Sencha Architect: Visual HTML5, sort of

Sencha's drag-and-drop tool for building Web and mobile apps is friendly to designers if they're also developers

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In fact, editing an Architect project can be so laborious that I have to question some of its claimed advantages over traditional development methods, boilerplate code and all. When I have to configure long lists of cryptic-sounding properties, is it really more efficient to do so by mousing back and forth in a GUI, rather than typing into a text editor? Architect just seems to trade one form of drudgery for another.

UI designer, meet MVC

Its advantages for UI developers are also questionable. For example, Architect supports the Model-View-Controller (MVC) software design pattern, which is popular with back-end Web developers; Ruby on Rails, for example, is based on MVC. But front-end developers tend to be less concerned with such architectural matters, and they may have a hard time understanding how to connect Models, Views, and Controllers, or why. They're more interested in the visual aspects of Web development, which aren't really Architect's strengths.

None of this is to say that Sencha Architect is not a powerful tool. For what it does, it works well, and its GUI is well designed. But I think it's wrong to think of Architect as a general-purpose tool for WYSIWYG, drag-and-drop Web app development. Instead, think of it as a sophisticated browser and editor for Ext JS or Sencha Touch projects. If you're already using either of these frameworks, Architect will benefit you more than traditional IDEs because it understands the internals of the frameworks so well.

If you're the kind of person who's only interested in results, however, and you don't much care which framework gets the job done, Architect may not be for you. It's very much wedded to its underlying technologies. What's more, it can't read your mind and it doesn't try. You'll need to familiarize yourself with the various components and properties that make up an Ext JS or Sencha Touch project and how to make them work together. In fact, by the time you're fully proficient with Sencha Architect, you'll probably know enough to build the same Web apps without it.

Sencha says Architect's code generation capabilities are "like sitting next to a JavaScript expert." That may be true, and it's nice to know that the code it outputs is clean and correct. But to really get the most out of Architect, it helps if you're an expert yourself. If all you want is a "Web app construction set," look elsewhere.

Sencha's demo app running in Internet Explorer 9. As you click on the different cars, the photo in the center changes and the chart auto-updates to reflect the appropriate values. All of the data is being pulled in from a proxy data store, which is really a JSON file accessed via URL.
Sencha's demo app running in Internet Explorer 9. As you click on the different cars, the photo in the center changes and the chart auto-updates to reflect the appropriate values. All of the data is being pulled in from a "proxy data store," which is really a JSON file accessed via URL.

This article, "Sencha Architect: Visual HTML5, sort of," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest news in programming and mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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