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Is the Google Web Toolkit Right For You? 163

An anonymous reader writes "The recently released Google Web Toolkit (GWT) is a comprehensive set of APIs and tools that lets you create dynamic Web applications almost entirely in Java code. However, GWT is something of an all-or-nothing approach, targeted at a relatively small niche in Web application development market. This article shows you what GWT can do and will help you decide if it's the best tool to use for your web development."
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Is the Google Web Toolkit Right For You?

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  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @10:58AM (#15621140) Homepage Journal
    I think that's how ASP.NET components have worked for years too.

    Not to mention EchoPoint.

    It's a good idea, but the devil is in the details.

    App developers are overwhelmed with details they have to manage. And we all know that the essence of good design is not having to worry about details until the appropriate time. The flip side is when you do focus on some other details you'd been ignoring up to this point, you don't want to have to worry about details you've already taken care of.

    So, the idea is that programmers should be able to program with your framework without worrying that they are doing something web based. That's good. But the flip side of that is that designers should be able to design without worrying about the fact the programmers are using your framework.

    The problem with past attempts at this paradigm fall short of ideal because they enforce non-standard or proprietary ways of doing things. They may be good enough, but they could be improved on.

  • by neonprimetime ( 528653 ) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @10:59AM (#15621142)
    What do you think when you hear "Code Generator?"

    Great for college research (took multiple classes on it)... but annoying in the real world ... if it's possible ... I'll delete as much of the auto-generated code as possible and start from scratch ...
  • haxe (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ncannasse ( 976609 ) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @11:10AM (#15621226)
    There's been several JS code generators recently. Apart from GWT there's also haXe [] which is more ambitious. haXe can also be used on the Server Side and includes some facilities for Dynamic programming (whereas Java is strongly typed 100% of the time).
  • Accessibility? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by metamatic ( 202216 ) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @11:12AM (#15621247) Homepage Journal
    Also, what's the state of the art in screen readers? Do they have sufficient JavaScript support? (*)

    If not, using GWT for a corporate web site is just a lawsuit waiting to happen.

    (*) This is not an idle question, I'm sincerely interested in real answers and pointers to software.
  • YAHOO UI Toolkit (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Foofoobar ( 318279 ) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @11:15AM (#15621280)
    We've already got an MVC LAMP architecture here at work and I have limited Javascript development until the framework was further along. But now the designers are getting edgy because I won't let them incorporate Javascript.

    My issue was that I wanted a unified javascript library so we didn't have redundant code snippets all over the place and some way to standardize the development. So after a little searching, I found the Yahoo UI toolkit that is still in beta. It's a unified javascript library released under a BSD license that has been tested in multiple browsers.

    No I have a unified library, tested in multiple browsers and standardized that all I have to do is drop into a directory and hook into the framework.

    I know this is probably unrelated but since we were talking about toolkits, I thought this would be handy to mention this as well since it saved us a month of work.
  • Re:Short answer: No. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by misleb ( 129952 ) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @11:30AM (#15621416)
    I think the policy of graceful degradation has gone way too far when it comes to the web. I think it is just fine to assume a client has Javascript. Javascript is far too valuable when it comes to writing sophisticated web apps to work without it. It multiplies the workload on coders and it dumbs down the applications. And for what? Cell phones with an incomplete web browser? The 1% of users who are too paranoid to allow Javascript? Screw 'em. If they want to cripple their browsing experience, that is their business. Why should everyone else suffer?

    Of course, i depends on the application. There are cases (most cases?) when Javascript really does nothing but add "flare" to a site which would otherwise work fine without JS. But then there are some apps which actually leverage JS to work around the significant limitations of HTML/HTTP. The latter is becoming more and more common.

  • by lenulus ( 737004 ) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @11:36AM (#15621481)
    Hey, this is a bit of a shameless plug for my open source project, but it's on topic to GWT. Speaking to the subject of the post, regarding the utility of GWT, I point to my API and API like it so say there is probably a larger market for GWT than this fellow is speculating, and frankly from my experience with the interface I don't see how he could reasonablely charictarize it as all-or-none (the project google generates is example of how to integrate google GWT into your current HTML using named elements and replacing them....). Features: Fully implemented all the major classes including the new Geocoder and events. Available for download on SourceForge ( For anyone interested in helping help please e-mail me (developers, testers, documenters welcome).
  • GWT vs. Echo2 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by arigi ( 932824 ) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @11:47AM (#15621560)
    This seems like a useful article. At work we were just discussing the possibilities of using the GWT. Currently we use NextApp's Echo1 and are also pondering upgrading to Echo2 []. The demo app for Echo2 is actually mighty impressive; I'd say moreso than GWT's. Though I wonder how much of it is just more time spent on fancy graphics as opposed to a better quality framework.
  • by WombatControl ( 74685 ) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @11:58AM (#15621626)

    As a disclaimer, I'm a huge fan of Ruby on Rails, and not at all a fan of Java.

    The problem with the GWT and other framworks like it as it ignores the reality that browsers today suck. IE's rendering engine is suckier than Monica Lewinsky holding a Dyson at the event horizon of a black hole. Firefox doesn't quite yet pass Acid2, but is as close to a reference platform as one can get. Safari shows promise, but it has a weak JavaScript environment that doesn't support things like ContentEditable. The whole problem is that the GWT assumes a much more stable platform than actually exists.

    The real challenge for web application developers is that there are no frameworks (that I know of) that provide for things like fully semantic code, graceful degradation of capabilities, and full separation of content, behavior, and presentation. (For why that separation is important A List Apart has a great article on the subject [].) Not even Ruby on Rails gets this right by default.

    GWT tries too hard to abstract the actual code that user agents see from the code the programmers create - and that level of abstraction just doesn't work yet. Just like trying to translate a passage in French to English and Japanese with a machine translator, the GWT tries to take Java code and translate it into a mish-mash of XHTML, CSS, and JavaScript - and the results are as mangled as one would expect.

    Until someone comes along with a framework that creates clean, semantic code with full separation of behavior, presentation, and content, web application developers have to be mindful of their code and do a lot by hand. Frameworks can save time, but they also cause a trade-off in terms of code quality and compatibilty. The GWT goes too far in that balance IMHO, and isn't something I'd use to develop public applications. Like ASP.NET, it's too reliant on abstracting XHTML/CSS/JavaScript from what the programmers deal with, and that always leads to bloated masses of code that frustrate users and hog bandwidth.

  • Why I like YUI (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HotButteredHampster ( 614950 ) < minus painter> on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @12:03PM (#15621657) Homepage
    The two things I like about the Yahoo! UI toolkit are that:

    - it is a la carte
    - it represents pretty advanced, human-readable Javascript, which has allowed me to learn advanced Javascript techniques

    The first, a la carte, means that the entire web application does not need to be dedicated to YUI. Recently I incorporated a YUI DHTML window (Panel, in YUI-speak) into an existing ASP.NET application. It required only a few lines of Javascript and some HTML. Ditto for another application (JSF, this time), where I added an AJAX data lookup to dynamically populate sample values in a dropdown list. I love the DOM and Event libraries: they really clean up the cruddy job of adding small DHTML things to a website, regardless of how it's put together.

    The second, that YUI is a learning experience, is also very important to me. I've come late to the DHTML game, and most books and tutorials on Javascript deal with the basics, and stuff like OO programming is either glossed over or omitted entirely. However, Javascript is a language that is suited to OO programming in a unique way, IMHO. By studing how the YUI toolkit works and seeing what Javascript is capable of, it has opened the doors for new ways of tackling problems and reducing the number of lines of JS code I write.

  • by sproketboy ( 608031 ) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @12:17PM (#15621761)
    Uses java byte code instead of source so it's more stable. 7051229467 []
  • Google gets the lion's share of publicity, but there are a lot of AJAX toolkits [] out there that do a lot of the grunt work. I've been thinking about using some AJAX in a project I'm working on, and Yahoo was definitely one of the ones I'm considering. The "Sajax" one also looks interesting.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @01:55PM (#15622624)
    HTML/Javascript developer - Mountain Dew and a bag of Doritos

    Java developer - Evian and arugula salad with roquefort dressing

    Fortran developer - coffee and ham sandwich on Wonder Bread

    XML developer - cyanide

"If the code and the comments disagree, then both are probably wrong." -- Norm Schryer