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Open Source AJAX toolkits

Hemos posted more than 7 years ago | from the AJAX-al-icious dept.

147

twofish writes "InfoWorld columnist Peter Wayner recently reviewed six of the most popular "open source" Ajax toolkits. The article sets out to see if they are enterprise ready in comparison to commercial products such Backbase, JackBe, and Tibco's General Interface. The six open source projects covered were selected because each has a high-profile in the developer community and support of one or more stable organizations. "The toolkits covered are:

  1. Dojo
  2. Google Web Toolkit
  3. Microsoft Atlas
  4. Open Rico and Prototype
  5. Yahoo AJAX Library
  6. Zimbra Kabuki AJAX Toolkit


Whilst the definition of open source is broad, the round-up is quite helpful.

cancel ×

147 comments

Nice, printer format... (2, Informative)

jbarr (2233) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859103)

ICEfaces is nice... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15859584)

ICEfaces [icesoft.com] is another excellent AJAX framework. It's specifically targeted at enterprise Java developers and leverages the J2EE JSF framework to provide seamless AJAX functionality, such as incremental update of the page, JS animation effects, and even server-push / "AJAX Push" / COMET to permit the server-side application to asyncronously update the client UI without needing the client to initiate the update. All without the developer needing to write any JavaScript, just be using the ICEfaces components. It's not currently open-source, put it does have a completely free and unrestricted "Community Edition" that is very functional. Check it out:

Re:Nice, printer format... (1)

twodot72 (867340) | more than 7 years ago | (#15860385)

What the heck? Why is a comment which is just the link you get by clicking the printer icon on the original story worth +5 ??

Re:Nice, printer format... (2, Insightful)

jbarr (2233) | more than 7 years ago | (#15860648)

Why is a comment which is just the link you get by clicking the printer icon on the original story worth +5 ??
Probably because a large percentage of the /. community prefers "to-the-point" links instead of the typical multi-page click versions. I personally get really annoyed by online articles that require page-click after page-click just to read an article, so printer-formatted versions typically are consolidated and easier to read. It was really just a courtesy that many in the /. community enjoy.

Was my post worth +5? Probably not, but obviously, enough appreciated it enough to mod it up....

Re:Nice, printer format... (0, Offtopic)

Bill Dog (726542) | more than 7 years ago | (#15860846)

Haven't you noticed, pretty much every first post (that's not a troll post) goes to +5.

"Open source?" (4, Insightful)

cbiffle (211614) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859113)

This column uses an interesting definition of Open Source.

From the article:
Microsoft's Atlas may not be open source -- the license includes terms that would rankle a devotee -- but the code you create with the system is yours to license as you like, and you'll be able to create Atlas apps with few practical restrictions.

Oh. Is that what Open Source means? That I can create apps with it and license them how I like? Well, crap, Visual Studio must be open source too!

Last I checked, neither Atlas nor GWT were open source in any sense of the word, though at least GWT will run on real servers.

Re:"Open source?" (4, Interesting)

achacha (139424) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859143)

The only reason large corporations push some toolkit as "open source" is because:

1. It's a crappy product that their marketing people cannot justify as promotion cost
2. There are better free products
3. They are trying to get their foot into the niche so they can then charge for the "Professional" version
4. They don't understand the space yet

This is common for Microsoft and now becoming common for Google.

Sadly AJAX is still the "silver bullet" of web based companies and the buzzword of the moment. So many companies are using AJAX for the sake of using it despite the fact it is not applicable to the ir use case; sometimes it is easier to wedge something in and use a buzzword to sound cool and relevant.

"Open source?"-The 'N' crowd. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15860078)

"sometimes it is easier to wedge something in and use a buzzword to sound cool and relevant."

Hey! I'm a SLASHDOTTER!

Re:"Open source?" (2, Interesting)

hey! (33014) | more than 7 years ago | (#15860131)

5. Because they can't allow a hostile competitor to obtain control over a piece of software infrastructure that is critical to them.

i.e., they have learned the lesson of Borland.

e.g., Oracle can't survive in the long term if Microsoft gains control over server platforms

e.g., IBM can't survive inthe long term if they have to use Microft's own tools to complete with it.

So: yes, support of open source is self interested in cases like these. But not necessarily cynical or pernicious.

Spelling mistake in Summary (4, Funny)

HugePedlar (900427) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859170)

"Whilst the definition of open source is broad, the round-up is quite helpful."

Hemos appears to have misspelt "incorrect" as "broad".

Re:Spelling mistake in Summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15861063)

(http://aevilearth.co.uk/)

Hemos appears to have misspelt "incorrect" as "broad".


You seem to have dispenst with a education.

Re:"Open source?" (1)

andrewman327 (635952) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859257)

Just because you can write OSS with a program does not make that program OSS unless the source of said program is, you know, open! I'm surprised that /. would post a story like this.

Re:"Open source?" (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Conrad (600139) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859283)

Last I checked, neither Atlas nor GWT were open source in any sense of the word,
But you can download the Atlas source code [codeplex.com] and at first glance the licence [codeplex.com] meets the Open Source [opensource.org] definition: it's a simple no endorsement, no liability, no patent disputes licence. So what's the problem?

Re:"Open source?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15859780)

The problem is that this is a collection of controls built on TOP of the Atlas Framework, not the framework itself.

Re:"Open source?" (1)

swelke (252267) | more than 7 years ago | (#15860194)

Several parts of GWT are actually open source. The trouble is that the Java to JavaScript converter is proprietary, and the rest is pretty much useless without that part. So while GWT technically is largely open source, for practical purposes it might as well be proprietary.

Re:"Open source?" (1)

krahd (106540) | more than 7 years ago | (#15860302)

It's pretty interesting, actually, that Open Source (once a synonym in the enterprise arena to crappy software, like the sharewares of the 90's) has became a trendy word and is used to give projects some kind of being-cool status.

I see it at work on a daily basis, when I say that the project I'm working in is based on OS software I always get the you-must-be-a-top-software-engineer look (and pretty much the same happens with AJAX and old engineers that are kinda scared because they don't understand why everyone is so crazy about something that looks just like the architecture they had long time ago).

Anyway, if the trendy thing keeps growing, soon both OS and AJAX phrases will be eaten by the PR machine and lose their meaning (in a similar way with the "hacker" word)

Java != Javascript (4, Interesting)

andrewman327 (635952) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859133)

From TFA: "[...] JavaScript is pretty close to a superset of Java[...]. It's not complicated to strip away some typing information from the Java code and end up with something that resembles JavaScript."


This is in response to Google's toolkit, which allows users to code in Java instead of Javascript. I think this feature is a real winner to Java coders. Who wants to code Javascript when you can use Swing? Regardless of what TFA says, there is a difference between the two programming experiences.


In summary, if you are already proficient in Java, Google is the way to go.

Re:Java != Javascript (4, Interesting)

StarvingSE (875139) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859166)

The author of TFA is just dumb and doesn't know what he is talking about. First he says that Microsoft Atlas is open source. Then, it sounds like he truly believes that Java and Javascript are related in some way. Besides some similar syntax, they are both mutually exclusive.

when are people going to realize that Javascript and Java share only a name???

Re:Java != Javascript (4, Interesting)

andrewman327 (635952) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859224)

The confusion of Java and Javascript is one of my biggest pet peeves in computer science. I am fairly proficient in Java, but I still have to look up which command to use the once a year I actually write in Javascript. Google's engineers worked hard to design a system to convert Java into another format only to have this journalist completely disregard it.


It's times like these that I am glad I get to tag articles.

Re:Java != Javascript (4, Interesting)

Selanit (192811) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859767)

An early development version of JavaScript was code-named "mocha." All the way through the old 4.x series of Netscape Navigator, you could access the JavaScript console by typing "mocha:" in the address bar. How I wish they had just adopted that name for the language as a whole! It would have prevented so much confusion.

Re:Java != Javascript (1)

andrewman327 (635952) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859895)

That would have saved so much confusion. I have read that Java is so named because it was originally designed to operate vending machines. I wonder how Javascript became confounded into the mix.

Re:Java != Javascript (4, Interesting)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 7 years ago | (#15860030)

Mocha was renamed to LiveScript, which was then renamed to JavaScript (and later ECMAScript). "JavaScript" is actually a Sun registered trademark. When JS first made it's oh-so-buggy appearance, I thought Netscrape was trying to jump on the Java hype, but I think Sun paid them to change the name.

Re:Java != Javascript (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15860363)

And now it's part of Java (1.6 comes with Rhino), and it pretty seamlessly loads and scripts java classes. In fact, interop with Java was part of LiveConnect. So "nothing to do with java" is basically an ignorant tirade tossed out by people who expect it had to actually be java and not just script it, which it did ever since the name was changed.

Re:Java != Javascript (2, Funny)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 7 years ago | (#15860130)

I'm just the opposite. Java is just a bastardized C++, which is a beyond-bastardized C. JavaScript is a real language -- it's a bit like Ruby, kind of a Lisp in C's clothing.

Re:Java != Javascript (1)

andrewman327 (635952) | more than 7 years ago | (#15860277)

I hate to get into a flame war, but Java stands on its own as a great programming language. My point is, however, that Java coders will feel much more comfortable using Google's software than the competition.

Re:Java != Javascript (1)

WilliamSChips (793741) | more than 7 years ago | (#15860392)

I always thought that Java was a beyond-bastardized Smalltalk.

Re:Java != Javascript (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15859357)

First he says that Microsoft Atlas is open source.
As above, [slashdot.org] you can download the source [codeplex.com] and the licence looks reasonably friendly. But probably not GPL compatible because of the patents bit.

Re:Java != Javascript (1)

zaqattack911 (532040) | more than 7 years ago | (#15860089)

I second that motion!

This author is obviously not a developer.

"This isn't as magical as it sounds because JavaScript is pretty close to a superset of Java, at least in a cosmetic sense. It's not complicated to strip away some typing information from the Java code and end up with something that resembles JavaScript."

uuuh this is totally besides the point, even if it IS false. Forget about this idea that the toolkit converts java code to javascript (which in itself doesn't make any sense).

The point is you can code server side applications that automatically handle browser behavior. Hacking javascript into the outgoing html from a server-side app usually ends up polluting your code... makes it harder to read, harder to maintain, plus you have to worry about different implementations of JS across browsers.

Re:Java != Javascript (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15859200)

Who wants to code Javascript when you can use Swing?

Google did not write a Swing API for JavaScript. That would be incredibly complicated and not worth their time. As you can see here [google.com] , only some classes in the java.util and java.lang packages are supported, and some of them do not have identical APIs due to the differences between Java and JavaScript. The user interface can be written using GWT's components [google.com] .

Java != Javascript-The ATLAS diet. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15859355)

"In summary, if you are already proficient in Java, Google is the way to go."

Problem is Java is a heavy language. The tools are heavy, as well as the books. Even the programmers are heavy. Javascript however is a much lighter language, and the tools are light weight.

Bravo (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15859570)

"Even the programmers are heavy"

Well said.

Re:Java != Javascriptd for the type of content (1)

beemishboy (781239) | more than 7 years ago | (#15860891)

Google's toolkit is kind of nice for Java developers but seems pretty intrusive to have a layered design with front end stuff done with Java. Dwr (direct web remoting) [getahead.ltd.uk] has a decent toolkit that allows you to call Java code through javascript by generating javascript files for your Java code. It also integrates well with the Spring framework [springframework.org] .

Erm... (5, Insightful)

savala (874118) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859152)

If you want to add AJAX to the magic collection of buzzwords supported by your Web site (and who can resist the siren call of the latest buzzword?), then you have two major options: purchase a proprietary package or experiment with open source libraries.

Or just write the ten lines needed to do XMLHttpRequest calls yourself (there, that's the AJAX part taken care of), and for all other effects write your own functions just like always (copy/paste from your personal library and adapt), so you don't have to deal with bloat, nine out of every ten functions being unneeded, and far too many levels of abstraction and generalization, and have the benefit of actually being able to quickly debug the script when you encounter a problem!

The only organizations where these toolkits might be useful are the really really large ones where there's a team that can dig into the framework and basically "make it their own". Everything smaller, using occasional contractors to maintain the code, benefit far and far more from simplicity, readability and maintainability than from dubious-quality top-heavy frameworks with lack of code-level documentation and thousand and one edgecase-bugs. (Spoken like someone who's had to trace such bugs in the mess of prototype and scriptaculo.us; I've only _looked_ at Dojo, Rico, Yahoo and Zimbra (and not at all at the other two), but my impressions were that what they made up in better code quality, they lost in bloat.)

Re:Erm... (3, Interesting)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859265)

<i>and for all other effects write your own functions just like always (copy/paste from your personal library and adapt)</i>

Or you just do exactly what digg does and take your own javascript library and include everything you possibly can do "just in case".
I'm actually surprised kitchenSink.js isn't included.

This is just an example from the standard front screen of digg without any cookies or logins to concern itself with.

  <script src="/js/spellChecker.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
  <script src="/js/utils.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
  <script src="/js/xmlhttp.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
  <script src="/js/comments.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
  <script src="/js/wz_dragdrop.js" type="text/javascript"></script>

  <script src="/js/hover.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
  <script src="/js/label.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
  <script src="/js/dom-drag.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
  <script src="/js/switcher.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
  <script src="/js/prototype.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
  <script src="/js/scriptaculous.js" type="text/javascript"></script>

  <script src="/js/lightbox.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
  <script src="/js/aboutdigg.js" type="text/javascript"></script>

Re:Erm... (1)

jZnat (793348) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859291)

Nice to see that they forgot that the MIME type for JavaScript is "application/javascript"...

Re:Erm... (2, Informative)

Bogtha (906264) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859729)

Nice to see that they forgot that the MIME type for JavaScript is "application/javascript"...

Forgot? The media types for JavaScript were only standardised this year [ietf.org] . Before April, application/javascript was merely a common convention - and actually a less common convention than text/javascript, which is also an acceptable (if deprecated) media type for JavaScript according to the RFC.

So a) there wasn't anything to "forget", and b) they aren't doing anything wrong anyway.

Re:Erm... (1)

FuzzyBad-Mofo (184327) | more than 7 years ago | (#15860259)

Just be glad they're not using language="Javascript" without a MIME-type at all..

Re:Erm... (5, Insightful)

slindseyusa (942823) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859276)

I used to agree with this, until I spent some more time looking into it. Certainly XMLHttpRequest is the most powerful aspect of Ajax and it is easy to use. But Ajax generally comprises much more than that. The Dynamic HTML part can get quite confusing, especially across browsers. Look at the examples of what some of these projects can do. They are certainly big and sometimes bloated. I'm still struggling with that part as well, but I don't have the time to figure out all the details when a toolkit can handle that for me. It's no different than using a high level language and libraries, or should I write all my code in Assembly?

Re:Erm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15859932)

The dynamic HTML parts are not really part of AJAX but the remaining parts of the tool kit (which ever you use). The AJAX part is just the XMLHttpRequest and the javascript code to handle the event receiver. Nothing more. You do not really need bloated DHTML to get AJAX web pages. Have the request return HTML and just set the innerHTML on a div tag to the request text and voila.

But of course it all a definition question of what AJAX contains or not.

Re:Erm... (2, Interesting)

tenchiken (22661) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859370)

As someone who has tried to do what you suggest, and then worked in pain to deal with all of the cross browser issues, the strange XMLHttpRequest behavior, systems for relability,etc, the bloat is well worth it.

Re:Erm... (2, Informative)

ukleafer (845880) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859375)

dig into the framework and basically "make it their own".

just an aside, but any modification of the framework code itself in GWT (maybe some of the others too?) is a breach of the T&C that the developer accepted before downloading the kit.

Re:Erm... (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859384)

Maybe take a look at http://www.mochikit.com/ [mochikit.com] . At 110 kilobytes, the full distribution isn't super small, but it includes quite a bit of stuff and can be used in a more modular fashion to save on size.

Re:Erm... (1)

fotoflojoe (982885) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859577)

Or just write the ten lines needed to do XMLHttpRequest calls yourself (there, that's the AJAX part taken care of), and for all other effects write your own functions
Right on Savala!
KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid.

Re:Erm... (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#15860079)

We decided to sit down and do some simple Ajax on our site at work, and once we sat down and thought about it for a couple days, we came up with a lightweight solution that required very little JavaScript, and didn't require that every developer know javascript in order to do something new. When you think about it, there's not really that much you can do. Change the value of some form fields. Add some HTML into the document or remove some. There really isn't all that many things you can do. Or at least not a lot of things you need to do. People don't understand just how little code you need to write a simple Ajax framework. I find that most developers over engineer everything, when most of the time, a simple solution will solve all your problems.

Re:Erm... (4, Insightful)

saltydogdesign (811417) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859609)

In my experience, prototype and Dojo are both very stable at this point, far more stable than would be any comparable library of my own making, as I don't have a team of developers or a large body of users available to test it for me. You think there's a thousand and one edgecase bugs in prototype? How many are in your personal library? I'd far rather rely on something that has been seen and used by a thousand people than something that's been seen and used by one.

As for the usefulness of these toolkits, weighing in at 53k (considerably less if you were to use any of the js compacting methods available out there), I find prototype to be an enormous time-saver, and the code saved in my applications goes a great distance toward offsetting the one-time 53k download for users of my websites.

Look, if I took your logic, the next time I wrote an OS X app, I'd write it from scratch in C, without the benefit of the Mac frameworks, and cut and paste from "my own personal library." And I'd probably want to compile it by hand too -- God knows what kind of code the compiler is actually generating, right?

There is a tremendous advantage to abstraction and generalization -- indeed, we'd still be coding ones and zeros if we didn't have it. Sure, you can take it too far too fast, but as one who has done a lot of coding with javascript since not long after its inception, I can tell you that unless you're not doing anything much more complicated than rollovers, it's time to move up. Whether you want to do that with community code or your personal collection is up to you, but I'd like to have a little free time at the end of the day.

Re:Erm... (3, Insightful)

Bogtha (906264) | more than 7 years ago | (#15860018)

It depends what you are using it for. For a complex DHTML interface for a web application that people use on a regular basis, sure, ~50KB isn't a big deal, especially when it's usually going to be coming from their cache. But for an average website that just wants to enhance particular aspects of their interface, it's ludicrous to make visitors download all that JavaScript, most of which will remain unused.

The Digg example LiquidCoooled posted is a good one. The Digg developers seem to have paid no attention to efficiency, they just dump everything they might ever possibly use onto every page regardless of whether they use one function or twenty. For instance, they reference a 36KB drag and drop library on every page on their site, but I don't see them actually using any drag and drop anywhere - do you? Or how about the fact that they reference aboutdigg.js on every page despite the fact that the code is only ever used on one specific page which most visitors aren't ever going to visit anyway?

Sure, there are a lot of instances where it's a good idea to use a library. But I think a lot of the people using libraries like this are doing so because they want to cut corners, not because it's the right tool for the job.

Re:Erm... (1)

saltydogdesign (811417) | more than 7 years ago | (#15860177)

Fair enough. I think your ire is best aimed at people who are just plain sloppy and don't think about what they are doing. Folks like that are a problem regardless of how great the tools are...

That said, I can't speak to the Digg example, but I have seen plenty of large sites where it is worth it in terms of developer time to dump everything you might need everywhere rather than crafting the right set of functions for each page. I work for a university, and there's undoubtedly a lot of unused code on our site, but then, if the tiny staff here aimed for maximum code efficiency over the thousands of pages we're responsible for, we'd never get anything done.

ADDENDUM: Actually, I just went over and looked at Digg, and I'd have to say the big crime they've committed is to have so *many* files devoted to like one tiny little function. The aboutdigg.js file you mention is a measly 183 characters. Hell, the HTTP overhead is probably bigger than that.

Re:Erm... (1)

jozeph78 (895503) | more than 7 years ago | (#15860588)

It depends what you are using it for. For a complex DHTML interface for a web application that people use on a regular basis, sure, ~50KB isn't a big deal, especially when it's usually going to be coming from their cache. But for an average website that just wants to enhance particular aspects of their interface, it's ludicrous to make visitors download all that JavaScript, most of which will remain unused.

...
Sure, there are a lot of instances where it's a good idea to use a library. But I think a lot of the people using libraries like this are doing so because they want to cut corners, not because it's the right tool for the job.

While I personally despise bloat, those 50KB .js files are downloaded once and cached. I may not use every drag/drop function on every page, but it's far easier for me as a developer to just include prototype.js rather than piece a specially trimmed .js file for each page. It also means you download one 50k file once instead of a 20k file per page with mostly redundant code.

Additonally, the point of a framework is to make it easier to develop, and while you may not use 50% of the javascript functions the reward of shaving 25k of precious(?) bandwidth is not worth customizing a standard library, such as prototype or scriptaculous. Not to mention maintainence of my now custom .js file.

Re:Erm... (1)

fireboy1919 (257783) | more than 7 years ago | (#15860755)

Sure, you can take it too far too fast,

IMHO this is what prototype does, and why it shouldn't be lumped in with Dojo as being stable.

Try this in a page with prototype included:

var t = [5,'test',4,7];
j=0;
for(i in t)
{ j++
};

alert('J is ' + j);

You're going to get 'J is 5' back. To me, this is something that's part of the language primitives, and shouldn't be violated. That could easily mess up any other javascript library you've got.

The other reason you mentioned doesn't really address the fact that you don't need *all* of prototype for every page. Why can't you just specify the parts of prototype that you need? It's an artificial limitation, and one that Dojo doesn't share. 53k is a lot if you're talking about a 6k page that only ends up using prototype's shorthand notations.

Heartily seconded. (1)

Civil_Disobedient (261825) | more than 7 years ago | (#15860152)

If you actually know what you're doing, it's far, far better to either write your own code, or strip out the routines from an "established" package rather than deploy the package as a whole.

The biggest problem with the toolkits that are coming out is that they're sacrificing runtime efficiency for programing efficiency. Case in point: just about every one of these toolkits have the asinine $(elementId) method as a shortcut for writing out document.getElementById(elementId). WHY? Do you really need a method look-up just to save yourself a few keystrokes of typing?

Javascript is not compiled. None of the compiler optimizations you get from "good coding practice" are going to go into effect when you wrap your simple methods in gi-normous objects. All you do is make your code run slower on the client's machine.

Re:Heartily seconded. (1)

nuzak (959558) | more than 7 years ago | (#15860402)

> WHY? Do you really need a method look-up just to save yourself a few keystrokes of typing.

For convenience. Which is what all languages are for. Yes, I'd like it if javascript had syntax macros, but no one notices the difference. I mean holy cow, listen to yourself, thundering from on high about the dire consequences of such minutae. Why is it so important to you?

Anyway, if you're manipulating hundreds of elements every second and are concerned about the overhead of the $ method, perhaps javascript or even a web app is not for you. In fact, maybe it isn't regardless.

Re:Heartily seconded. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15860793)

You're totally missing the point about mapping document.getElementByID to $. It's not about making it easier for the developer. Since this is one of the most frequently used functions, you can trim off anywhere from a few dozen to a few thousand bytes in a big script file with the wrapper. While your personal homepage doesn't necessarily need to do it, high throughput sites (as well as people with slow connections) can benefit a lot.

Re:Erm... (1)

PietjeJantje (917584) | more than 7 years ago | (#15860650)

For my AJAX open source project (see sig), I took a similar approach uptil now. I needed to built a lot of AJAX functionality, and the question is, do you start from scratch or use one of the libraries? I started from scratch because 1) I needed the master the technique, 2) Libraries are bloated with load times needing load indicators.. I don't want that, 3) Own implementation does exactly like I want it with relatively little code, 4) These AJAX libs are fairly young, to built a framework around and it see the landscape change totally in a year is a dangerous path.

However, when you start playing around with AJAX, you get a whole different abstraction of what you're doing. Basically a lot of GUI elements start to become part of the play, and it becomes a whole new ball game. Everybody is realizing this and building libraries, but none has reached a status yet where I'd consider it the great definite GUI toolkit, for the web using AJAX. This means that commiting to any of the current incarnations is like commiting to a dinosaur from the start.

This means when your AJAX complex reaches a fair amount of complexity, one is kinda stuck. Basic hacks don't cut it anymore, doing a great lib yourself is a complete project on itself, and commiting to other libs has the disadvantages named above. But I might be overgeneralizing.

I think I found middleground with the Jquery library: http://jquery.com/ [jquery.com]

It's tiny (15K) yet powerful and takes a whole lot of work away, and therefore meets most of my requirements.

AJAX btw is quite enjoyable. On one hand you have the marketeers screaming blah at you like "web 2.0" for everything, and at the other hand you have the average ol' skool slashdotter screaming blah and fud at you for anything javascript or faintly smelling of "web 2.0", to point out their superiority ;) I haven't seen so many smartasses since Gopher was hailed over Mosaic 0.9b as more secure, less bandwidth demanding, thus making the later unnecessary and bloated.

DWR (4, Informative)

kevin_conaway (585204) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859160)

If you're doing Java/J2EE work, you should really have a look at DWR [getahead.ltd.uk]

It makes it disgustingly simple to expose pretty much anything as AJAX calls

Re:DWR (1)

fzammett (255288) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859686)

DWR is awesome, I truly like it.

But, if you are really a Java web developer, I have what may be an even better suggestion:

http://javawebparts.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]

Take a look at the AjaxParts Taglib (hit the javadocs link and you'll find it in the ajaxparts package). This is a completely codeless approach to AJAX. Configure all your AJAX events in an XML file, what you want to be sent to the server and what to do when the response comes back, drop some tags in your JSP, and your good to go. There is an introductory article here:

http://www.omnytex.com/articles [omnytex.com]

I won't claim its the best (although I certainly have a bias!), but it's worth looking at if your working in Java technologies.

Re:DWR (1)

hclyff (925743) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859851)

Java devs should also check out AjaxAnywhere [sourceforge.net] for pretty much effortless JSP (and also JSF) AJAXification.

Huh? (2, Funny)

LaughingCoder (914424) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859161)

... support of one or more stable organizations.

Why do we care what horse-breeders think? I mean since when have they been the technical thought-leaders?

Google toolkit it is... (1)

karupa (992659) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859184)

after reading the review, google seems to be the best for me, cause i already code in java. Using swing really makes sense, and simplifies the developer's job, instead of having to learn javascript. have to give it a shot sometime... and my friend recently used DOJO and said he found it easier that other toolkits. he is no newbie, so i guess its pretty flexible and detailed enough for serious use. but since i have no experience of using it, i cannot comment. Can some one please enlighten me if its good for beginners?

I've just implemented my first AJAX site... (4, Informative)

Toreo asesino (951231) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859199)

Using Atlas for asp.net (http://atlas.asp.net/). Fantastic framework; unbelievably simple.

I took a normal asp.net form I built for an ordering-page (lot's of postbacks for updating various basket options, etc, etc), wrapped it in an atlas XML container (all of 10 seconds work), and Bob became my uncle - the entire thing was AJAX enabled, doing lightweight postbacks & updates instead instead of the usual full-page postbacks you normally get with asp.net page-events.

And all the JS is cross-platform too - IE, FF, Safari, etc (allthough, sadly, no Opera support just yet).

And the best thing is, for all you JavaScript haters is turning off JS in the browser just meant the page automatically reverted to full-blown postbacks instead; thus not limiting accesibility.

Oh, and I understand you can link php into Atlas too, but I'm guessing there's other stuff out there for php aswell.

Re:I've just implemented my first AJAX site... (1)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859414)

How well does it work without horrible web controls?

Re:I've just implemented my first AJAX site... (1)

Toreo asesino (951231) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859525)

Easy.

1. Build form with standard asp:buttons, labels, repeaters, etc - setting all screen properties on the code-behind, just like normal.
2. Wrap in node
3. Specify update triggers in XML, for example -
4. That's it. You've just AJAX-enabled your page.
5. Profit?

Re:I've just implemented my first AJAX site... (1)

Toreo asesino (951231) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859543)

Oops. That'll teach me for not using that preview button; the form doesn't like XML element code then.

Re:I've just implemented my first AJAX site... (1)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859633)

That's using web controls

Re:I've just implemented my first AJAX site... (1)

Toreo asesino (951231) | more than 7 years ago | (#15860080)

Well, no, if you want to hand-code all your buttons, lists, etc, then obviously not.

A better review (w/ actual code samples) (5, Informative)

jbellis (142590) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859203)

http://www.sitepoint.com/article/javascript-librar y [sitepoint.com]

--
Carnage Blender [carnageblender.com] : Meet interesting people. Kill them.

Re:A better review (w/ actual code samples) (2, Interesting)

wranlon (540319) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859342)

I've always liked my own AJAX framework, Engine for Web Applications [imnmotion.com] , but it never seems to make it farther than the appendices (if even) - here are some good toolkits, see appendix A for some other stuff that showed up in Google.

Just did this myself (5, Informative)

slindseyusa (942823) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859223)

I just went through and evaluated most of these myself in the past week because of a new work project. Dojo is by far the best when looking at building a real web "application". The others have limitations (such as Google's toolkit which requires you to write your code in Java) or are focused too much on "flashy" stuff. Dojo provides dialog boxes, windows, an editor, and more. It still has bugs and is an early version, so you need to consider your audience and time frame. For example, I had a problem with FF 1.0.7 (even though they say it is supported) but I only need to support FF 1.5 and Safari 2. I'm building a complex web app for an internal audience and I can guarantee they'll have one of these 2 browsers. Still, it seems to have broader support than some of the others toolkits. While I'm jsut starting with it, I've been happy so far. There's little documentation but the examples are good enough to get you started.

Re:Just did this myself (1)

tezza (539307) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859582)

So did I. I chose qooxdoo [qooxdoo.org] . It is a windows gui esq javascript library with _A LOT_ of widgets. Also, the team behind it are very competent.

Re:Just did this myself (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15859699)

others have limitations (such as Google's toolkit which requires you to write your code in Java)
Limitation? Allowing you to write your app in a language that is standardized across runtime environments, allows easy unit testing and compile-time type checking is a limitation?

If you want to talk about limitations, why not mention how dojo will lock up most browsers for a second or so when loading even relatively simple web applications?

Re:Just did this myself (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15859991)

I've tried out a few, and each have their own set of gotchas.

As the article mentioned, Dojo's biggest weakness is the lack of documentation. However there is another niggling detail: it doesn't allow you to use your own onload() events - you have to pass them to the dojo.addOnload(), and there are things that it just doesn't do, such as asynchronous loading. It would be much nicer if dojo had a dojo.init() function that you could call from your own window.onload() handler.

Yahoo suffers from what I think is the javascript equivalent of dependancy hell. Certain functions require multiple files, and it's not always clear which is required and which isn't (even from their documentation.) For example, the dialog widget requires the animation library, even though the documentation says that it's optional. It would have been *much* easier if it just was one big file (especially because you use 90% of the files anyway.)

I'm gonna go try out some of the others mentioned in the article.

Useless... (0, Troll)

CowboyBob500 (580695) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859290)

If it doesn't include DWR [getahead.ltd.uk] (probably THE most popular Java AJAX toolkit) yet includes a Microsoft offering then the article is effectively rendered useless...

Bob

Echo2 is good! (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15859308)

What about Echo2 http://www.nextapp.com/platform/echo2/echo/ [nextapp.com] ?

MOD PARENT UP (1)

MartinG (52587) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859631)

Echo 2 is the most under-rated, under-hyped, under-exposed Web UI development framework around. Try it. It's how GUI development should be.

Re:MOD PARENT UP (1)

FecesFlingingRhesus (806117) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859870)

Agreed, I have found no framework on the market that compares to Echo2 in terms of extensibility and flexibility. It truly is a comprehensive web UI toolkit, managing both the server side and client side and hiding the ugliness of the wiring of the two together.

script.aculo.us? (2, Informative)

LFS.Morpheus (596173) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859350)

Why is that script.aculo.us [aculo.us] is left out of these comparisons? script.aculo.us is behind the AJAX in most Ruby on Rails apps, but it can be used on its own. (As of Rails 1.1, Rails has special built-in support to make it even easier to use.)

Re:script.aculo.us? (2, Informative)

bigdadro (452037) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859533)

Probably because scriptaculous is an effects library built on top of prototype, without prototype it is useless.

Re:script.aculo.us? (2, Insightful)

LFS.Morpheus (596173) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859579)

It's not just an effect library [aculo.us] (anymore?). Yes, it is built on top of prototype - in fact, scriptaculous has the only documentation I know of for Prototype [aculo.us] . But that shouldn't it exclude it from a list of AJAX library comparisons. That's like saying "well, the GIMP uses libpng so we're not going to review it amongst photo editors."

Anti-disclaimer: I don't have anything to do with the script.aculo.us guys, but as a Ruby on Rails developer it has served my needs just fine.

If you're interested in JS toolkits... (Dojo, etc) (2, Interesting)

ChrisZermatt (892665) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859362)

...make sure you check out qooxdoo.

Its not the best known, but its one of the most promising toolkits in [very] active development. I've been involved (sort of -- following the mailing list) and its open source & very slick.

http://www.qooxdoo.org// [qooxdoo.org]

The 0.6 release is expected in the next day or so, and is a big jump over 0.5. The only area that is still a bit weak is the documentation, but there is a good group of developers working actively on getting that properly sorted for the next release.

Should have reviewed DWR (2, Interesting)

bryanbrunton (262081) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859371)

As many have noted the article is really quite clueless. However, any review on Ajax toolkits is not complete with a mention of Direct Web Remoting [getahead.ltd.uk] .

Central idea behind DWR is it exposes methods of Java Beans over the web. Create a server side class and then call methods from javascript like this: MyBean.method(). It couldn't be simpler.

I have used DWR in my just released online version of Risk, called Grand Strategy [denizengames.com] .

Wrong Orientation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15859382)

The biggest problem I have with all these toolkits, and with AJAX usage in general, is the RPC-orientation (vs. message-orientation). Instead of creating web services that could be used by many different client libraries, coders are actually deep coupling their server code with the libraries in the article. When a good library finally focuses on the client side sugar and facilitating communication with message-oriented web services on the server side, then we'll make a leap forward.

Erm... what about? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15859454)

I'm a little surprised that nobody has mentioned jQuery (http://jquery.com/). While it does AJAX, its much more than that, and lets you write some seriously concise script. There's also a lot of activity from Dean Edwards (http://dean.edwards.name/) on the mailing list, which is probably a good thing. Also looks like it might be the only/first library to find a true solution to the whole cross-browser "window.onload" problem (as of version 1.0, currently in beta).

Kudos to Rico (2, Insightful)

klenwell (960296) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859463)

I'd recently given myself a crash course in javascript for a site I was working on. Ended up using the moo.fx (http://moofx.mad4milk.net/ [mad4milk.net] ) library with niftycube (http://www.html.it/articoli/niftycube/ [www.html.it] ) for the all important rounded corners. Checked out dojo but it seemed a little more than I needed. Also glanced at Yahoo.

Looking over the packages listed here, I'm especially impressed with Rico. Single file used in conjunction with the prototype.js script. And a really excellent demo page:

http://openrico.org/rico/demos.page?demo=rico_effe ct_position [openrico.org]

The author of the article gives Yahoo credit for the package management -- I think Rico deserves a praise for their site, too. I look forward to giving it a whirl.

Prototype and Script.aculo.us (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15859476)

While Rico is nice, i've never found a need to use it on any website i've built todate. I've just completed http://www.stargamer.net/ [stargamer.net] (StarGamer.net) which uses the prototype framework and script.aculo.us and i found it to be a breeze.

Admitadly the documentation is a little thin and there hasnt been any real updates in a while, but i've started to mold it into my own library to come up with some rather nice effects and functionality.

Yahoo YUI Toolkit (4, Informative)

DeionXxX (261398) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859487)

Personally I think the Yahoo YUI Toolkit [yahoo.com] is the best framework out there. It is commented very well, it is 100% cross browser compatible (they test on Opera, Firefox, Netscape, IE etc). It is fully supported by a team of engineers. They provide several versions of each script, so you can build your site with the -debug script, move to the normal script, and then when putting it on a live server, you include the minimzed script which is much smaller.

My Own Survey (2, Informative)

2Wrongs (627651) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859490)

Just my experience, but they were all a little lacking (although I admit I'm a novice in AJAX).

Rico's newsgroup was great; I got (friendly) answers within hours, but I'm not exaggerating when I say the documentation was the worst I've ever seen. If I had more time to play around, I would have stuck it out and helped (their community is cool), but I'm on the clock and need simple working examples.

I briefly tried Atlas and was impressed with ease of use, but got hung up with bugs (it's beta, but will be a good tool when it's ready).

Dojo had good starter documentation. I spent a while trying to figure out something poorly documented and figured I'd write a brief tutorial, but was surpirsed they have a "closed" Wiki. After some digging, it suggested dropping the developers a line to get an account, but wasn't able to find the address. I gave up. I can see why their documentation is so spotty, since they ignore what a great tool a Wiki could be. The psuedo-Wiki gaps are somewhat filled by a pretty good newsgroup though.

YMMV, but Dojo was the best of the tools I worked with.

Echo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15859495)

Echo http://nextapp.com/ [nextapp.com] is quite nice IMO

Please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15859532)

"None of the open source packages I looked at come close to the range, depth, and support of these commercial packages."

Please. The author is impressed with the IDE's that ship with these commercial packages. An IDE, and a glossy web site does NOT equate to good software.

If the author really knew anything about AJAX development, there would be something on DWR in there. Not just list the OS AJAX packages provided by Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, etc. Why can't these tech magazines employ writers with actual tech experience?

Other free famous scripts (1)

kavehmz (755591) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859559)

There are two other, very active and famous scripts left behind:

1. script.aculo.us [aculo.us] : That have many effects include in it and is used in Ruby [ruby-lang.org]

2. script.aculo.us [xajaxproject.org] : An active library to help for ajax development.

Re:Other free famous scripts (1)

bigNuns (18804) | more than 7 years ago | (#15860992)

I believe you meant to make #2 say Xajax since that is where you link to. And I will go ahead and say that xajax is very nice if you dont want to deal with mucking around in javascript and want to just stay in php. I have used it on a couple projects now, only in admin areas, but have not had a single problem with it in any of the browsers I have tested... it has been a serious time saver.

Documentation (3, Insightful)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859664)

I looked at some of these a while ago. Zimbra has one of the coolest demos. But many of these severely (or completely) lack documentation, which means they are not ready for anything but "mom's basement, no deadline" type projects.

This stuff is really exciting, but until there is documentation, it is not worth mentioning at work.

Re:Documentation (2, Insightful)

Selanit (192811) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859819)

Prototype [conio.net] has some pretty good documentation [sergiopereira.com] . Also, it's pretty low-level, so it's easy to build into other stuff. Heck, Prototype is worth it just for the each() iterator method!

Dojo's [dojotoolkit.org] docs [jot.com] are very much hit-or-miss. Some features are pretty smoothly documented. Others are like navigating a trackless wilderness with no more than the sun and stars to guide you. Also, Dojo's annoying because it requires you to add non-standard attributes to your HTML in order to identify widgets. For example:
<button dojoType="Button" widgetId="helloButton">Hello World!</button>
dojoType? widgetId? Those ain't gonna pass no validator THIS little programmer knows of.

Qooxdoo (3, Informative)

valamaldoran (963960) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859665)

I've tried Dojo and the Prototype derivatives - Moofx, Rico and Scriptaculous. I don't really like Dojo because it seems so basic. Moofx is pretty good for lightweight effects, and the weight factor for effects goes up with Rico and even more with Scriptaculous. Bad thing about Prototype based scripts is that it doesn't play well with others due to Prototype's large manipulation of core objects. Enter QOOXDOO. Qooxdoo surprised me with how advanced it was. And its free. It is definately the script anyone needs to build a complex user interface for any application, because its designed to look just like an application. Its documentation is sparse, but the development community is amazing. they respond very quickly, and are working hard to fill the gaps on the documentation. The latest version is a vast improvement. The examples are very diverse, showing all the possibilities this remarkable script can do. if you really want to see an advanced framework that looks incredibly awesome, check out Qooxdoo...http://www.qooxdoo.org

Sarissa: GPL, LGPL, ASL - your choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15859680)

"..Sarissa is an ECMAScript library acting as a cross-browser wrapper for native XML APIs. It offers various XML related goodies like Document instantiation, XML loading from URLs or strings, XSLT transformations, XPath queries etc and comes especially handy for people doing what is lately known as "AJAX" development.

Supported browsers are Mozilla - Firefox and family, Internet Explorer with MSXML3.0 and up, Konqueror (KDE 3.3+ for sure), Safari and Opera. Konq, Safari and Opera offer no XSLT/XPath scripting support AFAIK... "

http://sarissa.sourceforge.net/doc/overview-summar y.html [sourceforge.net]

Echo (1)

saturnism (177882) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859803)

once again, echo [nextapp.com] is missing...

No one has mentioned magicajax.net ... (1)

rpresser (610529) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859941)

and there's probably a reason why; I'd like to hear how terrible it is.

...and if you like your Python... (1)

fredrik70 (161208) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859950)

...go for MochiKit [mochikit.com] , nuff said.

Dojo = crash (0, Troll)

metamatic (202216) | more than 7 years ago | (#15860554)

If I go to the Dojo site and click the "see it in action" tab, Firefox immediately crashes. Not exactly a great demo.
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