Swords Sharpened for Ajax Projects

News Analysis: More sophisticated JavaScript development tools and libraries are leading the charge.

Developers preparing for battle on any new platform are likely to have a predictable choice of weapons.

Any technology thats had time to become at all established will typically offer a mix of low-level tools, platform-tailored environments, component libraries and full-blown abstractions that package the details for greater convenience.

In the year (almost) since the AJAX label emerged, toolmakers have brought forth all these options.

The raw stuff of AJAX, commonly expanded as Asynchronous JavaScript and XML, is JavaScript code.

Tools for that language are growing in sophistication as the language is used in more ambitious projects.

Septembers Version 6.0 upgrade to the Antechinus JavaScript Editor, from C Point Pty Ltd., gives the lie to any haute-coder prejudice that mere JavaScript needs nothing more than the simplest text editor to exploit it.

Antechinus productivity features vie with those of any high-end integrated environment, with dynamic code completion and many features aimed at working with large code files.

The $50 C Point tool, compact and versatile, is well-named—an antechinus is a mouse-size marsupial—and it offers a strong value proposition to developers who are used to full-blown environments for Java or .Net languages and want to become more conversant with JavaScript capabilities.

JavaScript editing aids were also a noteworthy addition in last years 5.0 release of JetBrains Inc.s IntelliJ Idea environment for Java.

That update included JavaScript code completion and on-the-fly error identification like that found in most Java and .Net editors.

JavaScript aids are also provided by SlickEdit Inc.s multilingual SlickEdit editor, a long-standing eWEEK Labs Analysts Choice.

Vendors of established development environments arent ignoring the AJAX charge.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read more from Peter Coffee about AJAX.

Microsoft Corp. announced last fall its Atlas project (atlas.asp. net) to produce "an extensible, object-oriented 100% JavaScript client framework that allows you to easily build AJAX-style browser applications with rich UI [user interface] and connectivity to Web services," as described in a blog posting by Microsoft Web Tools Manager Scott Guthrie.

A December release of an Atlas site template for Microsofts Visual Studio 2005 is available at msdn.microsoft. com/asp.net/info/future.

Microsofts position is that AJAX is a new name for an idea thats been around at least as long as the companys Outlook Web access client, but the "rocket scientist" complexity of AJAX (in the phrase of Microsoft Platform Strategy Manager Charles Fitzgerald) will prevent its broad contagion without the help of well-engineered libraries and tools.

The company certainly has a winning track record in tools, and its also seeking to engage the AJAX community with an unusually open process for bringing Atlas to market.

Tellingly, the obvious power of AJAX techniques has changed the tone of Microsoft gurus, from their previous disparagement of Web applications to their growing acknowledgment that such applications have useful strengths for many tasks.

Other vendors use AJAX-like mechanisms within well-packaged client development environments, as seen in TIBCO General Interface from TIBCO Software Inc.

This drag-and-drop development environment is itself a striking demonstration of just how interactive a Web-based application can now be.

Mozilla developers, meanwhile, hope that AJAX can dethrone Internet Explorer from its long-standing dominance of rich Web applications.

AJAX development tips and links for standards-based browsers, including innovative debugging aids, are at developer. mozilla.org/en/docs/AJAX.

Sun Microsystems Inc. likewise hopes to get off the defensive, after years of promoting relatively complex Java client development against the component-based ease of Microsofts Visual Basic.

Suns Java Studio Creator 2, soon to be in general release as a free download, offers developers impressive convenience in building and sharing AJAX-based components as well as other JavaServer Faces components.

Suns extensible environment and component library tools let developers incorporate client- and server-side functionality into applications with minimal effort.

This years planned "Mustang" update to Java Standard Edition will incorporate the Mozilla Rhino JavaScript interpreter, auguring continued growth in both the ease and power of AJAX development.

Technology Editor Peter Coffee can be reached at peter_coffee@ziffdavis.com.

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