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New Java Widgets For Eclipse

Beating Sun Microsystems to the punch, German-based Innoopract released an Eclipse plug-in to its popular World Wide Web Windowing Toolkit (W4T) Monday.

In beta testing the past seven months, the application lets Java programmers on the open-source tool integration platform create Web applications entirely in one interface. A free trial version with limited functionality is available; cost of the developer license is $129 per computer, while runtime licenses cost $199.

Normally, code development on a major project means stringing together pieces of XML, JSP, HTML and Java servlets from different environments. Officials at Innoopract say the program cuts Web application development by 50 percent; by offering it on the Eclipse platform, they say it also gives those developers an integrated environment to test Web applications on different Web browser types, like Internet Explorer (IE), Netscape Navigator and Mozilla.

Jochen Krause, Innoopract founder and president, said W4T gives developers some help in what is commonly known as a difficult language. The application is definitely geared at bringing .NET programmers to the fold, as well as integrating languages. In its design mode W4T looks almost like Visual Basic, with drag-and-drop objects like buttons, drop-down boxes, text areas and labels -- called widgets .

"We can't make Java any easier than it already is, but we can help people take the first step and to be in an environment that they are familiar with," Krause told "They don't have to worry about all the underlying Java script and HTML and HTTP, because it's all encapsulated."

Sun has been working on a similar application for developers -- called Java Studio Creator -- for the past year, though it only launched a technical preview of the program last month and isn't expected to be fully available until mid-2004.

Innoopract officials were hesitant when it came to talks of incorporating Sun's NetBeans into W4T. Last month Sun backed out of the Eclipse consortium, supposedly because Eclipse and Sun couldn't come to terms with development of NetBeans with the Eclipse tool. Sun this month formed up the Java Tool Community (JCT), a working group within the Java Community Process (JCP). And despite their differences, Java creator James Gosling told there are opportunities for NetBeans to work together with Eclipse in the future.

Innoopract, an Eclipse member, doesn't plan on joining the JTC before Eclipse does, and doesn't have formal plans to make a W4T plug-in for NetBeans. Krause said they might work NetBeans 3.6 into W4T, but version 3.5 is so far behind Eclipse that they don't see a reason at this time.

"What we've seen, at least here in Europe and maybe its comparable in the United States, is that very many people are adopting Eclipse over NetBeans; for every 200 developers who say they use Eclipse, another two went to NetBeans," he told "Based on that experience, we'd wait and see how NetBeans is developing."

Innoopract officials emphasized the application isn't the end-all-be-all for Java software development but is ideal for tailored applications. Andrzej Delegacz, a database analyst at the Medical College of Virginia Foundation's radiology department, said there's no mechanism for collaboration to bring outside content into the program. However, it is suited for the simple, typical components of the department intranet site he maintains.

"There is still a lot to be done with this project, and it's not perfect -- it has errors -- but I'm happy this kind of software tool became available," he told

It is also only available on the Windows operating system , though its Web site said it would work on Linux and Mac OS' for future versions.

Delegacz said he was surprised this kind of application is only now coming out for developers. A programmer for 15 years, he's programmed in C, C++, SmallTalk and finally Java. With Java's popularity -- and heavyweight sponsorship by companies like Sun and IBM -- he expected to see something out on the market sooner.

"I was amazed that someone finally came up with this solution," he said. "There is some software which tries to do (what W4T does)," he said. "There's Java Server Faces, but that's still in beta and doesn't do all that I'm looking for."