Thursday, March 26, 2009

RIA, Flex and Excitement

I cannot believe that already two weeks passed by since the Atlanta DevNexus conference. Since then I have been quite busy learning Flex. My desire to explore Flex started back when James Ward talked at one of our AJUG meetings several months ago. Unfortunately, beyond some initial explorations, I never found the time to make the next leap forward.

The presentations at the DevNexus conference, though, finally pushed me beyond that initial hump. At the conference I attended the talks for GWT, JavaFX and Flex. Here is what I took away from it:

No doubt, GWT looks great and I think it is in the process of capturing a good share of the pie among Java developers. Since you write the GUI using Java (Compiled into JavaScript), it is a really nice component-based Framework (forget JSF). The ability to unit test your GUI code with just jUnit is cool, too. Something I was not aware of prior to attending DevNexus is the ability to also embed GWT into existing applications (e.g. a DIV on a page). However, at the end of the day you're still creating HTML with its limitations in terms of richness.

In terms of that, JavaFX has potential in my opinion. While it comes with its own scripting language you are still able to use the the full breath of exisitng Java libraries. Unfortunately, JavaFX does not seem to be there, yet. While some of the example application look nice, it still lacks some important pieces, e.g. lots of standard components. At the end of the day, most developers are building business apps and thus need standard components for datagrids, charting etc.

This was also one of the key complaints Yakov Fain (See picture) made at his DevNexus presentation which gave the audience an overview of various RIA technologies. (Another perspective on the JavaFX was posted by Javalobby: Where in the world is JavaFX?)

And therefore, by the end of the conference I was mostly convinced that Adobe Flex is the best technology at the moment for delivering rich internet applications. Don't get me wrong, I still hope that JavaFX can make it and maybe IBM fancies with the idea of becoming a player in that area and provides some more resources once BlueSun is born.

Nevertheless, once the conference was over, I made the decision to take the Flex deep dive. I mostly finished reading Learning Flex 3 and I just started reading Pro Flex on Spring. For both books I am planning on publishing book reviews soon.

As an example I am in the process of creating a simple Flex-based front-end (highly experimental) for jRecruiter my open source project. So far I have setup the Spring BlazeDS 1.0M2 integration and I am pulling back job postings from the server using AMF and showing them in a data-grid component. Furthermore, I added Google Maps to the Flex application which works pretty neat. It gives you the ability to show job postings on a map (and thus helping you estimate possible morning commutes). I hope to have a deployed version available soon. In the meantime, here is an early screen-shot:

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gunnar, I too agree with you that Flex seems to be the way to go currently as far as RIA goes. And that's why I to have been trying to play with it. Just curious as to what IDE have you been using to play with Flex? I was looking Adobe Flex Builder, but it is not free. I was wondering if you have come across any open source IDE's to build Flex apps?



March 26, 2009 at 9:47 AM  

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