Tools on par for business app creation

Tools on par for business app creation

Setting corporate standards for development tools can be a lot like herding cats. Most software developers are quite particular about which tools they use. Some developers prefer coding with a text editor, such as VI or Emacs on Unix or WordPad on Windows. Others like the productivity boost provided by the aids available in IDEs.

We recently test-drove two leading IDEs: Sun Microsystems' Forte for Java 2.0 Internet Edition and Oracle's JDeveloper 3.2. We found the two environments to be very useful for creating Java-based business applications and that each allowed us to load and work with existing code with ease.

To measure our success with these tools, we decided to build the same e-commerce applications using each environment. In addition, we created the same set of applications using a text editor to determine the possible productivity gains that developers might find by using the Sun or Oracle IDE.

Sun's Forte for Java

Forte for Java's interface makes good use of scarce screen real estate. Initially, it opens to fill approximately a quarter of the screen; then depending on whether you are editing, browsing, running or debugging, additional task-specific windows open on the remaining portion of the screen.

For example, if you are running an application, the execution and output windows appear. By contrast, if you're browsing, you will see the object browser properties and explorer windows on your screen.

Building our e-commerce applications was straightforward using the Forte for Java interface. It compared favourably to our experience with Oracle's JDeveloper and other tools such as CodeWarrior and JBuilder.

In particular, we liked the built-in support for creating and editing XML files, the easy access to data sources, and the support for Java Servlet 2.2 and Java Server Pages (JSP) 1.1 specifications. We were able to complete and deploy our e-commerce applications quickly.

Developers will find several time-saving measures in the Forte for Java IDE. For example, you can create applications, servlets and JSPs from templates if you like. Available editing support includes useful features such as colour-coding and code-completion functionality.

Developers should also take note that support for transparent persistence, which is based on the Java Data Objects standard, is included in this release. Among other things, developers can leverage transparent persistence to create Java-based persistent objects from database schema or add persistence to existing Java objects. Developers may also leverage transparent persistence support for Java Query Language to access data more easily.

If XML support is what you need, Forte for Java is up to the task. It automatically parses XML files in the presence of a DTD (document type definition), and it includes an XML-specific editor that makes modifying code a breeze.

Oracle's JDeveloper

As we did with Forte, we installed JDeveloper on a Windows 2000 machine to create our e-commerce applications. However, we were not able to install JDeveloper on Solaris or Linux. Unlike Forte, JDeveloper is supported only on Windows NT and Windows 2000.

JDeveloper is based on JBuilder technology licensed from Borland. Solaris and Linux developers will find that JBuilder does support these platforms. However, JBuilder lacks a number of the useful tools provided by Oracle in JDeveloper, particularly those that simplify the creation of business logic.

JDeveloper includes some simple and useful elements such as iconic representations to differentiate file types - for example, SQL, XML and Java. The interface is easy to navigate and productivity boosters, such as code-editing aids, are included.

But where JDeveloper really shines is in the creation of business logic. This is significant because, whether you're building Web or wireless or internal business applications, creating the logic that runs on the middle tier can take up the bulk of your application development time line.

Included in JDeveloper is Oracle's Business Components for Java, a server-side framework that makes it easy to create and reuse components. For example, developers might choose to create business logic to access and update a particular database, and then use Business Components for Java framework to create different SQL views of the same data for use in other applications. We felt that Business Components for Java really helped to speed up the development of our e-commerce applications.

As does Forte, JDeveloper includes quite a few aids to help developers needing XML support. Syntax highlighting and code-completion aids, in particular, will prove to be time savers for developers. An XML parser is also included.

In this version of JDeveloper, Oracle has enhanced support for XSQL by including templates that allow developers to assemble XML as a result of SQL queries. An XSQL servlet provides accessibility to XSQL-based applications for Web clients.

Making the choice

Either of these tools would be a good addition to the corporate development toolbox. Forte for Java is well-suited to Solaris or Linux users concerned with keeping costs down. For developers sharply focused on middle-tier components, JDeveloper is a good choice.

What's new in Oracle JDeveloper 3.2?

- Support for JSP 1.1 and Java Servlet 2.2 specifications.

- Several enhancements to simplify the creation of business logic.

- Enhancements to XSQL support.

- Database browser support for SQL-92-compliant databases.

What's new in Forte for Java 2.0?

- Support for JSP 1.1 and Java Servlet 2.2 specifications.

- Internationalisation added.

- Built-in XML support.

- Code-completion support added for HTML, XML, JSP, and Java code.

The Bottom Line - JDeveloper 3.2 *****

Business Case: Oracle JDeveloper, part of the Oracle Developer Suite, offers useful tools to simplify the creation of business-logic components. Whether building Web or wireless applications, developers will find JDeveloper useful in speeding up the process.

Technology Case: Building on Borland's JBuilder IDE, Oracle has added strong support for database accessibility and business-logic creation. This development environment is well-suited to enterprise developers who need to focus on the middle tier and back-end services.


- Beefy support for business-logic creation.

- Straightforward development aids.

- Good debugging facilities.


- Development platforms limited to Windows.

- Available only as part of Oracle Developer Suite.

Platforms: Windows NT, Windows 2000.

The JDeveloper 3.2 is currently available in Australia, price upon application -

The Bottom Line - Forte for Java 2.0 *****Business Case: Companies that leverage Sun's Forte for Java can expect their developers to be highly productive. This top-notch IDE speeds up the creation of dynamic, data-driven business applications, reducing both development cost and time to market.

Technology Case: Forte for Java will prove a useful addition to your toolbox whether you develop on Linux, Solaris, or Windows. Built-in coding aids combined with support for the latest Java standards, HTML and XML tools, and easy database accessibility helps developers move quickly through the development cycle.


- Effective use of screen real estate.

- Useful editing tools.

- Good debugging capabilities.


- None significant.

Platforms: Windows NT, Windows 2000, Solaris, Linux, and other Unix-based platformsPricing: Forte for Java 2.0 Community Edition retails for $50 per user, while the Internet Edition is available in Australia for A$1,150 per user.

Sun-on-line 1800 628 193.

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