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Java Unleashed

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Chapter 7

Putting together your toolkit

One of the most difficult aspects of learning and using Java is sorting out what the different applications of Java can do for you. There has and will continue to be much hype surrounding Java that can easily result in confusion as to what each new Java licensee brings to the table. Not only is Java quickly gaining acceptance as a programming standard, it is also spawning a new generation of development tools.

In this chapter, you learn about the various ways Java is being used in both new and existing products, including browsers and development tools. The goal is to provide you with a broad perspective on the Java development world so you can be more informed when deciding how to put together your own Java development toolkit. You will also learn about some of the most popular online resources for keeping up with the fast-moving animal known as Java.

Overview of Java Tools

The list of companies that have jumped up and pledged allegiance to Java is growing at a surprising rate. With the Java bandwagon steadily rolling along, it is somewhat difficult to see how and where Java fits into many of the products that promise Java support. This is especially true when it comes to Java development tools. The products and tools important to Java development can be broken down into three categories, which follow:

This chapter focuses on each of these categories and discusses the Java Developer’s Kit and online sources of Java development information. Keep in mind that Java is still a growing technology, so many of the development tools are still in their infancy. Some haven’t even reached the prototype stage, whereas a few others are ready for prime time. It’s important for you to plan your Java development around what tools are available and what tools are on the horizon.

Browsers

The first category of Java applications to affect Java development is that of Web browsers. Without Java-compatible browsers, Java applets wouldn’t be very useful. Java browsers practically serve as the operating system for Java programs. For this reason, Java is highly dependent on the availability and success of Java browsers. Fortunately, all the major players in the browser market have signed on to Java and promised to support it. Following is a list of major companies with Web browser products that have promised some support for Java either presently or in the near future:

Netscape

Sun

Microsoft

Spyglass

A quick overview of each of the major players and its connection to Java is presented in the following sections.

Netscape Navigator

The biggest player in the Web browser world, Netscape, is at the front of the Java support line. Netscape has already delivered a commercial browser with complete support for Java: Netscape Navigator 2.0. With the lion’s share of the Web browser market prior to this release, Netscape Navigator alone will secure Java among Web users and developers alike.

Netscape has gone a step further than just supporting the Java language and run-time system. They also helped develop JavaScript, which is an object-based scripting language based on Java. The aim of JavaScript is to allow the rapid development of distributed client-server applications. However, the practical uses of JavaScript will no doubt expand as it gains acceptance. If you want to learn more about JavaScript, you’re in luck; Part IX of this book, “JavaScript,” is devoted entirely to JavaScript programming. If you want more information on Netscape Navigator itself, just sit tight because the next chapter is all about Netscape Navigator.

HotJava

The HotJava Web browser is Sun’s contender in the browser market. Originally designed as an experiment in Java browser development, HotJava has become a powerful model for what the future holds for Web browsers. It isn’t clear yet whether HotJava will end up being a serious competitor in the browser market, but there is no arguing its appeal to Java developers. Implemented entirely in Java itself, HotJava will no doubt be the most Java-compatible browser around. Regardless of whether HotJava catches on as a professional Web browser, it still serves as a very useful test bed for Java programmers.

Although it is still in an early alpha stage, HotJava already surpasses other browsers in terms of extensibility. HotJava is capable of dynamically handling and interacting with new object types and Internet protocols. This is the kind of extensibility that will be required of Web browsers in the already seriously muddied waters of the Internet. Sun has promised a commercial release of HotJava in the near future. For more details about HotJava, check out Chapter 9, “HotJava.”

Microsoft Internet Explorer

You didn’t seriously think Microsoft would sit idly by while Java soaked up so much press attention! Of course not. After some delay, Microsoft finally agreed to license the Java technology. It isn’t clear yet exactly what technologies Microsoft plans to integrate Java into. It’s safe to say that Microsoft’s Internet Explorer Web browser will probably be the first Microsoft product to support Java. Considering the fact that Internet Explorer is tightly linked to Windows 95, it has the potential to gain a significant share of the Web browser market.

As of this writing, there is no tentative date for when a Java-compatible version of Internet Explorer will be available. Because Netscape has already beat them to the punch, you can probably expect Microsoft to get Internet Explorer up to speed with Java pretty rapidly.

Spyglass Mosaic

Spyglass Mosaic is another popular Web browser that has announced future support for Java. Like Microsoft, Spyglass has given no solid dates of when their Mosaic browser might be available with Java support. Again, with all of the different browsers battling head-to-head over supporting new technologies, you can probably expect a Java-compatible version of Mosaic very soon.

The Java Developer’s Kit

The Java Developer’s Kit (JDK) provides the core tools and information necessary for developing programs in Java. The JDK is the first thing you should take into consideration when putting together your own Java development toolkit. Although third-party add-ons and development environments promise to make Java development smoother and easier, the JDK provides all the essential tools and information necessary to write professional Java applets immediately. Also, the JDK is Sun’s official development kit for Java, which means you can always count on it providing the most extensive Java support.

The JDK includes a Java runtime interpreter, a compiler, a debugger, lots of applet demos, and the complete Java API source code, along with a few other useful tools. For more information on the JDK, check out Chapter 10, “The Java Developer’s Kit.”

Development Environments

Currently, the most uncharted region of Java programming is that of development environments. In a time when developers have become spoiled with graphical drag-and-drop programming tools, everyone expects the same out of a Java development environment. Indeed, they are on their way, but Java is still very new.

Most of the big players in the programming-tool business have announced some type of development environment for Java. Some of this Java support will arrive in the form of add-ons for existing products, while others will be entirely new products. It’s interesting to note that a few of the development environments are themselves being developed in Java, which means that they will be available for all of the platforms that support Java. All the Java development environments are covered in more detail in Chapter 11, “Other Tools and Environments.”

Symantec Espresso

Symantec is the biggest PC-development tool player to have a Java development environment ready for testing. Symantec Espresso is an add-on for their Symantec C++ development system for Windows 95/NT that enables you to use the C++ facilities for Java development. Espresso features a project management system, a powerful editor, and browser tools. Symantec Espresso is already available and is a free add-on for users of Symantec C++.

Borland Latte

Borland, the developer of the popular Borland C++ and Delphi Windows development environments, was an early supporter of Java. Unlike Symantec, Borland has opted to develop an entirely new product for Java developers. Borland is developing their Java development environment, currently named Latte, completely in Java. This will enable them to break out of the PC market and sell Latte to Java developers on all Java-supported platforms.

Borland has stated that Latte will be highly derived from their successful Delphi product, which is a graphical development environment for Windows 95 that is based on object-oriented Pascal. An early version of the Latte Java debugger has been released, and holds a lot of promise coming from one of the strongest PC-development tool companies.

Microsoft Visual C++

Although there have been no formal announcements, it is very likely that Microsoft is busily working on their own Java development environment. Microsoft is committed to creating powerful development tools, and Java is no exception. In the meantime, the Visual C++ environment for Windows 95/NT is actually fairly well suited as-is for Java development. Chapter 11, “Other Tools and Environments,” contains information on how to configure Visual C++ to work with Java.

JavaMaker

JavaMaker is a simple development environment—developed by Heechang Choi—that runs under Windows 95 and Windows NT. It doesn’t have too many bells and whistles, but it does manage to put a front-end on the JDK. JavaMaker (currently still in beta) comes with a multiple document interface text editor and interfaces directly with the Java compiler and applet viewer. If you want to keep things simple, JavaMaker is a very useful application—even in its current prerelease state.

Natural Intelligence’s Roaster

If you are a Macintosh user, you’re probably thinking this discussion of development environments is skewed toward Windows. Not so! Natural Intelligence, the company that makes the popular Macintosh script editor Quick Code Pro, has released a Macintosh Java development environment. Natural Intelligence’s Java Applet Development Kit, Roaster, provides an integrated development environment with a built-in class disassembler, debugger, and compiler. It is currently available for Power Macintosh, with a 68000 version expected soon.

Metrowerk’s CodeWarrior

Lest you believe there is only one option for Macintosh Java programmers, Metrowerks has announced development of a Java environment based on their popular CodeWarrior C++ development environment. The Java environment, which is code-named Wired, is described by Metrowerks as a suite of Macintosh Java development tools. Metrowerks anticipates a first developer’s release of their Java tools in the summer of 1996.

Silicon Graphic’s Cosmo

Silicon Graphics has entered the Java foray in big way with its Cosmo development tools suite. The Cosmo technologies are aimed at providing more extensive multimedia and 3D graphics support to the Web. A core component of Cosmo is Cosmo Code, which is a Java development environment that promises to deliver a staggering array of features. Cosmo Code includes a runtime interpreter, compiler, graphical debugger, visual browser, and the Cosmo Motion and Cosmo MediaBase libraries. The core components of the Cosmo Code development kit are already available in beta form for Irix systems.

Programming Libraries

Because Java is object oriented, it is hard to overlook the potential for reusing Java objects. There is already a surprisingly large amount of Java classes available for free; most of which include source code. Additionally, a few commercial Java object libraries are appearing that show a lot of promise.

Even though the commercial Java tools market is still in an embryonic state, one company in particular looks poised to provide some very interesting and powerful class libraries: Dimension X. Dimension X currently has three Java class libraries nearing release: Ice, Liquid Reality, and JACK. Ice is a 3D graphics rendering package written in Java. Liquid Reality is a VRML toolkit, based on Ice, for creating and viewing 3D worlds on the Web. Finally, JACK (Java Animation Creation Kit) is a tool for creating Java animation applets through a simple drag-and-drop interface. For more information on VRML and Dimension X, see Chapter 34, “VRML and Java.”

Online Resources

In the dynamic world of Java programming, nothing is perhaps more valuable than the Java Web sites. The various Java Web sites scattered around provide the latest breaking Java news and most recent releases of Java tools, not to mention a vast repository of educational material.

Sun’s Java Site

The official Java site on the Web is maintained by Sun and contains all the latest Java information and tools produced by Sun. You’ll definitely want to keep an eye on this site as it is the central location for obtaining Java updates. It also has a pretty extensive set of online documentation, including a really cool Java tutorial. The URL for the Sun Java site follows:

http://www.javasoft.com/

Figure 7.1 shows what Sun’s Java Web site looks like.

Figure FIGURE 7.1.

Sun's Java Web site.

Gamelan

Look no further than Gamelan for the end-all Java resource directory! With the possible exception of the official Java Web site at Sun, Gamelan is by far the most useful and comprehensive source of Java information anywhere. It has Java conveniently divided up into different categories, with each leading to a wealth of information and sample applets. Check out Gamelan yourself and you’ll see what I mean. Its URL follows:

http://www.gamelan.com/

Figure 7.2 shows what the Gamelan Web site looks like.

Figure FIGURE 7.2.

The Gamelan Web site.

SunWorld Online

SunWorld Online is an online journal published by IDG Communications that often contains useful information that relates to Java. It has a regular column called “Java Developer” that usually tackles an interesting topic related to Java programming. SunWorld Online is located at the following URL:

http://www.sun.com/sunworldonline/

Figure 7.3 shows what an issue of SunWorld Online looks like.

Figure FIGURE 7.3.

The Sun World Online Web site.

Digital Espresso

Digital Espresso is an online weekly summary of the traffic appearing in the various Java mailing lists and newsgroups. Digital Espresso is an excellent Java resource because it pulls information from a variety of sources into a single Web site. Following is the URL for Digital Espresso:

http://www.io.org/~mentor/phpl.cgi?J___Notes.html

Figure 7.4 shows what the Digital Espresso Web site looks like.

Figure FIGURE 7.4.

The Digital Espresso Web site.

Summary

You learned in this chapter that putting together a Java toolkit isn’t as easy as going out and buying a development environment. Because Java is such a new technology, many of the development options for developers have yet to mature into solid applications. At this stage, it’s important to know what is available and what is being promised in the future.

You also learned about the different Java-compatible Web browsers and development environments that are in the works, along with a few that are available now. You then learned about the Java Developer’s Kit and some class libraries that have the potential to raise the ante on Java development. Finally, some online resources for keeping up-to-date with Java were discussed.

Because Java-supported browsers are so important to Java developers, the next chapter focuses on what will possibly be the most established of the Java Web browsers: Netscape Navigator.


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