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RIA Development Made Simple with Appcelerator and Eclipse

04.08.2008
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Appcelerator, a Rich Internet Application (RIA) vendor for SOA-based applications, recently released RIA Developer, an Eclipse plug-in that makes it easy for developers who prefer an Eclipse environment to create Appcelerator projects.The open source Appcelerator Platform enables developers to quickly assemble rich interactive Web applications without the need for JavaScript or player-based plug-ins. Web applications created using Appcelerator are enabled with service endpoints provided for Java/J2EE, PHP, Ruby, .NET, Python and Perl to address the heterogeneous nature of most enterprises today.

 

James Sugrue: What does Appcelerator do?

Nolan Wright: The Appcelerator platform is fully open source and has two major components , the RIA SDK and SOA Integration points. The RIA SDK consists of two parts: our Web Expression Langauge and our RIA Widget Framework. The Web Expression Language seamlessly integrates event handling, Ajax and DHTML using simple expressions that can be added to standard HTML elements – no Javascript is required. The RIA Widget Framework is a Javascript-based API that enables you to create new widgets or wrap existing widgets from Yahoo, ExtJS and even Flex.


The SOA Integration Points exist for Java, PHP, Ruby, .NET, Python and Perl. They are fully integrated with our message-oriented architecture, and they handle service routing and data marshalling, which enables developers to simply focus on writing service logic using their programming language of choice.

Sugrue: How do you deploy an application written using Appcelerator?

Wright: There are two possibilities. One is that you can just use our RIA SDK and leverage our widgets and our Web Expression Language – in that case, Appcelerator can be deployed anywhere, simply by including a JavaScript file. The benefit is that you can leverage Appcelerator’s RIA capabilities within legacy web environments like Struts or Webwork.

The second possibility is that you want to take advantage of the services platform also. In this case, the platform gets bundled as a standard WAR file (in the case of Java) for your application server. We’ve followed a model of having the leading container for each language to be supported by our products.

Sugrue: What does the Eclipse plug-in provide?

Wright: There are two main aspects to the Eclipse plugin. We provide code assist for Appcelerator’s Web Expression Languauge and for our widgets, plus we allow you to create Appcelerator projects using a project wizard.

Sugrue: What are your reasons for using Eclipse?

Wright: The reach of Eclipse is a major reason, considering how many people use it. We wanted to make it easy for those developers to keep using their environment and just plug in our tools to get going quickly. Also, it’s really easy to extend Eclipse – it took us only 6 weeks to get our tools written.

Sugrue: What does the future hold for Appcelerator?

Wright: We see the next big thing for us being desktop integration, but not at the expense of the browser. We want to have the power of the web in a desktop container, where we get to use features like drag n drop and saving files locally. Adobe AIR is already making progress in this area.


Sugrue: And what changes do you predict in the RIA space?

Wright: Currently there are a lot of standards in use – HTML, CSS, Javascript. And it’s very fragmented with different libraries for Ajax such as Prototype, Jquery and different libraries for widgets such as Yahoo’s YUI and ExtJS. These integration issues need to be solved so that developers have one single integrated platform for building rich applications. That’s one problem we are trying to solve with Appcelerator.

Sugrue: Where can we find out more about Appcelerator?

Wright: Just four weeks ago, we launched our developer community, www.appcelerator.org , which is of course based on the Appcelerator platform. We’re really making the effort in providing first class support to developers who are using our tools.