IBM extends Eclipse functionality to simplify Ajax development

IBM has boosted the open source Eclipse integrated development environment project by adding support for Open Asynchronous Javascript + XML (Ajax).

IBM has boosted the open source Eclipse integrated development environment project by adding support for Open Asynchronous Javascript + XML (Ajax).

Using Open Ajax, developers will be able to create webpages and applications that allow the end-user to drag-and-drop information, folders and documents, just as they are able to do on a desktop.

So-called rich internet applications are a part of Vista, the next release of Windows built using Microsoft's Visual programming tool.

However, until recently, open source developers have lacked a fully integrated Ajax programming environment.

However, Ajax has now been coupled with the Eclipse integrated development environment (IDE). Both open source technologies have evolved to the degree that they are now ready to underpin the next generation of web applications.

Mike Gilpin, Forrester Research vice-president and research director, said, "Google Maps and Gmail and other uses for Ajax like Yahoo's e-mail client and BEA's Adaptive Portlets, represent real innovation.

"They show the potential and the degree of pent-up demand for richer user experiences on the web," he said.

According to IBM, "Ajax can reduce the steps needed to complete a transaction over the web, or create a competitive edge for enterprise companies and web designers."

However, IBM also added that Ajax is still a "difficult" technology to grasp.

At the start of February, IBM gave its backing to the open source Open Ajax development project and optimised Eclipse to work with a number of Ajax toolkits. This should allow developers to create Ajax applications more easily.

Open Ajax is supported by Google, BEA, Red Hat, Borland, Novell, Oracle and Yahoo, among others.

Ray Valdes, research director at analyst firm Gartner, described the Open Ajax project as a modest start. "It is also a well-conceived manoeuvre that meets a real need for leadership in this space," he said.

"The announcement also bolsters Eclipse's standing as one of the two main integrated development environments, along with Microsoft's Visual Studio."

Valdes said that the project would be strengthened by the support of other commercial Ajax tools providers including Tibco, as well as non-Ajax technology such as Adobe's Macromedia Flex.

"Web developers should evaluate Ajax, initially in a tactical way, coupled with investment in a design process centred on usability," added Valdes.

What are the strengths of Ajax?

Ajax (Asynchronous JavaScript + XML) is an open source technology that increasing numbers of developers are using to build interactive webpages and applications.

The technology loads new data from the server in the background, allowing pages to automatically refresh themselves without user intervention, and giving quick responses to things like online forms.

Webpages and applications can also let the user drag-and-drop information, folders and documents, as they are able to do on a desktop.

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