The Isomorphic Blog


SmartGWT Enterprise Edition available

SmartGWT EE

The first release of SmartGWT Enterprise Edition is now available.

Download it here.  Check out the Showcase here.

SmartGWT EE Showcase

What is it?

SmartGWT Enterprise Edition (SmartGWT EE for short) is to SmartGWT what SmartClient Enterprise Edition is to SmartClient – an enterprise version of the product that includes Java Server side functionality, additional tools, and a classic commercial license in lieu of the LGPL.

For teams with existing Java functionality, SmartGWT EE provides greatly accelerated integration with SmartGWT’s visual components.  In many cases it is possible to take existing Java methods in an application and bind a SmartGWT grid or form to those methods without writing any new code, simply by specifying what method to call in a DataSource XML file.

For those using Hibernate, it’s even simpler.  A Wizard within Visual Builder allows you to simply pick any registered Hibernate entity from a list, and SmartGWT EE will create a SmartGWT DataSource that provides full read-write binding to that Hibernate entity.  Just provide the generated DataSource to a SmartGWT grid or form with no other configuration, and you have a full CRUD UI: create, retrieve, update, and delete Hibernate-managed entities.  It can even execute the complex search criteria that the FilterBuilder allows a user to specify.  There’s no need to create redundant Data Transfer Objects (DTO’s), or worry about Hibernate-managed lazy associations between entities in your domain model. Only those properties mapped in the data source are passed to the client, and during updates only those properties that have been modified (and not the entire bean data) are sent from the client to the server with the changes transparently reflected in your server.

Hibernate Wizard

A corresponding Wizard exists for binding to database tables stored in any popular database, again with full read-write binding.  And in both cases, you can easily add business logic that runs before or after the Hibernate or SQL binding, which can modify the request before it executes, modify the output, or take any other action.

There’s even a “batch” version of the binding tool.  Do you have a large application with 1000+ Java Beans, or 1000+ SQL tables?  Make them all accessible to SmartGWT UI widgets in one step.  The batch version of the tool includes source code, so you can customize how generation is done.  Do you have Java annotations that could be used to drive UI behaviors like required:true or canEdit:false?  There’s sample code for that.  Do you need to show a special input control or add special validators wherever a field with a certain Java type is used?  Easy change.

This is ideal for large scale enterprise development:

  1. you get all the benefits of model-driven development, including rapid prototyping and the ability to make pervasive changes driven by changes in the model
  2. you retain full extensibility: you’re working with a UI platform that allows you to build completely customized interfaces where necessary
  3. your customizations are minimal and easy to maintain; you don’t have to maintain the “code soup” typically output by code generator tools

SmartGWT EE future features

This first release of SmartGWT EE omits certain advanced components and services, including the CubeGrid and the Messaging module.  These are coming soon; we’ll be rolling out enhancements to SmartGWT EE at a rapid clip similar to what we’ve been doing with SmartGWT.

Also in this release, while Visual Builder is fully functional, it currently saves screens as XML files which cannot (yet) be readily converted into Java code for use outside of the tool.  These XML files are in SmartClient’s Component XML format and can be edited and re-loaded by Visual Builder (as with SmartClient).  Future versions of Visual Builder for SmartGWT EE will include tools to generate Java from this format, so any screens you build now are forward compatible.

Pricing

As part of the final release of SmartGWT Enterprise Edition, we’re introducing a new pricing level that works better for small teams, called SmartGWT / SmartClient Pro.  This product will have all of the client-side functionality of SmartGWT / SmartClient LGPL as well as server-side functionality similar to the 6.5.1 release of SmartClient Enterprise – server connectors, validation, basic Hibernate and SQL connectors, as well as Visual Builder – and will be offered at a price that approaches $600-800 per developer for a team license.  There will no longer be a distinction between an Intranet vs a Small Vendor Edition license.   In a nutshell this very closely matches the existing Enterprise offering, but is now less expensive.

SmartClient and SmartGWT Enterprise Edition will now come with a different license suited to larger deployments which will carry stronger legal guarantees (eg indemnity), and for that reason will also be a “Contact us” licensing level.  A handful of new features in 7.0 will be held back to the Enterprise level license, including two shown in the new SmartGWT EE showcase: a feature we call Transaction Chaining which is demonstrated in the Queued Master/Detail Add example, and the batch mode of the DataSource generator mentioned above.  Hence the need to announce the upcoming pricing changes today – further details on the feature breakdown will be posted soon.

Anyone who has already bought licenses to SmartClient Enterprise will be able to continue to renew at the currently posted pricing, which we will also continue to honor for the next 45 days (including any quotations).  So, now is a great time to purchase Enterprise Edition, as you have an opportunity to purchase the Enterprise feature set at slightly above the price of Pro, if one of our website licenses works for you.

About SmartClient 7.0

Everything discussed for SmartGWT EE above is also included in SmartClient 7.0.  Our apologies to users of the free version for the delay in getting a final release out (most enterprise customers opted to get certified on an interim build).  However, it’s worth the wait.  If we were to take a cue from the Mozilla foundation, who recently renamed Firefox 3.1 to 3.5 to reflect how much is new, we might have to skip a few numbers (kidding – we’ll stick with 7).  Stay tuned.

Open for Service

Isomorphic Software has been providing world class consulting, support and training services to top enterprises since before SmartClient was released 2001.  That may be a surprise to some of you because there has never been a description of these services on our company website.  However, things have changed, and we’ve gone public with our service offerings.   We have created a Services page to describe all of the professional services that Isomorphic provides to help teams take advantage of the power of the SmartClient framework.

Do you need enterprise support from the very engineers that have built SmartClient?  Take a look at our Commercial Support options.

Have you just started working with SmartClient and want to quickly learn the technology?  Check out the Training section.

Would you like to  get the SmartClient gurus involved with your project?  Read about our Consulting services.

Does SmartClient meet every requirement you have but one?  Find out about  Feature Sponsorship options.

SmartGWT 1.0b2 Now Available!

We are pleased to be able to announce SmartGWT 1.0b2 is now available.  [For an overview of SmartGWT see this blog post.]

We’ve been working closely with Sanjiv to improve stability, add features and respond to developer feedback and are very pleased with the progress that’s been made with this release.

Highlights include:

  • GWT 1.6 M1 and M2 support
  • Chrome, Firefox 3.1, and OSX hosted mode support
  • complete support for WebServices (WSDL)
  • A new lightweight Enterprise Gray skin
  • Improved javadocs
  • also, Numerous additional Features, Performance improvements, API enhancements and bug fixes

For full details of the release, including the complete set of release notes, please visit Sanjiv’s blog.

It’s available to download here, or you can test drive it using the online SmartGWT showcase.

This release contains a number of the improvements we’ve made to the SmartClient framework since the public 7.0 beta release.  We’re now getting close to a second public beta (7.0b2) – watch this space for more information on that!

Thanks

Paul

Databound dragging in SmartClient 7.0

One of SmartClient’s most powerful and popular features is built-in support for dragging between grids and trees that you can simply enable with property settings. That’s pretty easily understood and has been a part of SmartClient since 2001. What’s new and more interesting is what should happen when you have a databound grid connected to data from web services, SQL tables or other permanent data stores, and then you perform a drag. Can we ascribe any sensible, user-intuitive meaning to dragging an item from one databound list and dropping it on another?

Forgetting for a moment the rich diversity of things that a SmartClient DataSource might be connected to, let’s just think in terms of SQL. If we have grid A showing SQL table A and grid B showing SQL table B, what does a drag of rows from A to B mean? Does it even have a sensible meaning at all? And if there is a sensible meaning to be inferred, what SQL operations does that imply?

For release 7.0 of SmartClient, we have added a number of automatic databound dragging behaviors to grids; these arose as a result of asking ourselves these questions. It turns out that there often is a sensible meaning to be inferred from a drag of rows from A to B, a meaning that a user might even describe as “obvious”.

Firstly, it turns out that changing a dropped record so that it conforms to the drag target’s search criteria will usually give sensible and intuitive results if the two grids are bound to the same DataSource. For example, imagine we had two lists, both bound to the Products DataSource, where has one search criteria that causes it to show only Products of type “widgets”, and the other has search criteria causing it to show Products of type “gizmos”. If the user drags something out of the gizmo list and drops it on the widget list, the meaning of that gesture might seem obvious to the user – she intends that the item be recategorized as a widget. Similarly, if we were in a part of the application where new products are being created, a clear inference can be drawn from the drag gesture: the user intends that a new product be created that is just like this one, but in a different category.

This is one type of code-free databound dragging behavior that SmartClient 7.0 supports. We add or change properties on the dropped item, so that those properties now match the selection criteria of the grid, and then update the record through the DataSource. The record changes in the SQL database and, as a side-effect of that, moves from one grid to the other – SmartClient’s intelligent cache synchronization ensures that all databound components are automatically updated to reflect any changes in the underlying data. These screenshots show the result of a simple, code-free drag operation.

Dragging a record to automatically recategorize it

The record is recategorized, both visually and persistently - no code required

Another, potentially even more interesting, case where we provide automatic databound dragging behaviors is when two grids are bound to different DataSources, but those DataSources are related via a foreign key relationship. Again, it turns out that mutating the dropped record so that it conforms to the target grid’s search criteria gives sensible and intuitive results. For example, let’s say we have a grid bound to the employees DataSource, and another bound to the TeamMembers DataSource. TeamMembers holds details of which Employees are in which project teams, and thus has a foreign key reference to Employees (declared in the DataSource). So, if our TeamMembers grid is showing members of the “Online Billing” project team, what does it mean if the user drags a record out of the Employees grid and drops it on the TeamMembers grid? It seems clear that they intend that employee to be added as a member of that project team.

In this case, SmartClient will create a new TeamMembers record, automatically setting the foreign key reference from the equivalent field on the dropped employee record, and the project code from the selection criteria of the grid. Again, a couple of screenshots show this (and give me an excuse to show one of the pretty new skins)

Dragging an employee into the 'New Costing System' project

New TeamMember record created and inserted

We also provide an override point in this logic, so data manipulations can be as complex as you need them to be for any given use case. We’re sure people will find uses for this that haven’t even occurred to us, creating applications that make intelligent use of drag and drop to provide natural, intuitive UI’s.

At the top of this article, I asked you to forget about all the things that a DataSource might be connected to; I’ll now ask you to remember again! We’ve looked at these examples using the language of SQL tables here, but of course a DataSource can be connected to anything;. So really, we’re potentially talking about a drag from a WSDL web service to a corporate LDAP server, or from a legacy mainframe app to an EJB stack. DataSources truly are a wonderful thing…

SmartGWT is out

 SmartGWT

Yes it’s true!  SmartGWT was officially released yesterday with an announcement on Sanjiv’s blog.  The SmartGWT project is hosted on Google Code –  go there for downloads, JavaDocs and an online showcase featuring about 250 samples.

I’d like to thank Sanjiv for all his hard work in getting this release out so much sooner than anyone expected was possible.  As far as I can tell, Sanjiv has not slept since late September. 

Sanjiv’s release announcement for SmartGWT is quite possibly the best single explanation of how SmartClient & SmartGWT differ fundamentally from the many “widget libraries” that have crowded the Ajax space, and is well worth a read.

 For those just joining us, some quick points about SmartGWT:

  • SmartGWT lets you write Ajax RIAs in 100% Java using standard Java tools like Eclipse, with a programming model similar to Java Swing
  • SmartGWT and the underlying SmartClient library are LGPL, free for use inside commercial, closed source applications without payment of any kind
  • Through SmartClient, SmartGWT insulates you from all cross-browser issues, even when building custom components or branding/theming an application
  • SmartGWT exposes the complete SmartClient API to Java, offering dramatically richer and broader functionality than any other GWT-based solution
  • SmartGWT can be used with any type of server (not just Java) via integration with REST and WSDL services

 Look into it :)

SmartGWT Showcase

7.0 Beta is out; SmartGWT right around the corner

At long last, the fabled 7.0 is available for everyone to try out.  Use the download links below.

http://smartclient.com/releases/SmartClient_70beta_LGPL.zip

http://smartclient.com/releases/SmartClient_70beta_Evaluation.zip (30 day eval)

Please post any issues with 7.0 in the SmartClient Forums as usual, but please be very sure to mention that you are reporting an issue with 7.0 beta (ideally, put it in the subject line).

The list of new features in 7.0 is just staggering.  Here’s what you’ll find in the release notes, which covers major features only:

What’s New in 7.0

  • SilverWave and BlackOps skins, two more professionally designed, free (LGPL) skins
  • Calendar component: complete drag and drop, databound event editing similar to Google Calendar
  • TileGrid component: display records as a series of tiles, with databinding, load on demand,
    filter and sort capability
  • Advanced Filtering: client- and server-side support for field-operator-value filtering of
    data, including arbitrarily nested queries
  • Filter Builder: specialized form for end user construction of advanced filters of arbitrary
    complexity
  • Automatic databound dragging behaviors: grids and trees will now inspect data
    relations declared in DataSources and automatically “do the right thing” for a databound drag
  • ColumnTree component: ITunes™-like tree navigation (one column per level)
  • Printing: comprehensive and customizable support for rendering printable views of
    SmartClient applications
  • HeaderSpans: second level headers in grids, for grouping related columns
  • Grid row rollover effects and controls: general purpose ability to attach SmartClient
    components to rows, allowing rounded selection, controls that appear on rollover, and more
  • Grid header rollover: drop-down menus appear on rollover, offering column show/hide,
    freezing and grouping options that previously required right click to discover
  • Data autofitting: horizontal and vertical autofitting to data for ListGrids
  • Grouping modes: built-in and custom grouping modes, such as the ability to group a date
    column by week, day, month or year
  • Visual Builder “toolskin”: edit applications in any skin while Visual Builder itself
    retains consistent look and feel
  • Visual Builder “auto-add”: double-click palette items to intelligently add to last, for
    ludicrously fast screen building
  • AutoFitTextAreaItem: autofits to contained text
  • Full Tree connectors: TreeGrid connectors support now optionally includes full connectors
  • CubeGrid facet auto-derivation: greatly simplified creation of simple cubes
While you wait for your download, take a look at the new skins as they appear in Visual Builder.  This is a real, unmodified screenshot of Visual Builder editing an application using the new SilverWave skin.

Visual Builder

SmartGWT Beta on the verge of release

As if this wasn’t enough excitement for one day, in other news, SmartGWT is right on the verge of final release.  Early adopters (those who emailed us) have already been working with the technology for several weeks, contributing samples and helping with testing (thanks guys!).  Calling this a “First beta release” would give a very false impression of how comprehensive and robust SmartGWT has already become – with over 500 classes and almost 4000 documented APIs, all of SmartClient’s core features are now exposed through Java, and we have an example browser with nearly 250 samples already contributed, covering the same range of use cases as are shown for SmartClient’s set of default examples.

Stay tuned.

Cheers,

Charles

Video Tour of Visual Builder

As the first of more to come, we’ve created a video tour of the SmartClient Visual Builder tool.  The video shows you how to use Visual Builder to create a web application without writing any code.  The tool can be used by business analysts and semi-technical folks to create working prototypes or by developers just learning SmartClient to create simple applications.

Watch the video to see the drag and drop screen building and event wiring in action.  You’ll also learn about data binding made simple with the DataSource wizard.

Visual Builder was built using SmartClient, so it’s a web page that doesn’t require installation and is easy to share  within a team.  It’s a great tool for teams collaborating to create working prototypes of SmartClient applications.  The best part is that the code created by Visual Builder is clean and can be used by developers to further enrich using the entire SmartClient framework – that means the end of throwaway prototypes.

Visual Builder is extensible so developers can extend it with connectors to any kind of enterprise data provider and any kind of custom component that can be built in SmartClient – even third party controls.  Custom components can then be used to build your screens with drag and drop – just as easy as the out of the box components.

Learn more about Visual Builder – watch the video here.   We’d love to hear your feedback on the video, as well as, get requests for future video topics.

Best practices: loading DataSources dynamically

Just came across this great blog post from SmartClient user David Johnson about a technique for loading required DataSources dynamically as part of a view.

“So how do we provide DataSources customized for the user? Well, we could easily pull the metadata from the database, merge in the user’s security and then write the DataSources into the web page (we are using ASP.Net).

As there will ultimately be around 200 DataSources in the application the time to build every one of them at login time was considered too long.”

The post goes on to describe a custom class, similar to ViewLoader, that handles automatic DataSource loading as part of a transition to a new set of application views.  Usage ultimately look like this, where the viewClass provides a list of DataSources that it requires in order to function:

_rightPane.addTab({
     ID: tabId,
     title: name,
     canClose: true,
     pane: ViewDependencyLoader.create({
         autoDraw: false,
         viewClass: className
     })
});

Great stuff, and David shares the complete source to his solution.

This is also an area where SmartClient will be expanding in the future, with APIs designed to help you more easily load a view along with the data it will need to initially operate, as well as manage a pool of views, for very large applications where LRU (least recently used) or similar view management approaches become important.

Come see us at the Ajax Experience in Boston

We’ll be exhibiting at the Ajax Experience in Boston September 29th – October 1st.   Come out and meet the team at our booth outside the general session hall.   If you’ve been looking forward to seeing SmartClient 7.0 in action,  we’ll be giving sneak preview demos of the new Calendar functionality, Advanced Criteria/FilterBuilder, TileList, and much more.  In addition, we’ll also be demoing the much awaited SmartGWT.    Please come by and see us, and get the first look at these new exciting features!

Browser JavaScript performance leapfrogged again

The race for the JavaScript performance crown is heating up to an almost absurd extent.

Back In June, Apple’s Safari browser was updated with their “SquirrelFish” JavaScript interpreter, providing a huge boost to JavaScript performance that actually put Safari ahead of Tamarin, the JavaScript engine used in Adobe Flex. 

Then, just weeks ago Google released Chrome, including a JavaScript engine, dubbed “V8″, that delivers near-native execution speed for JavaScript code, jumping ahead of SquirrelFish.

Not to be outdone, Brendan Eich of the Mozilla Foundation announced shortly thereafter that pre-release versions of Firefox 3.1 are yet faster than Chrome.

Finally, today Apple has announced further improvements to the SquirrelFish JavaScript interpreter in Safari, more than doubling speed, and blowing by Chrome by almost 1/3.

Of course the million dollar question is, will Internet Explorer keep up?  Apparently, yes.  An in-depth analysis by John Resig of JQuery fame shows that beta versions of IE8 are at least in the ballpark, that is, within 3x of Chrome.  That may sound slow until you realize that still puts IE8 3x ahead of IE7, because the overall speed gains indicated by these announcements are over 10x.  And this is just a beta, released before the performance bar was so drastically and so visibly raised, which should provide motivation to keep up.

Microsoft has also been blogging about IE8 performance work, reportedly looking both at JavaScript performance improvements and improvements in other areas, such as IE’s rendering engine.  From personal experience tuning SmartClient, substantial rendering performance improvements will provide at least as much of a boost as JavaScript performance improvements.

But, bigger picture: the attention being paid to JavaScript performance very, very strongly indicates that all of the major browser vendors are focused on making their browsers the best Ajax platform available, including, for once, the vendors that also have a proprietary platform (Microsoft’s Windows and Apple’s MacOS).  This should be the first of many highly publicized feature, performance and tooling wars which will benefit all applications running on the open web platform. 

The next battle?  Possibly tools.  One of the most encouraging pieces of recent news is that Microsoft is adding a near-clone of Firebug to IE8, including a JavaScript profiler.  At long last, we can all move beyond “‘undefined’ is null or not an object” with an incorrect file and line number.  And it only took – what – 12 years? :)

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