Spring Java framework gets a Java 6 upgrade

Upgrades expected this week

Improvements to the open-source Spring Java framework and a companion Web technology focus on annotations, scripting, and Java (Java Platform Standard Edition) 6, developers of the framework said. The upgrades are being unveiled this week.

Officials of Interface21, which oversees development of Spring technologies, will reveal plans for Spring Framework 2.1 and Spring Web Flow 1.1. Both will be available in a release candidate form at the JavaOne conference, which begins in San Francisco on May 8. Final releases are planned for June.

Having been downloaded 3 million times, Spring has become popular for Java application development because it combines simplicity and power and can be used in mission-critical applications, said Rod Johnson, founder of Spring and CEO of Interface21.

Themes around the new releases of Spring and Spring Web Flow focus on ease of use and exposing the products to different categories of users, such as those who want to use annotations heavily.

Spring's accommodations for annotations will probably be the most noticeable improvement, Johnson said. Traditionally, Spring has emphasized the use of XML meta data to externalize configuration data from Java code. But in version 2.1, annotations, which are source-level metadata, can be used.

"Application configuration becomes simpler," Johnson said.

Use of source-level metadata is akin to adding notes to code, such as to a message declaration or a field. "It doesn't change how the code executes, but it adds metadata that can be used, for example, by frameworks," said Johnson.

The key point is some developers like to use XML, but another camp likes to use annotations, said Neelan Choksi, Interface21 vice president. A third camp likes to mix and match, he said.

Annotations was called "a great time-saver and a good productivity feature," by Brad Shimmin, principal analyst at Current Analysis.

"Annotations have been around for a while, but they're now just starting to really take off, primarily with the introduction of Java EE (Enterprise Edition) 5 and now enhanced through Spring 2.1," Shimmin said. "What they do, which is pretty cool, actually, is they let you describe the use and meaning of different objects."

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