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Web Frameworks and IDE in Java/J2EE

Part Three

In the first two articles of this series (see http://java.sys-con.com/read/108260.htm and http://java.sys-con.com/read/124664.htm), I started thinking aloud about automating my gas station using various Java-related technologies. This time, I'm trying to figure out what IDE and Web framework to use.

How Many Java Web Frameworks Does Mankind Need?
Being a consultant in my previous life, I worked on different projects for various clients. Each time I joined a project I had to learn a new Java technology that promised to make my life easier. Here it comes again! Now I need to select a Web framework. The good part is that literally all of them are free (is it the right word? I need to do some more reading on all these public licenses).

Since a gas station is the best place for networking, I started to ask drivers/programmers to recommend a good Java Web framework. By the way, while pumping gas, you can notice things you've never known before. For example, work visa holders from India usually drive Toyotas and Hondas. Eventually, they switch to something BMWish. Anyway, I was able to collect more than 50 (!) names of Java Web frameworks that are available today. Are we serious? I understand the benefits of the free market and competition, but isn't it a little too much? One Mercedes driver from China told me that their government restricts the number of kids per family. Should we penalize anyone who's even thinking of creating yet another Java Web framework?

Let me use my proven way of finding the right software. Some people just throw the dice, but I'd rather go to dice.com, which is a major IT job search portal in the U.S. Just start entering the names of the frameworks one by one, perform the search, and write down the counts of ads that look for people with such skills. The leaders are Struts: 1350, Spring: 377, and JSF: 230. For those who don't like this approach, I'll mention a couple of other frameworks that people like to blog about: Tapestry, Cocoon, and Wicket.

Car drivers also form two major groups: pragmatic people drive Lexus, Toyotas, and Hondas. But there are people who will never betray Mercedes, Jaguar, or Land Rover even though they break at least once a year.

IDE
People who work at my gas station came to America with no money. When they need to get their first TV set, they don't buy it, but pick it up off the streets. That's right, when people in our neighborhood need to get rid of an old TV, they just take it out on the street, and the garbage truck picks it up…unless my guys do it sooner. My Pakistani guy revealed a secret: if the TV set is broken, people who put it out cut the power cord off. This way you won't waste time bringing it home. Nice!

These days it works the same way with commercial software. When a company has a dead-end product, it gives it away to the open source community. The only difference is that people take their TVs out of the house quietly, while the software vendors make a loud noise about their donations. First you read a title like "BEA has contributed WebLogic Workshop IDE to the Beehive Apache project." How sweet! But a little later, "BEA decided to join the Eclipse platform and build another version of Workshop as a plugin with some functionality that exists in its current version." That's right, just dump unwanted software onto the open source community. They have plenty of handy people there, who might take it apart and use some nice ideas like the use of annotations in the pre-Java 5 era. I worked with WebLogic Workshop; it's slow, uses proprietary constructs, and, if you start a J2EE project with it, you're stuck: there is no way to port it to any other environment.

Technically, there are only two free Java IDEs to consider: NetBeans (Sun Microsystems, Inc.) and Eclipse (The Rest of the World, Inc.). Based on all the reviews and demos I've seen, they both are robust and provide similar functionality. I tried to read blog postings to pick one of these, but the bloggers usually fight over particular features, like "Refactoring in NetBeans is more powerful than in Eclipse." So? My gut feeling tells me that I should go with the Eclipse IDE, which has an open architecture and an abundance of online documentation and support. If I had several thousand dollars, I could have paid for a fat report that would analyze all available Java IDEs, but I'm sure on its last page it would have just one word: Eclipse. Even Borland gave up: their first Eclipse-based product called Peloton will be available in the first half of 2006.

Actually, to be fair, I need to admit that there are people who despise everyone who's using anything other than vi or Emacs, but let's not even go there. We need to play it safe.

Help
Thank you to all who responded to the first two articles and provided some good ideas. I'm planning to make my next column a discussion of your feedback. As always, I'm asking for your suggestions in automating of my small business. Just share your thoughts at the online version of this article at http://java.sys-con.com/read/136518.htm.

More Stories By Yakov Fain

Yakov Fain is a Java Champion and a co-founder of the IT consultancy Farata Systems and the product company SuranceBay. He wrote a thousand blogs (http://yakovfain.com) and several books about software development. Yakov authored and co-authored such books as "Angular 2 Development with TypeScript", "Java 24-Hour Trainer", and "Enterprise Web Development". His Twitter tag is @yfain

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