NetObjects ScriptBuilder streamlines coding

NetObjects ScriptBuilder streamlines coding

Whether you are a Web developer creating a complex application or a webmaster tuning a dynamic Web site, your world is filled with a profusion of scripts. Unless you are fortunate enough to be working within a well-defined, single-platform intranet environment, these probably range from client-side JavaScript to database-intensive server-side code developed in Active Server Pages and VBScript, to CGI handlers written in Perl.

Help with this jumble of scripts is now at hand with NetObjects ScriptBuilder 3.0, an integrated development environment for creating and editing scripts. One word of caution: this productivity tool is for experienced developers and advanced webmasters, not non-technical beginners.

ScriptBuilder's familiar integrated development environment (IDE) combines a powerful script editor with a visual point-and-click interface that speeds development. It not only supports the ubiquitous JavaScript and VBScript, but also more specialised scripting languages such as ColdFusion Markup Language.

Adaptable editor

ScriptBuilder's smart editor is the workhorse, assisted by a variety of toolbars and some unique features to help you write error-free code. After you select one of the four main languages (JavaScript, VBScript, Java, or Perl), the editor adapts itself by providing several aids. Support for other languages is provided via the Reference Panel, which can be used to drag and drop tags. Otherwise, CFML is written using the HTML editor, because CFML is an extension to HTML and not a separate language like JavaScript.

The editor is powerful enough to create Web pages with standard HTML tags and form elements. But for its lack of tools to create tables and framesets, it would have made an effective HTML editor as well.

Autoscripting cuts down repetitive typing considerably by expanding keywords automatically as you type the word and hit the space bar. I liked being able to define my own keyword expansions for this feature.

I found the Syntax Checker invaluable in locating and fixing JavaScript and VBScript problems quickly. But, it only works with these two languages. For example, it always gave a clean bill of health to my Perl scripts, despite obvious errors.

The feature that makes ScriptBuilder more than a mere code editor is the Toolbox on the left pane of the ScriptBuilder window. Comprising multiple tabbed panels, the Toolbox is a repository of reference material, code libraries, and script components. This last item, a NetObjects innovation, brings an object-oriented approach to scripting.

The Reference Panel consists of a rich set of online documentation regarding languages and technologies of interest to scripters. It's built with XML, so you can add your own documentation and custom tags to this library. The document structure allows locally stored pages or remote Web URLs as elements; however, I experienced some difficulty when using the Microsoft Active Server Page Reference. The XML document pointed to URLs that were incorrect or had been moved.

In addition, I found it odd that a Reference document on the XML structure and tags was not included, enabling me to use ScriptBuilder to create custom reference documents.

ScriptBuilder gives you two ways to reuse code, which is usually a difficult task because the scripts are embedded in HTML and scattered among various pages. The Script Library panel in the Toolbox gives you instant access to code snippets, which you can drag and drop into the editor window. You can add your own code snippets to those provided, and download more from the ScriptBuilder Web site.

However, I found the linear list of entries in the Script Library a bit cumbersome to use, with no way of hiding entries or reorganising them in a hierarchical way.

Frequent JavaScript users will love ScriptBuilder's component approach to scripting. From the Component Gallery in the Toolbox, you can drag and drop the component to add functionality to the page without ever seeing the code it contains.

Component Inspector

When adding or selecting a code component, the Component Inspector box pops up to let you set properties and events. Because the component's code is not inserted within the page source, you need to deploy it so ScriptBuilder can place the needed support files, along with the HTML page, on the target server. This convenient feature will allow advanced developers to create project-specific components for use by other script authors.

By bringing reference documentation, code reuse, and support for many scripting platforms to a single development environment, ScriptBuilder will find fans among developers coding dynamic sites and among webmasters presiding over their scripting Towers of Babel.

The Bottom Line

NetObjects ScriptBuilder 3.0

In one low-cost package, ScriptBuilder 3.0 gives script developers a veritable Swiss army knife of tools ranging from extensible online references to a unique JavaScript component architecture. ScriptBuilder is strongest in its support of the popular JavaScript and VBScript languages, but does an adequate job with Java and Perl.

Pros: Support for many scripting languages and platforms; browser compatibility tools; script component creation tool; visual map of code structure; preview options; centralised script library.

Cons: Single-user tool; lack of project management features; large script libraries that cannot be reorganised for quick access; Perl scripts not supported by syntax checker.

Platforms: Windows NT, Windows 95, Windows 98.

Price: Available on application.

Firmware Design

Tel (02) 4721 2711


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