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IBM And Laszlo Team Up To Bring Rich-Client Apps To Eclipse

New open-source tools will make it easier to build Internet applications that provide users with a more interactive experience.

The rich-client interface, which makes it easier for users to interact with Internet applications, is coming to the Eclipse open-source programmer's workbench.

IBM said Tuesday that it and Laszlo Systems Inc. will produce an integrated development environment, IDE for Laszlo, based on Laszlo's rich-user-interface platform and contribute it to the open-source programmer's workbench. Laszlo made its Internet applications platform, now called OpenLaszlo, open-source code in October in a bid to get it established across a wider community of developers.

Last year, IBM posted a trial set of OpenLaszlo-based development tools on its AlphaWorks Web site, where it puts emerging technologies for interested developers, and it reports that the early version of IDE for Laszlo is one of its most frequently downloaded offerings. Since it was posted, there have been more than 13,000 downloads, says David Boloker, chief technology officer of emerging Internet technologies with the IBM Software Group.

An Eclipse-based IDE for Laszlo would give developers a single development environment in which they can build a Web-based user interface capable of supporting complex interactions between a Web server and a user's browser. OpenLaszlo uses Macromedia Inc.'s Flash Player, the multimedia staging software already present on many users' PCs, as a display engine for a user interface that goes beyond standard browser capabilities. The user interface runs inside the browser window, however, and the user navigates the Web as usual.

With OpenLaszlo, different parts of a Web page can be expanded and fresh data supporting user activity in a selected part of a browser window can be downloaded in background from an Internet server. The result is an Internet application that acts less like a series of HTML pages and more like a familiar PC application, Boloker explains.

"IBM aims to give developers an easy-to-use tool to create these applications," he says. By making IDE for Laszlo available inside Eclipse, where hundreds of development tools already function, IBM will "accelerate the uptake of rich Internet applications in the open-source community," he predicts. Tools that plug into Eclipse must conform to certain file-format conventions so they can share files. Work done in one tool can be passed to a different tool for added development.

IBM is also making Faces for Laszlo available for download off of the AlphaWorks site. Faces for Laszlo provides the basic components of a user interface, including buttons, dialogue boxes, and menus, and the means to handle events taking place within a browser.

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