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Java Developer's Journal Exclusive: 2006 "JDJ Editors' Choice" Awards

"The editors of Java Developer's Journal are in a unique position when it comes to Java development."

The editors of SYS-CON Media's Java Developer's Journal are in a unique position when it comes to Java development. All are active coders in their "day jobs," and they have the good fortune in getting a heads-up on many of the latest and greatest software releases. They were asked to nominate three products from the last 12 months that they felt had not only made a major impact on their own development, but also on the Java community as a whole.

The following is a list of each editor's selections and the reason why they chose that product.

Joe Winchester
Desktop Java Editor

SwingLabs
SwingLabs is an open source laboratory for exploring new ways to make Swing applications easier to write, with improved performance and greater visual appeal. It is an umbrella project for various open source initiatives sponsored by Sun Microsystems and is part of the java.net community. Successful code and concepts may be migrated to future versions of the Java platform.
http://swinglabs.org

Everything that has come out of SwingLabs - this is an absolutely fabulous open source project that allows skunk work-type development to occur outside of the JCP that then gets rolled back into the Java Standard Edition. It has created superb frameworks like the Timing framework to allow crisp and elegant animation effects, the SwingX project that has spawned fantastic new widgets, and APIs including JXPanel and the whole concept of painters, as well as nice high-level work like the data binding project to allow easy GUI to data connectivity.

The Eclipse Rich Client Project
While the Eclipse platform is designed to serve as an open tools platform, it is architected so that its components could be used to build just about any client application. The minimal set of plug-ins needed to build a rich client application is collectively known as the Rich Client Platform.
http://wiki.eclipse.org/index.php/Rich_Client_Platform

This is just an awesome technology that allows Java developers to leverage the core plumbings of Eclipse, namely OSGi, SWT, JFace, and other frameworks, to create their own desktop application. It's already being used very successfully by a large number of clients and goes from strength to strength, making it a powerful way for people to build extensible desktop applications. I think it has the potential to really change the way Java client applications are built.

The Java Web Start Improvements for Mustang
Using Java Web Start technology, standalone Java software applications can be deployed with a single click over the network. Java Web Start ensures the most current version of the application will be deployed, as well as the correct version of the Java Runtime Environment (JRE).
http://java.sun.com/products/javawebstart/

One of the big, possibly only, reasons why users today must suffer the poor usability of "dumb" browsers is because distributing and maintaining proper client apps is difficult. HTML makes this ridiculously easy and is a good engineering solution, but one that offers very poor end usability. JWS was always the promised savior to allow desktop distribution over HTTP but never really lived up to its expectations in previous releases. With the Mustang work now it looks very, very good, though with many of the dialogs simplified; better looking; and it seems like it's finally going to allow first class, easy and polished large-scale distribution of Java clients to help rejuvenate Java on the desktop.

Yakov Fain
Contributing Editor

Adobe Flex 2
Adobe Flex 2 is an application development solution for creating and delivering cross-platform Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) within the enterprise and across the Web. It enables the creation of expressive and interactive web applications that can reach virtually anyone on any platform.
www.adobe.com/products/flex/

Adobe Flex 2 is a very potent player in the Rich Internet Application arena. Flex 2 is a direct competitor of Java Swing and AJAX. It offers declarative programming and a rich library of cool-looking and functional components. Your compiled code runs in a Flash 9 virtual machine. Flex 2 offers fast protocols for data exchange with the server-side components, server push, data binding, easy integration with Java, JMS support, and more. I was very impressed.

IntelliJ IDEA
IntelliJ IDEA is a Java IDE focused on developer productivity. It provides a combination of enhanced development tools, including refactoring, J2EE support, Ant, JUnit, and version controls integration.
www.jetbrains.com/idea/

This Java IDE is the best available today. Despite the fact that it's not free (the price is very modest though), IntelliJ IDEA has a loyal following of Java experts who can appreciate the productivity gain this tool brings for a small price. Finding classes, refactoring, suggesting solutions, even a JavaScript editor for AJAX warriors...everything is at your fingertips. The upcoming version, 6.0, will include a new UI Designer and Google Web Toolkit support.

WebCharts 3D
WebCharts3D is a development toolkit that offers flexibility for all aspects of rich-client and Web-based charting requirements and provides a single-source solution for data visualization.
www.gpoint.com

This is one of the best charting components available for Java applications. It's easy to learn and integrate with your Swing, JSP, and JSF applications. The product provides a rich set of charts, gauges, and maps, and can generate not only binary streams but also HTML, which makes it a good choice for AJAX applications. For Web applications, deployment consists of adding one JSP and copying one library to WEB-INF/lib.

Jason Bell
Contributing Editor

Head First Design Patterns by Elisabeth Freeman, Eric Freeman, Bert Bates, and Kathy Sierra (O'Reilly Media)
Using the latest research in neurobiology, cognitive science, and learning theory, Head First Design Patterns will load patterns into your brain in a way that sticks; in a way that lets you put them to work immediately; in a way that makes you better at solving software design problems, and better at speaking the language of patterns with others on your team.
www.oreilly.com

Without doubt the most effective book I have ever read and extremely easy to read. Don't be fooled by the comical light-hearted way this book looks. The chapter with the intro RMI is the best I've ever come across. All the other design pattern books fade into the distance in my opinion.

NetBeans 5
NetBeans IDE 5.0 includes comprehensive support for developing IDE plug-in modules and rich client applications based on the NetBeans platform. NetBeans IDE 5.0 is an open source Java IDE that has everything software developers need to develop cross-platform desktop, Web, and mobile applications straight out of the box.
www.netbeans.org

After a bit of a love/hate start with NetBeans I've now become a convert. It's very easy to use and the enterprise support is excellent. It would be nice to see coverage of the "other" app servers such as Orion and Resin but that's a small price to pay. An excellent product.

A4 Journal and a Ballpoint Pen

For me everything starts on paper, whether it be sketch drawings and UML diagrams. I've never mentioned it over the years but I'd be really lost without it. I've had the delight of looking back through my journals of the past five years and seeing how I've developed and how my ideas have developed with it.

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