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Dr. Axel Rauschmayer is a freelance software engineer, blogger and educator, located in Munich, Germany. Axel is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 246 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Online Eclipse E4? Lack of imagination!

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In this post, I'll take a look at where desktop and web applications are heading. Eclipse E4 could be a major player, but its vision is too limited.

First, I'll summarize the current state of application affairs.

 Mozilla's Prism turns web applications into desktop applicationsMozilla's Prism turns web applications into desktop applications


Recent developments in web applications:

  • Offline modes and databases (Google Gears).
  • Run them as separate applications via Mozilla Prism.
  • Write them like a desktop GUI application, be it via Dojo or via GWT.
  • Have bidirectional communications with a server (Comet).
  • The server is getting leaner, becomes mostly a service provider, while the clients do much more work.
GUI applications
  • receive updates via the internet.
  • provide help texts in HTML.
This makes it seem inevitable that both kinds of applications will meet in the middle. So what will this middle ground look like?
  • Ubiquity: Applications are available anywhere (where you have online access) and there is no installation necessary. Update are completely unobtrusive.
  • Synchronization: A corollary to ubiquity, you want your data to be ubiquitous, too; not just your application. Applications will synchronize with a server, in a fashion that mimics distributed version control systems.
  • Integration: Applications are first-class citizens in a desktop environment.
  • Mash-ups: You build mash-ups by orchestrating web services and exchanging user interface components.
  • Stability: Applications run safely separately and don't affect some kind of browser, be it by slowing it down or by crashing it.
  • Rich content: appears everywhere, it includes images, sound and movies.
What I would love to see is more thinking about how we can move desktop applications closer to this middle ground. For example: Why is Java web start so close to the above outlined ideal and yet not nearly used as much as Ajax applications? How can we make desktop applications simpler to maintain? How can we build synchronization into every application? How can desktop applications do mash-up-style data and GUI integration?

In my opinion, tools like GWT get it right, while the Eclipse E4, at least from what I've read about it so far, does not. The former is an excellent intermediate solution that will be easy to evolve into what is to come. The latter feels more like a frantic push to be web-enabled, somehow. RAP, which has been quoted as an E4 inspiration, is a bit like an anti-GWT and relies a lot on the server to keep state. Pursuing this path gives you the worst of both worlds: You have sluggish web applications and do not evolve the state of desktop applications, either.

Any comments? I'm I right in bashing E4's web ideas or did I just misunderstand?

Disclosure: This post has been partially triggered by "Who Needs an Online IDE?".
Published at DZone with permission of Axel Rauschmayer, author and DZone MVB. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)


suraj chandran replied on Fri, 2009/04/24 - 11:41am

Cannot completely disagree with you. But there are some unprecedentedly beautiful stuff in E4, IMO. I think it would be great to watch it in release.

Axel Rauschmayer replied on Wed, 2009/05/27 - 8:19pm

BTW: The article above can be seen as third in a series.

  1. Eclipse 4 wishes: simplification first, then innovation
  2. Improving code browsing in Eclipse

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