Java developer tool backs AJAX

AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript + XML) programming figures prominently in a free upgrade of the Sun Java Studio Creator developer tool being released by Sun Microsystems on Wednesday.

Sun Java Studio Creator 2 is positioned as Sun's easy-to-use tool for Java development; it is geared toward corporate developers and Visual Basic developers. Looking to enable development of richer Internet applications, Version 2 features a set of JavaServer Faces components and code clips for building AJAX-style applications.

The reusable components, for functions such as mapping and text completion, enable developers to have AJAX functionality without having to program in AJAX, according to Sun. A progress bar component supports long-running processes in programs, such as an inventory check.

"These components themselves are style-able and theme-able," said Dan Roberts, Sun director of developer tools marketing. "That's important for developers who want to customize the look of [their] Web applications or coordinate the look of multiple Web applications.

"By theme-ing, you can define in a set of stylesheets how you want that page to look," Roberts said.

AJAX gives a boost to Sun's tool, according to analyst Stephen O'Grady, of RedMonk. "AJAX in particular is an important addition to Creator, because it allows for the generated Web applications to have a far richer user experience," O'Grady said in an e-mail.

But Java Studio Creator's focus on simplicity may turn away experienced developers. "The product, via substantial abstraction, allows for less skilled developers to rapidly generate relatively sophisticated Web applications. The catch is that more experienced developers may find some of the abstraction unnecessary and/or undesirable," said O'Grady.

Version 2 is based on the NetBeans 4.1 open source tools platform, which features functionality such as version control, refactoring, and support for class browsing and navigations in applications.

Also featured in Version 2 is a data provider API for working with data regardless of the source. For example, a Web service could be dragged and dropped on a page without having to write code to bind to that Web service. Data sources are treated identically.

The tool includes a drag-and-drop environment for Web application and portlet development. Version 2 also has updates to the application server, sample database, and developer kit that have been included in the package. A Cascading Style Sheets Editor enables developers to edit project style classes and themes, providing a customized look and feel in Web applications. Support for visual design, based on Java Specification Request 168, boosts portlet development.

Originally, Sun charged $US99 for Sun Java Studio Creator, but dropped the fee in November. "The goal here is to remove all barriers to entry and get developers easy access to our tools," Roberts said. Sun hopes to generate revenue from its tools by selling ancillary services, training, and support.

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