I had the opportunity to sit through two APEX 5.0 presentations yesterday at APEXposed in Montreal - one by Joel Kallman, and the other by David Peake.
By far, the most anticipated feature is the new page layout UI. This interface is designed to do two things: make arranging regions and items easier, and allowing for batch updating of common item attributes. While the demonstrations were a bit rough and the UI is clearly not finished, this direction represents a lot of promise for APEX developers, as it is the one area that APEX has been lacking since day one.
Speaking of interfaces, there will be a new User Interface - Tablet - added to all applications. This will help bridge the gap between Desktop and Phone-based browsers, should a developer feel the need to do so.
One of the smaller yet more impressive features was the ability to add CSS/JS files as a ZIP files. The APEX listener will automatically unzip those files and even cooler - preserve the paths. This way, you can easily upload a set of related JS files and ensure that they will still function as intended. It also has a cool way of versioning these files. The URL that is uses for them will have a path like this: /v212/ As these files are modified and/or re-uploaded, the version will change, ensuring that the files do not become cached on user's devices.
While we didn't see it, the new tabular forms replacement - called Multi-Row Edit Region - seems promising. Also, the ability to add multiple IRs to a single page will also become reality. IRs are getting a little bit of a makeover, with modal dialogs replacing the traditional menu and the ability to freeze columns are added.
Another feature that has been long anticipated will be the ability to authenticate to the Application Builder et. all with a custom authentication scheme. This feature probably has more political impact than technical, since it allows APEX developers to be a part of an organization's identity management infrastructure. It will also make it a heck of a lot easier to remember your credentials for any workspace, since they can all be the same.
Speaking of security, it looks like there is some planned integration with Oracle Real Application Security, or RAS. RAS is a no-cost feature of the enterprise edition of the database, and is very similar to VPD. With it, you can define roles, users and privileges that can be used with any technology. Not too many more details were available about this, but it also seems promising.
Autocomplete in PL/SQL regions (or at least Application Processes! :) ) is also a part of APEX 5. When typing in code, you can hit control+space and autocomplete things like item names, APEX APIs, and database objects. To compliment this, a new code editor - very similar to that included with ApexLib - is baked into APEX 5.
Overall, it looks like there's a lot of interesting features to come in APEX 5. While there's definitely a lot of work to be done, each time I see it, more and more of the features are working better and better. It will be interesting to see how much progress can be made between now and OpenWorld.