Ajax Frameworks and Toolkits, and Building Rich Web Applications using jMaki and Phobos

Change in Plans

On the end of this last day I attended two sessions that overlap with what I learned at NetBeans Day. I didn't do that intentionally, but I had missed some of the sessions I had wanted to go to so I could provide you with some variety, but because of writing time and publishing involved, it didn't work out quite the way I planned. For me personally, however, my schedule provided me with a much more thorough understanding of Ajax, jMaki, and the ease of use of these technologies in the NetBeans IDE.

Previously I had a felt a lot of confusion over Ajax and the many frameworks and toolkits. It was overwhelming, so I had taken the easy way out, or so I had thought, with my website, and used Dreamweaver, which supplies a few drag and drop Ajax widgets based on the Spry Framework. I've been resistant to changing because I couldn't quite figure out how to do the same thing in the NetBeans IDE, while feeling limited by what Dreamweaver and my lack of knowledge provided.

Making Sense of Ajax

The introduction I had a NetBeans day on Ajax plug ins, and jMaki in particular, really got me interested in revisiting this topic and working with it for my own site, as well as writing about it for java.sun.com. The two sessions I attended this afternoon added details and answered some of the questions that arose for me yesterday. In addition, the demos I saw today exemplified just how easy jMaki makes using widgets from many different sources, and I can't wait to dig and experiment. So, I'm glad my schedule turned out the way it did, as I feel like I've now had more than a simple introduction to Ajax and jMaki. Instead, of had what amounts to a brief course that can get me up and running soon.

That said, you can dive deeply into the area of building web applications with Ajax frameworks and tool kits, and you can learn to write JavaScript to create and customize your own components, and you can create very complete applications. You can pick and choose just a few widgets for your website and write very little code, or you can get involved in a big way.

The talk that Sang Shin gave was from a topic of his 18 week Free Ajax Programming Course.. In addition, you can view the slides that he used for today's talk, and download the sample code to run in NetBeans. he really clarified what is involved in available frameworks in general, and what toolkits provide developers.

Seeing is Believing

Doris Chen's talk on Building Rich Web Applications using jMaki and Phobos was an excellent example of a framework and toolkit. She also gave full demonstrations that showed just how easy this is done NetBeans. You can also use these frameworks, including jMaki in other IDEs, such as Eclipse. But for me, it was a relief to see how this worked in the NetBeans IDE.

I really liked the way Doris explained each step as she built small applications in NetBeans, using the jMaki framework and the many widgets available. She also went onto to show how you would create an application that needs to use outside services through a proxy and how easy it is to set that up.

I've come away from these session feeling like I finally understand the what an Ajax framework provides, what the toolkits do for you, which is an incredible amount, and just how easy or complex this process can be. You are not limited to any specific language either. As Sang points out, you decide what you want to do, then find the framework that will be suit your needs, using the language you are already familiar with, or if you are eager to learn more, dig into learning and writing JavaScript.

I think Doris' image from her slide exemplifies well how jMaki helps you create an Ajax application, using the widgets of your choice, in the language you are most comfortable with, and in your favorite tool, all the while jMaki provides the wrapper for all of that so you don't have to worry about it:

Each of the Toolkits listed on the left have their own assortment of ready made widgets that you can use in your application. The language in the middle show that you are not limited to an specific language, and the Tools on the right show you that you can use an IDE or an Ant-based tool. All of this pulled seamlessly together. Each application only took her a few minutes to create, and one in particular she said would take about two hours once you know what you're doing.

For More Information

To learn more about these events and see the slides from this talk and others, visit the Tech Days website.

Dana Nourie
Sun Microsytems


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