I used to work with Oracle Forms up to version 10g, and I worked with Reports a bit in earlier versions, but I haven't worked with either of them since 2005, and they are pretty obsolete now.
Forms is (was?) a proprietary development tool from Oracle that started out in the 1980s as a 4GL for building terminal-based user interfaces to the Oracle database: you could build CRUD data entry screens very quickly compared to other tools at the time (C, COBOL etc) and they provided a lot of functionality out of the box e.g. query by example, locking etc. Processing was mostly event-based, via "triggers" that executed code in response to particular events e.g. leaving a field, querying a record etc. In the mid 1990s it finally switched to a Windows GUI client-server model with Forms version 6 which also supported PL/SQL, but it was still the same approach in principle. Later versions moved very slowly towards a browser client model, and for a long time you still had to install a Javaapplet to run Forms applications via the browser. I think Forms 9/10 shifted to having a dedicated Forms server process to handle requests from the browser.
Oracle Reports had a parallel history, but its origins are different. Pre-Windows versions of Oracle's developer tool suite had completely different reporting tools e.g. RPT/RPF or ReportWriter, which were not very satisfactory (I was once regarded as an RPT/RPF expert, but only because nobody else on my project wanted to touch it!). In the 1990s, Oracle bought a 3rd-party reporting tool which they then integrated into the Developer Suite as Oracle Reports. This was better, but still fairly horrible to use, which is why a lot of people used Forms for interactive GUIs, but chose alternative tools e.g. Business Objects for reporting.
In any case, as Java and Java EE became more popular, Oracle seemed to lose interest in improving Forms and Reports, and instead they seemed to put most of their effort into Java-based tools like JDeveloper and ADF.
These days my impression is that nobody is doing fresh development work with Forms/Reports, although there are tons of legacy systems out there. I think a lot of people eventually migrated over to Java EE, although in many cases this was traumatic because they lost the massive productivity of Forms and had a lot more internal wiring and infrastructure to manage than previously. Java EE is a great way to add complexity to any project.
In the late 1990s/early 2000s, Oracle also started looking at alternative tools for simple web development, based on the generation of HTML etc at runtime from database packages. This was really clunky at first, as you would expect, but in recent years this approach has been re-branded as Oracle Application Express (APEX), which is quite easy to use, is very productive and offers a lot of functionality out of the box for building CRUD-style web applications on Oracle. The Application Express developer interface is itself an Application Express application, which shows you can do quite a lot with it if you know what you are doing. Of course, it's still a proprietary product and is not as flexible as Java, but it's free, so some companies that are already committed to Oracle anyway have migrated their Forms applications over to APEX, which is probably a lot easier than switching from Forms to Java EE.
No more Blub for me, thank you, Vicar.
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