AJAX IDE called good idea

AJAX IDE called good idea

Eclipse panelists ponder need

Even if text editors have been prominent in AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) development, developers nonetheless would benefit from an IDE, panelists agreed at the EclipseCon 2007 conference on Wednesday.

In a session entitled, "What Does Eclipse Need to Do to Become the IDE for AJAX?", panelists from companies such as IBM and Nexaweb said AJAX could use an IDE and that AJAX could benefit from Eclipse technologies.

"I remember when Java first came out and all I used was a text editor," said panelist Robert Goodman, senior programmer at IBM. He said he did not like the first Java IDEs. But now, he could not go back to writing Java without one. "I think that's eventually what you'll get on JavaScript," Goodman said.

Eclipse's own AJAX-related projects include the AJAX Toolkit Framework, for editing, compiling and debugging AJAX applications, and Rich AJAX Platform, serving as a runtime for AJAX applications.

Panelists also cited issues in AJAX development. Detailing his own experience with AJAX complexity, panelist Coach Wei, CTO at Nexaweb, told of writing an AJAX application and running into trouble. Eventually, he found a problem related to a CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) file.

JavaScript now is being used to write large libraries, which was not anticipated, according to Goodman. "We haven't proven yet that you can really do this in JavaScript," Goodman said.

Panelists noted that although AJAX can be difficult, it is still the way to go for desktop interaction in Web applications.

"Definitely, the reason to do AJAX is for those sexy, dynamic Web apps," said Eric Clayberg, senior vice president of product development at Instantiations.

Panelists supported consolidation in the area of AJAX runtimes, noting the existence of runtimes such as Dojo.

An audience member emphasized that rather than devising new technologies, it may be a good idea to leverage what has already been done. "They should be standing on the shoulders of giants," said Hal Hildebrand, an architect in Oracle's Java platform group, after the session. AJAX is a new interface technology and lots of work already has been done in this area, he said.

Another audience member, Kyle Shank, developer of the RadRails IDE for Ruby on Rails, cautioned against relying on a single framework for AJAX.

"I would caution everyone who's interested in AJAX to not depend on one framework and actually write your apps in a way that [they] don't depend on one framework," Shank said. RadRails was built on the Eclipse Rich Client Platform.

Companies represented on the panel, such as Aptana, Instantiations, and Nexaweb, offer tools for AJAX developers.

Also on Wednesday, EclipseCon featured a session where attendees could air gripes about Eclipse. Attendees expressed desires for improvements such as a native installer, which would tailor installations of Eclipse to suit the target platform. Nested projects support, enabling projects to be maintained within other projects, also got a thumbs-up.

Improvements to Eclipse dialog capabilities and the Eclipse Graphical Editing Framework also were suggested. Scripting enhancements were requested as well, as was stronger support for the Subversion version control system.

Others in the audience noted that work is being done in areas such as scripting. The Eclipse Monkey project is a dynamic scripting tool for automating routine programming tasks.

One attendee said it is possible to create nested projects within Eclipse but there is no wizard for automating this function.

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