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Sun Gives Devs Preview of Thresher Shark

Java developers are getting a chance to test drive some new features proposed for the next major release of Sun Microsystems' Java Studio Creator visual development environment, code-named Thresher Shark. The preview features are not yet fully supported, says Dan Roberts, manager of Sun's developer tools marketing group, but are offered to give developers a chance to try them out and provide feedback.

Preview versions of upcoming tools are nothing new to developers, but Sun's approach here is fairly innovative. Rather than forcing developers to download separate beta copies of the whole IDE and maintaining separate installations, Sun is making it possible for devs to work with the features within their existing toolsets.

“They can turn them on, play around with them in a project or two inside their toolset, and then turn them off when they want to go back to their production development,” Roberts explains.

The Thresher Shark preview functionality includes a number of interesting features, among them:

- The ability to import EJBs into Creator as data sources that can be moved into the visual design canvas. “We don't build EJBs in Java Studio Creator,” Roberts explains. “EJBs are fairly heavyweight infrastructure for large-scale systems. But even at the corporate developer level, there's a need to reuse the existing infrastructure-gateways that have already been defined and Java APIs that have been around for a while that they simply want to reuse.”

- Design-time APIs for building custom JavaServer Faces components. “Standard JSPs provide a definition for what a component is supposed to be, but to get that component to behave nicely inside an IDE you need additional information from the component or the component author,” explains Roberts. “The new Design-time API allows component authors to add additional richness into the design experience for developers using [Creator].”

- A feature that simplifies the process of deploying applications to remote servers. “Previously, we packaged a server inside the tool that allowed you to automatically deploy, debug, and test all of your apps with the local server,” Roberts says. “But we've found that a lot of developers want to deploy to a remote workgroup server. We now have a system for automated deployment for remote servers, as well to our Sun Java System application server.”

- A new style property editor that allows users to map and create CSS2 style attributes to help define the look and feel of an application. The improved style editor is designed to let developers quickly change text size, fonts, backgrounds, color, positioning and more.

- New HTML page import capabilities that allow users to convert HTML pages into dynamic JSPs, which allows developers to start visually building in JSP components, binding data and consuming Web services into the same page.

Originally developed under the code name Rave and first released in June 2004, the Java Studio Creator tool was designed to be simple, supporting the skill level of what Sun refers to as “corporate developers”--basically enterprise coders who want to build J2EE-based Web applications. Creator utilizes many core J2EE technologies, including JavaServer Faces and Java Database Connectivity Rowsets. It allows relatively inexperienced developers to assemble applications that can access a database and expose Web services, among other things. Applications built in Creator can be enhanced by higher-level enterprise developers with technologies such as EJBs using tools such as Sun's Java Studio Enterprise.

The latest version of Java Studio Creator, Update 6, is now available at the Sun Developer Network site. Update 6, code-named Reef Shark, focuses on technical features and usability improvements and bug issues.

For information about the current release and to check out the preview features, go to http://developer.sun.com/prodtech/javatools/jscreator/reef.html.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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