Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Google Web Toolkit or GWT (speaker Bruce Johnson)

Bruce works for Google on the GWT but a little research has shown that he previously worked on the AppForge MobileStudio project which I used a long, long time ago.

But that is besides the point, back to business.

He started off by reiterating some of the risks that go with a Ajax toolkit project such as usability, portability, speed, tool support, and quality.

The GWT is only available to Java as it cross-compiles Java to the Ajax platform (JavaScript) but will enable you to use a lot of the standard Java libraries, in fact all that are not virtually impossible from JavaScript.

Programming in Java enables you to use all the debugging and rich IDE (Eclipse, Sun Studio and others) to develop and GTW provides a GWT Host Browser to run / test your applications. The host will go to great lengths to ensure that it resembles the real thing as it eventually will run in the user’s browser.

In the usability department, something that I consider very important if you are doing Ajax, was the fact that GWT has very good font and color-scheme support built in. A lot of functionally inhabited people use these to get a more satisfying experience using their computer but a lot of software or webpages out there simply ignores them and has these hard-coded which to me says something about how their programmers think about their users (personal ranting finished).

The GWT also has the Back button problem and Browser History problem with Ajax applications covered but from a programmer’s perspective. No way near as elegant as what Erik Meijer suggested in his keynote yesterday but I won’t go into that.

In fact, one thing that distinguished the GWT from other Ajax toolkits is, that it will support Back / History even when you leave your application and later return to it. That is a good thing to test any Ajax toolkit on how well they support these browser functions.

You can indicate whether you want to generate obfuscated JavaScript (used when you only develop in GWT/Java) up to very verbose JavaScript that can be further enhanced by other developers.

I have to be honest here, it felt a bit too much like a product plug from which of course Google won’t get any money as GWT is open source but more in name-fame and thought-leadership. Fortunately this was offset by Bruce who was a very enthusiastic speaker and really wants to make the best toolkit ever. This left me with the feeling that it was one of those commercials that don’t annoy but nevertheless are meant to get you to choose “their product” if you know what I mean.

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