Top AJAX tools deliver rich GUI goodness
Backbase, Bindows, JackBe, and Tibco General Interface bring fat features to enterprise Web clientsFollow @peterwayner
The source code for 3.2 is being rolled out in phases and protected by a BSD license. The earlier 3.1 had a more limited license that charged for closed sites, but 3.2 removes this limitation. Tibco will pay for more development with support contracts that include a warranty. Eventually, the company hopes to integrate community contributions into the mix, something that will give them the opportunity to add in code from other major (or minor) open source contributors.
This is an interesting play and one that signals how Tibco (and Bindows) differ from Backbase and JackBe. Tibco already emphasizes how its product’s independence from server code makes it easier to integrate with other widgets and non-Tibco offerings. Making the whole product open source allows Tibco to blend in the contributions of the others without legal headaches or the need to define things such as a plug-in architecture. If they see a neat widget with the right license, they can add it.
The other changes in the 3.2 product support this move. The older 3.1 system would only produce code that worked on Internet Explorer, largely because only the Microsoft browser supported its extensive collection of graphics, charts, and gauges. Porting that to Firefox wasn’t trivial; it required redeveloping those goodies in the very different world of SVGs (Scalable Vector Graphics). That’s done now and you can write applications that run successfully on both browsers and sometimes even Safari or Opera.
Version 3.2 also includes numerous little enhancements. Tibco cites their new Matrix class, a general grid tool that can now take put any kind of widget in any cell. These small enhancements are repeated throughout the code. The results are smaller, quicker, and more generalized.
Four Pillars of AJAX
How do you choose the right package for your project? The differences are almost more about style and structure, not capabilities. All four are solid packages that represent big leaps forward from the open source toolkits. And all of them provide a good way to turn the DOM tree in a user’s browser into an extension of your server. The creators, however, come from different worlds, and their packages will appeal to developers who think as they do.
Even though much of the look of an AJAXified Web set can be redesigned by replacing a CSS file, the style of the development toolkit bubbles up to the user’s level. Backbase products look and feel like they came from Europe. Bindows, on the other hand, is clearly a product with an installed base in the U.S. government; the attention it pays to Section 508 regulations reflects this focus.