OpenAjax Alliance Pushes AJAX IDE Interoperability

At the Rich Web Experience conference, the OpenAjax Alliance promotes OpenAjax Metadata, a specification to facilitate interoperability across AJAX IDEs. Another version of the OpenAjax Metadata specification supports widget interoperability and security.

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VIENNA, Va.-The OpenAjax Alliance is working to address interoperability issues among development environments for AJAX as well as to facilitate the creation of secure mashups.

At the Rich Web Experience conference here on Sept. 4, Jon Ferraiolo, an IBM engineer and director of the OpenAjax Alliance, a consortium of vendors and organizations working to promote AJAX interoperability, said the group has published draft specifications for ways to make AJAX IDEs (integrated development environments) more interoperable, to secure the creation of mashups and to make widgets more interoperable for use in mashups.

Ferraiolo said the capabilities in AJAX IDEs-such as code assist, debug and visual layout-ought to be interoperable across the different IDE platforms, but as each AJAX tool kit documents its APIs and widgets in its own way, that has been a problem. So the OpenAjax Alliance is working to overcome that problem with a new specification known as OpenAjax Metadata for AJAX Libraries, which delivers industry-standard XML for JavaScript APIs and user interface controls.

It should be possible for there to be intelligent code assist for APIs across different AJAX libraries, and visual design should be possible using widgets from AJAX libraries, Ferraiolo said. The OpenAjax Alliance specifications will help get to that point, he said.

Aptana is leading the OpenAjax Alliance's IDE Working Group. Ferraiolo said the group wanted to follow the lead of the leading AJAX IDE in the industry and that is Aptana's.

Standards will improve industry efficiency and unleash innovation, Ferraiolo said. So in that regard, AJAX libraries can produce one format, OAM (OpenAjax Metadata), for their APIs, and these libraries will then be compatible with many IDEs, he said. If the library uses JSDoc, then autogeneration of OpenAjax Metadata is possible. "We are investigating autogeneration for other inline documentation formats, such as what Dojo uses," Ferraiolo said. "AJAX IDEs can consume one format, OAM. That IDE will now support dozens of AJAX libraries. By unifying the industry around a single XML file, [this makes it so that] IDEs can now innovate and compete in other areas."

The OpenAjax Alliance IDE Working Group has a number of participants, but the core group that shows up on the weekly calls includes folks from Aptana, folks from Adobe's Dreamweaver group and folks from Microsoft's Visual Studio team, Ferraiolo said.

And while Microsoft has taken a rap for not participating or playing well in some standardization and open-source efforts, Ferraiolo said the company is working to make Visual Studio support the OAM format. Other organizations with participants in the working group include the Eclipse Foundation, Sun Microsystems, TIBCO and OpenLink Software.

Aptana has contributed much to the effort, including sharing some of its extensive experience with the project for annotating JavaScript in a way that enables code assist and code completion style features in Aptana Studio, the company's open-source IDE for Web 2.0 apps that use AJAX.

"Microsoft has been a strong, active participant, as has Adobe, IBM, Eclipse, Sun, OpenLink and others," said Kevin Hakman, chairman of the IDE Working Group and director of evangelism at Aptana. "All have influenced the specification offering insights from their respective IDEs, user communities and code annotation conventions. Not to diminish others who have contributed significantly, but Bertrand Le Roy of Microsoft has been a consistent core contributor to this process whose input has been very insightful and formative."