page for an address book entry and then display it both in TopBraid Composer and in a regular web browser.

Today I'm going to show how I did something similar to display a single Person instance from the Kennedys sample data included with TopBraid Composer and then defined a page that showed all the people in that data model. You can download and try the project here. The fun part was displaying it so that it looks like a proper mobile web page on a phone's web browser, as shown here on an Android phone and on an iPhone turned sideways to test the re-orienting capability of the display.

app output on LG Ally and iPhone
Touching someone's name on the phone expands the display to show the remaining property names and values about that person underneath his or her name. In the picture, I've just touched Andrew Cuomo's name on the Android phone and Edward Kennedy Jr's name on the iPhone, displaying details about each of them below their names. Touching the names again hides their data.

In the picture, the two phone browsers are displaying the output of a TopBraid Live server running this application. As we'll see in the sequel to this blog entry, you can use the same SPARQL Web Page configuration to save HTML disk files with all of this formatting so that the phone browsers could view the static web pages stored on a server that didn't have TopBraid Live installed.

To enable proper mobile display, I used the jQuery Mobile library. jQuery is a set of Javascript and CSS libraries designed to let you add sophisticated user interfaces to your web pages without worrying about cross-browser compatibility, and jQuery Mobile is a branch of this project specialized for mobile phones. You don't need to know any JavaScript or CSS to use these libraries; if you're happy with one of their display configuration, using these libraries is usually just a matter of including the right file links in your HTML's head element and then setting certain attributes in your HTML elements to reference the libraries.

I began this application by creating an RDF/SPARQLMotion file in TopBraid Composer with a base URI of http://topbraidlive.org/mobileKennedys. I needed SPARQLMotion for the script that creates the static disk file version of the Kennedys display that we'll learn about next week. Next, I imported the kennedys.rdf model from the /TopBraid/Examples folder in the Navigator view. I also imported the SWP html.rdf and tui.rdf models from the Navigator's /TopBraid/UISPIN folder. (This all works the same when the files to import are Turtle ttl files instead of RDF/XML files.)

After importing the necessary files, the next step was to set up the display of data about a Person instance. After importing the files described above, clicking on kennedys:Person under owl:Thing on the Class view shows that the presence of the SWP libraries has added a ui:instanceView property to the kennedys:Person class form. I could have put the HTML to display a person here, like I did with the address book display in the blog entry mentioned above, but for greater flexibility, I created a separate PersonView class to store this markup and pointed at this class from the Person class's ui:instanceView value.

I created this mk:PersonView class (I had assigned the prefix “mk:” to the URI http://topbraidlive.org/mobileKennedys#) as a child of the ui:Element class, which is a child of the ui:Node class added by the SWP libraries. The ui:prototype property on this class's form is the place for the formatting code and markup, but I did a few setup steps before setting it:

  • Because the app needs to pass a parameter to the code in ui:prototype specifying which person to display, I had to define that parameter. To do this, I created an sp:person child of the sp:arg property in the Properties view to represent the person argument value passed to the prototype. Next, I dragged the new property from the Properties view to the spin:constraint property name on the mk:PersonView form to indicate that this would store the argument passed to the code and markup used to display a single person. This displays the “Create from SPIN template” wizard with all the values filled out the way I needed them, so I just clicked the OK button.
  • JQuery implements some of its magic with HTML extension attributes named data-collapsed and data-role. TopBraid Composer helps you assemble proper HTML by flagging any non-HTML markup, and it won't like these because they're not declared as HTML 4 properties. So, I declared them myself by making two clones of the html:class property (a subproperty of html:attributes) and renamed them html:data-collapsed and html:data-role. This way, TopBraid Composer wouldn't prevent me from saving HTML markup that used these properties as attributes.
  • When listing each person's property names and values (for example, Andrew Cuomo's year of birth and first name in the picture above), I certainly didn't want to list the full URI of each property name. Ideally, each property would have an rdfs:label value that I could display instead; if not, I thought it best to just show the local name of the property's URI. To make this easier, I created a new function called mk:bestName as a subclass of spin:Functions (itself a subclass of spin:Modules). I defined a spin:constraint of sp:arg1 for this function and then defined this spin:body for it:
    SELECT ?label
    WHERE {
        BIND (spif:name(?arg1) AS ?name) .
        BIND (IF(fn:contains(?name, ":"), afn:localname(?arg1), ?name) AS ?label) .
    }

    mk:bestName is a good general-purpose function. It calls the SPIN spif:name function, which gets a resource's skos:prefLabel value if available or an rdfs:label value as a second choice. If neither is available, mk:bestName takes the local name of the URI or prefixed name that got returned.

  • Because members of the kennedys:Person class might have a kennedys:name value that I'd prefer the application to use if available, I declared a similar but more specialized function for the Kennedys data called mk:bestKennedyName. This is also as a subclass of spin:Functions, and has a spin:constraint of sp:arg1 and the following as a spin:body:
    SELECT ?label
    WHERE {
        OPTIONAL {
            ?arg1 kennedys:name ?kname .
        } .
        BIND (spif:name(?arg1) AS ?name) .
        BIND (COALESCE(?kname, IF(fn:contains(?name, ":"), afn:localname(?arg1), ?name)) AS ?label) .
    }}

    This function body takes advantage of SPARQL 1.1′s new COALESCE() function, which returns the value of the first parameter passed to it that can be evaluated without an error.

With the functions, the HTML extensions, and the argument to pass to it all set up for the formatting markup in the mk:PersonView class, I was ready to add that markup and SPARQL code to the ui:prototype property of my new class. It's mostly HTML div elements with attributes set according to the models I saw in the source of the jQuery Mobile demos. The “collapsible” part means that initially only the kennedys:name value will display, as an h3 element, and that clicking on that name (or, on a phone, touching it) will toggle the display of the remaining property names and values about that person.

<div data-collapsed="true" data-role="collapsible">
    <h3>{= spl:object(?person, kennedys:name) }</h3>
    <div class="ui-grid-a">
        <ui:forEach ui:resultSet="{#
                SELECT ?propertyName ?bestValueLabel
                WHERE {
                    ?person ?property ?value .
                    BIND (mk:bestName(?property) AS ?propertyName) .
                    BIND (IF(isIRI(?value), mk:bestKennedyName(?value), ?value) 
                       AS ?bestValueLabel) .
                }
                ORDER BY (?property) }">
            <div class="ui-block-a">
                <div class="ui-bar ui-bar-c">{= ?propertyName }</div>
            </div>
            <div class="ui-block-b">
                <div class="ui-bar ui-bar-c">{= ?bestValueLabel }</div>
            </div>
        </ui:forEach>
    </div>
</div>

When you use SWP to define an HTML div element with the data and markup to display something, the SWP engine will create html, head, and body wrapper elements to ensure that a browser viewing the HTML gets a complete web page. The SWP ui:headIncludes property, which you'll see on the mk:PersonView class form with ui:prototype and the other properties there, lets you specify custom markup to add to the HTML head element when the SWP engine sends the web page to the requesting browser. I added the following to this property; it has the meta, link, and script elements necessary to make the resulting HTML a proper jQuery Mobile page:

<ui:group>
    <meta content="width=device-width, minimum-scale=1.0, maximum-scale=1.0"
          name="viewport"/>
    <link href="http://code.jquery.com/mobile/1.0/jquery.mobile-1.0.min.css"
          rel="stylesheet"/>
    <script src="http://code.jquery.com/jquery-1.6.4.min.js"/>
    <script src="http://code.jquery.com/mobile/1.0/jquery.mobile-1.0.min.js"/>
</ui:group>

The ?this variable passes the Person instance currently being processed to be used as the ?person value in the SPARQL query in the mk:PersonView ui:prototype value.

This is all enough to display a single person, but I wanted to display all the Person instances in a sorted list. I attached this view's definition to the ontology resource itself by clicking on the little house icon at the top of TopBraid Composer and then adding this ui:view value to it (note that ui:view wasn't already part of the form, so I dragged it on there from TopBraid Composer's Properties view):

<div>
    <div data-role="header">
        <h1>Kennedys List</h1>
    </div>
    <div data-role="collapsible-set">
        <ui:forEach ui:resultSet="{#
                SELECT ?p
                WHERE {
                    ?p a kennedys:Person .
                    ?p kennedys:lastName ?lname .
                }
                ORDER BY (?lname) }">
            <ui:resourceView ui:resource="{= ?p }"/>
        </ui:forEach>
    </div>
</div>

As with the code to display each individual Person instance, this markup is mostly div elements with attribute settings based on the source of the jQuery Mobile demos I saw. The ui:resourceView element inside the ui:forEach element tells the SWP engine to display the resource according to whatever view was specified for it. In this case, the resource is a kennedys:Person instance, because that's what the SPARQL here query binds to the ?p variable, so it will use the view defined earlier.

To test this, I sent a browser to the URL http://localhost:8083/tbl/uispin?_resource=http://topbraidlive.org/mobileKennedys. (URLs for SPARQL Web Page applications often include a &_base parameter to identify the graph of data to use—in this case, it would be &_base=http://topbraid.org/examples/kennedys—but that was unnecessary here because one of the first steps of creating the mobileKennedys model was dragging the Kennedys data onto its Include tab, so it already knew which data to use.) The _resource parameter tells it which resource to render, so I used my file's base URI here because that's where I attached the markup and SPARQL code to display the full web page. These and other parameters are described in the SWP documentation.

This should work with any browser. (I recently discovered that picking User Agent from Safari's Develop menu lets you set Safari to emulate a variety of other browser, including the mobile versions that run on the iPhone and iPad, which helped me to debug some early problems I had with getting the jQuery Mobile code right.) Because you can't access TopBraid Composer's built-in copy of the TopBraid Live Personal edition from a different computer, there's no way for a phone's browser to access this application when running it on TopBraid Composer, so I uploaded the project storing this application to a copy of TopBraid Live to do the test shown in the photograph above.

Next week, I'll show how I extended this application to save a static HTML file of the mobile web display of Kennedys data as an alternative to the TopBraid Live server's dynamic display. I could then copy that file to a web server that doesn't necessarily have TopBraid Live installed on it. Then, any computer or phone web browser can display it. For a preview of how it looks, send your phone's browser to http://www.topquadrant.com/resources/blog/k/—or, if you want a shorter URL to type on your phone, http://bit.ly/topqkm.

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