Experts discuss whether AJAX needs an integrated development environment and whether the Eclipse Foundation can help.
SANTA CLARAThe jury is still out as to how much help the Eclipse Foundation can be to AJAX developers.
The Eclipse Foundation announced milestone releases in two AJAX-related Eclipse projects earlier the week of March 1the ATF (AJAX Toolkit Framework) and the RAP (Rich AJAX Platform). However, the prospect of Eclipse becoming the integrated development environment for AJAX represents a more specific challenge.
Mike Milinkovich, executive director of Eclipse, moderated the panel, asking several questions, including whether AJAX even needs an IDE.
Eric Clayberg, vice president of development at Instantiations, in Portland, Ore., said he believes AJAX needs an IDE, and "Eclipse will make it a lot easier to do AJAX development."
Robert Goodman, a software engineer in the Emerging Technologies division of the IBM Software Group and project leader of the ATF project, said he remembers "when Java first came out and all I used was a text editor [to write applications]. But once IDEs came out and became mature I moved to an IDE, and Ill never go back."
Similarly, Coach Wei, chief technology officer at Nexaweb Technologies, in Burlington, Mass., said he "for the longest time used text editors Vi and Emacs, but found that IDEs can be really helpful."
However, the Eclipse model might prove to be a bit much for some.
Milinkovich also asked whether anyone took issue with the large number of AJAX tool kits and frameworks available to developers. Wei said that although there are several choices, he sees some clear winners. In terms of AJAX tooling, Wei said he believes the ATF is a winner; in terms of run-times Wei listed the Dojo Toolkit, Apache XAP (Extensible AJAX Platform), Script.aculo.us, and Prototype.
However, an audience member, Kyle Shank, a software engineering major at Rochester Institute of technology and creator of the open-source Ruby on Rails IDE RadRails, stood up and said he recommends that developers not focus on any particular AJAX framework.
Click here to read more about what Eclipse has been doing to support AJAX development.
"Committing yourself to any one framework or tool kit is very dangerous I would caution everyone who is interested in AJAX not to focus on any one framework," Shank said, noting that he had worked on a major project that used Dojo, and the project went awry.
Meanwhile, Wei said the OpenAjax Alliance, a group of vendors that have banded together to help make AJAX development easier by producing standards in the area, has an IDE working group looking at interoperability issues. "From an IDE perspective, were trying to deal with the issue of so many tool kits," Wei said.
Goodman said if the OpenAjax Alliance is able to make inroads and deliver something "pluggable" then ATF would use that instead. Meanwhile, the ATF is working on the ATF Personality Framework. A "personality" is a collection of IDE features that are specifically targeted to a certain AJAX Runtime Library. This is a core concept of ATF: providing an extensible framework to support AJAX development in arbitrary AJAX run-times.
The OpenAjax Alliance is trying to overcome some of those hurdles through cooperation. "Were trying to get the library vendors to make nice with each other," Muschenetz said.
Despite the challenges, the panelists said the goal of making AJAX development more manageable is well worth it.
"AJAX gives you desktop-like interaction from a browser," Goodman said.
"The reason to do AJAX is for those sexy, dynamic Web apps that companies like Google have taken the lead in delivering," Clayberg said.
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Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.