Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Thinking out of the sandbox

I was recently at the always interesting JAOO conference. I was going to blog about the interesting stuff I saw there, but I haven't until now.

So I thought I'd have a play with Google's Web Toolkit. It's a Java compiler that generates JavaScript instead of byte codes as its output. What this means that it's like Java in the browser, only better in many ways.

* You get web style widgets, and you can use CSS to style them. This has the potential to look much better than the typical Java applet look, which is pretty dire.
* The application is not in a sandbox, but deeply integrated with the browser, including the back button, the forms, etc.
* The user doesn't need to install a plugin to use your site

And it's like Javascript, except you don't have to do everything in a prototype-based language with no debugger, no cross browser compatibility, no compile-time checking and no module/package system. So that's a net reduction in suckyness too.

So basically the idea rocks, and the implementation is pretty convincing too. I decided to have a play with it, and within a few hours had a moderately amusing little application. I don't use their clever 'pure Java RPC', the back button integration, the JUnit implementation, the CSS styling of widgets and the integration in the browser. It's just an applet, really. But it took no time, even including downloading GWT for the first time, I had fun, and I was able to debug it in Eclipse using breakpoints, etc. The whole kit and kaboodle.

It's a game of Solitaire the way we used to play it before the Yanks came along and taught us to call Patience Solitaire. The game is here and the source is there.

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