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8/29/2007
04:17 PM
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Google Web Toolkit Leaves Beta

The company estimates that recompiling applications with GWT 1.4 can result in software that has 30% less code and can run 20% to 50% faster.

The Google Web Toolkit (GWT), an open source framework to help developers create Ajax applications using Java, graduated from beta testing on Tuesday.

In announcing the official 1.4 release of the software, Google engineers Bruce Johnson and Dan Peterson all but declare desktop application development dead.

"If you've been in the technology industry for a while, you probably remember when enterprises and software vendors had to think pretty hard about whether to develop locally-installed desktop applications or Web-based browser applications," Johnson and Peterson said in a blog post. "These days, whether you're building mashups, gadgets, or full-blown applications, it's a no-brainer: The browser is the delivery platform of choice."

While Adobe, Apple, and Microsoft among others might not be so quick to dismiss desktop apps, writing software for the Web has become the preferred path for many. And GWT deserves some credit for that.

Before GWT came along -- 2005, if you can remember that far into the hazy past -- developing Ajax applications was significantly harder than it is now in part because different browsers handle JavaScript in different ways.

As Johnson and Peterson explain, GWT lets developers write code that works across a variety of browsers. "The magic trick is that GWT cross-compiles Java source code into standalone JavaScript that you can include in any Web page," they said. "Instead of spending time becoming JavaScript gurus and fighting browser quirks, developers using GWT spend time productively coding and debugging in the robust Java programming language, using their existing Java tools and expertise."

Developers appear pleased with the results. In response to a question about the time-saving benefits of GWT posted in Google's GWT forums, developer Reinier Zwitserloot responded, "GWT will -really- save you time in maintenance (try and refactor browser dependent JavaScript if you dare!), and GWT is a great tool for scaling your server, because it allows you to ship off a lot of state info to the client."

And GWT 1.4 offers significantly better performance than earlier iterations of the software. On the GWT blog, Johnson estimated that recompiling applications with GWT 1.4 can result in software that has 30% less code and can run 20% to 50% faster.

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