Powersoft PowerJ packs features for Java development
- By Todd Zino
- July 12, 2001
In recent years, client/server technology has involved increasing use of the Java programming
language. Many vendors have sought not only to realize the perfect rapid development environment but also to seamlessly
integrate this application with the current database application craze.
In the case of Powersoft PowerJ, Sybase Inc., Emeryville, Calif., has left virtually no enterprise stone unturned
in packing most leading technologies into its IDE.
PowerJ is one of a few Java development packages aimed towards high-end and otherwise advanced business solutions.
In addition to the massive PowerJ IDE, the enterprise kit bundles Sybase's SQL Anywhere (to be known as Adaptive
Server Anywhere in future releases), NetImpact Dynamo (recently renamed to PowerDynamo), Jaguar Component Transaction
Server (CTS), ObjectCycle and InfoBase.
Adaptive Server Anywhere is a standalone
database server designed to replicate SQL data for downloading and testing on a development machine. PowerDynamo
and Jaguar CTS focus on the rapidly expansive middle tier of the enterprise computing world.
PowerDynamo is a server-side engine for Web-based computing which can handle complex database transactions.
Jaguar, on the other hand, is focused mainly on creating distributed, multithreaded server applications for handling
data through clients. ObjectCycle, a source-code control system (SCCS), and InfoBase, a project planning tool,
are designed to help coordinate team development efforts. All of these members of the Sybase family serve to enhance
the versatile deployment that can be accomplished with PowerJ.
WIZARDS TO TURBOCHARGE
Within the PowerJ IDE, a remarkable degree of attention to detail and flexibility is evident. While Java may
not be at the point where source-level editing is never needed to tie objects and their events together, PowerJ
eases the potential for awkwardness at every step.
There is an expansive array of wizards and sample projects to turbocharge the initial creation of a Java applet.
Figure 1 shows one wizard, the Form Wizard, and the range of form prototypes it is capable of creating. The environment
makes consistent and thorough use of drag-and-drop programming technology. PowerJ is one of the only suites on
the market today which allows for easy migration of Java 1.02 projects to the newer version 1.1 of Java. In most
cases, this is as easy as a toggle on the "save as" dialog window.
|Fig. 1 -- For Sybase's PowerJ, the visual canvas on which the developer can lay out components
is quite extensive.
The main user interface of PowerJ is a blank "form" which can be an applet of Java 1.02 or 1.1. This
is the visual canvas on which the developer can lay out components which include, in addition to all standard AWT
classes, many powerful database, network and mail widgets from JScape. In fact, any additional Java packages can
be registered with PowerJ and added to the toolbar, which is completely customizable.
Deployment of forms created in PowerJ is most conveniently oriented towards integration with a Web site or standalone
Web page. The PowerJ WebApplication target is a powerful tool designed to seamlessly integrate the client and server
components of an enterprise Java application rather than the developer having to keep track of these different
All Java components are available from a stylish toolbar that groups buttons within layered tab cards. The form
allows for objects to be placed anywhere and resized at will without ever having to touch the complicated code
for Java layout managers (GridBagLayout in particular). In addition to an elaborate "properties" dialog
box for each component created on the canvas, an "object inspector" can also be pulled up at the click
of a mouse which lists all Java source-level events and properties in a programmer-friendly table where their values
can be modified freely.
When Java source editing is in fact needed -- and it will be required often (though impressively less so than
with most "visual" Java IDEs on the market today) -- PowerJ does wonders to ease the pain associated
with this task.
Components can be dragged into the source window where their actual names will be de-referenced for use in the
code. There is also a "reference card," which is a pop-up window with expandable tree representation
of all registered programming packages. This can be used to scan through the class hierarchy to find the appropriate
class or method to insert in an existing component. Figure 2 shows a sample editing session, with a drag-and-drop
window and associated Java code. Note how the extensive toolbar has changed since the set of toolbars shown in
Figure 1; the on-top toolbar contains the most relevant tools for the current activity.
STRENGTH IN JAVA APPLETS
While PowerJ is very competitive in its class in terms of a visual development interface, it leaves most of
the competition in the dust when it comes to integrating databases into the Java applets. As would be expected
from the company that created PowerBuilder, PowerJ inherits industry leading point-and-click SQL programming from
its sister suite.
A Visual SQL Query Editor allows the developer to build procedures by visually selecting data and setting up
display and updating properties without touching code. Database server access is provided primarily through Sybase's
JConnect, which is an implementation of the JDBC standard. Additionally, PowerJ includes support for Enterprise
JavaBeans to use in creating stored procedures on the server side of the transaction.
PowerJ incorporates an intricate series of visual Java components for working with databases. Although manipulating
SQL data is phenomenally intuitive with PowerJ, getting to it in the first place is not always as easy as it should
be. For example, there is no one-step procedure for grabbing tables from any ODBC data source.
Jaguar CTS (which is in beta for the current PowerJ bundle), while holding much potential for the future of
transaction management, crashed while testing. A PowerJ implementation of PowerBuilder's extremely popular DataWindow
utility is promised but not included in the current release.
Powersoft has included everything but the kitchen sink in PowerJ's support for leading industry standards in
its vast scope of features. Corba is supported, as is ActiveX (components of both can be dragged and dropped into
There is a sophisticated debugger included in PowerJ which allows access to bytecodes and can display error
messages in context for quicker error recovery. NetImpact Dynamo offers much in the way of Web server versatility
(NSAPI and ISAPI are also supported), but still leaves much to be desired in terms of rapid development without
tedious script editing. Wizards abound for WebApplication targets, database grids and details as well as JavaBeans.
PowerJ yields amazingly few roadblocks to painless enterprise development in a market which is becoming crammed
with such be-all Java development packages. Once all of PowerBuilder's legendary SQL interface is integrated into
PowerJ, it will continue to place itself one step ahead of the pack. It already has the advantage of a slick development
interface which is not burdened with the inherent clumsiness normally found with most young Java construction tools.
With an already impressive set of features and usability and the backing of Sybase's powerful database and development
utilities, PowerJ is destined to become a force to be reckoned with in the enterprise world.