Adobe Flex 2
James Ward, Technical Evangelist
Remember when "I used Flash" meant "I wanted bouncy things on my web page?" Sort of like when "Java" mostly meant "Duke the animated mascot." But just as Java morphed into a critical player in the server room, Flash has grown up into a rich client-facing runtime that's essentially ubiquitous -- and Flex has likewise turned into a real development platform for it.
Flash's media richness hardly needs hype, but if you're currently trying to dazzle users with page refreshes or DOM twiddles, your users are in for a whole new experience. What Adobe is clearly trying to doÑand according to the judges, succeeding brilliantly so far -- is position Flex 2 as the player to beat in the rich Internet application market, head-to-head with the various AJAX libraries and Microsoft's Silverlight. (The judges minced no words: "I love Flex." and "This is what brings Flash to fruition for serious development.")
You can build Flex apps with free command-line tools, but serious developers will want the Eclipse-based IDE, Flex Builder 2. It provides a design view for constructing the visual elements and a debugger for ActionScript; optionally, there's also a library of data-bound, interactive charts. Likewise, on the back end you can run against XML or HTTP data services out of the box, install a free single-CPU Data Services product to expand your access to the serverÑincluding synchronization with local data, even in the face of disconnects -- or scale on up to a serious enterprise deployment. Flex Data Services also provides peer-to-peer messaging services among client applications.
No thinking developer chooses a platform without an eye on the future, and here, too, Flex has the Jolt judges' full attention. At press time, Adobe announced that Flex had gone open source. And, Flex developers will have a leg up as Adobe brings out Project Apollo, their technology for building cross-platform, click-to-deploy, connected desktop applications out of web tools like HTML and Flash. We can't wait.
JetBrains IntelliJ IDEA just keeps getting better and better. It's simply one of the most extensive and extensible development environments around for Java coders. Version 6 earns another Productivity Award (Version 5 took home the prize last year) by providing more of what we've come to love about this product--more refactorings and even more code-inspection tools. In fact, there are now more than 600 code inspectors seeking out everything from performance issues to probable bugs. What JetBrains doesn't cover is likely handled by the growing number of plug-ins made possible through the product's open API.
A key positive for IntelliJ IDEA is how JetBrains keeps pace with the latest in Java technologies. This version adds new support for JavaServer Faces, the Google Web Toolkit, and Ruby and Struts frameworks. There are also improvements in support of AJAX and EJB 1.0 to 3.0. Altogether, IntelliJ IDEA keeps the bar for full-featured IDEs high.
--Robert A. DelRossi
Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) has matured beyond the "simple" stage. As a consequence of the numerous interoperable protocols surrounding the technology, analyzing and testing the plethora of SOAP messages and interactions has become a major chore for developers, especially for those large team projects that employ hundreds, possibly even thousands, of variable calls to numerous distributed services. Mindreef's SOAPscope corrals these services and helps teams effectively measure and prototype for Service-Oriented Architected designs. It can be used to monitor an entire transaction from beginning to end or drill down to a single message invocation and response capture and analysis for unit, functional, and regression testing needs. User-defined compliance rules can be invoked in addition to SOAPscope's own compliance and validation evaluation of service messages, schema, and WSDL definitions. Each of these can be invoked via a simple point-and-click interface, with the option to even broadcast results via RSS.
NetBeans Visual Web Pack 5.5
Developing web applications with AJAX technology and web services can be a pleasure! The NetBeans Visual Web Pack integrates web components with the NetBeans IDE to make it so.
The AJAX components are supplied in the form of JavaServer Faces components. You can quickly build an AJAX front-end using the NetBeans drag-and-drop GUI builder. For example, there is a tutorial for building a simple Google maps viewer. It only takes an hour to get it working.
The Visual Web Pack also includes components to quickly build web services clients and servers. It is such a pleasure to be developing both the client and server code at the same time within a fully functional, well-integrated IDE with a GUI builder, debugger, and build tool.