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From Stefano Mazzocchi <stef...@apache.org>
Subject [review] Cocoon support in Borland JBuilder 5 Enterprise
Date Mon, 18 Jun 2001 13:09:53 GMT
People,

in case you didn't know, Borland JBuilder 5 Enterprise Edition ships
with Apache Cocoon and adds a set of tools and wizards that simplify the
development of Cocoon-powered solutions.

A couple of hours ago, I received a full copy of the baby (many thanks
to Borland for this 3500$ gift!) and I'm now writing a review to let you
know my thoughts.

Let's start saying that the version shipped is a pretty old Cocoon 1.8
but it's totally easy to point the wizards to a newer Cocoon
installation so this is not a great drawback.

Cocoon is shipped complete, along with all samples, HTML docs, XML docs,
libraries and a precompiled cocoon.jar. The full distribution.

The only thing that bugs me is that they removed the README and LICENSE
files from the distro (even if they left legal notices in all other
places) but this is because I'm very picky with those legal and credits
things.

As expected, the wizards are hardcoded around Cocoon1 and cannot be used
directly with Cocoon2, even if I presume it won't be difficult to adapt
these things since even the Cocoon wizards were adapted from more
general WAR wizards.

In general the amount of Apache code found in JBuilder 5 Enterprise is
impressive: in fact, it includes, Tomcat 3.2.1, Cocoon 1.8, Xerces and
Xalan (unspecified version) and Jakarta Regexp. The only other open
source code distributed are: JDOM, Castor and GNU Regexp (which is
LGPL-ed)

The bummer is lack of direct Ant support, but I bet this will happen
soon.

Anyway, back to Cocoon support.

Overall, it's very good. I even venture to say that Cocoon1 has so many
architectural problems that it would be difficult to make it simpler to
write, deploy and test a Cocoon web application.

The wizard creates the project, along with a few "fill-the-blanks"-like
xml documents, an xslt stylesheet and so on. By pushing the "Run Cocoon"
button, a Cocoon WAR is created with all the required libraries, a dummy
server.xml file is created for Tomcat with a /cocoon context mapped to
Cocoon, then Tomcat is run internally with Cocoon.

Result: it takes a few seconds (litterarely!) to go from authoring the
xml documents from creating, deploying and testing the Cocoon Web
Application. Of course, since it's mapped on local port 8080, any
browser or additional device can be used to see what's created.

In JBuilder 5 phylosophy, Cocoon is seen as a "presentation stage" and
therefore lacks the quality of support it has for JSP for Cocoon's XSP.
But everything that runs Cocoon can be seen and managed from inside the
JBuilder IDE very nicely.

Generally speaking, XML support sounds a mix between very appealing and
very hype-oriented. Features like "DTD->XML" and "XML->DTD" are good for
XML newbies but I suspect they become useless as the complexity of the
DTD grows (try to go "DTD->XML" with docbook and we'll see).

Overall, XML support is heavily data oriented (with XML->DBMS wizards,
XML data binding, DTD->java code generation, etc...) and Cocoon is the
only thing that goes content oriented, but this has the advantage (from
our point of view) to make Cocoon very visible inside JBuilder's XML
support.

Let's come to a conclusion: JBuilder is, by far, the best Java IDE
available. I've been using all sorts of java IDEs and text editors since
1995 when all this Java stuff popped up and JBuilder beats the crap out
of every single one about Java support (personal opinion: flames will be
ignored).

JBuilder5 Ent. now adds a pretty good support for XML, XSLT, databinding
and publishing. Pretty nice is the ability of associating an XSLT or CSS
stylesheet to the XML document you are editing to see the results on the
next tab pane.

So, my conclusions are: JBuilder 5 Enterprise is not worth 3500$ for
their Cocoon support alone, but it's a great tool if you are using all
sorts of enterprise technologies (servlets, JSP, EJB, CORBA, DBMS) and
want to enter the XML world being guided to solutions that work, or try
to see how they all fit together.

It's also a great way for you to tell your boss that Cocoon is a
"de-facto industrial standard" for XML web publishing in the Java world
and you won't be left in the void if you choose to adopt it.

Take care and kudos to Borland for being giving such great visibility to
our work and to Apache in general.

-- 
Stefano Mazzocchi      One must still have chaos in oneself to be
                          able to give birth to a dancing star.
<stefano@apache.org>                             Friedrich Nietzsche
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