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From "|>an /\/\andell" <dmand...@stanford.edu>
Subject Re: Discussion Initiation: Incorporation of custom tag libraries into authoring tools.
Date Tue, 05 Dec 2000 09:23:04 GMT
Hello Keyton et al.,

My name is Dan Mandell; I work for Sun Microsystems. I've spent this summer
and fall working with Eduardo Pelegri-Llopart to investigate how tool
vendors can best support the authoring of JSPs with custom tag libraries.
We do believe that this integration is crucial for JSP's adoption, and
we're working with vendors to address many of the questions you have been
posting regarding this thread.

This summer, I wrote an extension for Dreamweaver UltraDev that allows a
user to author JSP pages with tag libraries without any handcoding. There
are two components: 1) The extension files for UltraDev and 2) A TLD
parsing servlet that provides information to the extension files about the
tag libraries. The extension provides the user with a list of available tag
libraries, and allows her to insert the custom tags into the page, as if
they were adding a <b> tag or an <a href> tag. The extension also provides
a Custom Tag Property Inspector that allows users to set the tag's
parameters without tinkering with the html source. I demo-ed this extension
at Apachecon Europe this fall, and I mentioned there that if there was
sufficient interest, we would make this code public. Our intention is to
release this code within the next couple of weeks, either through
jakarta-taglibs or some other medium.

We've learned that it is easy to provide an authoring tool with basic
information about a taglib through the TLD, as Serge pointed out, but what
if further interaction is required? For instance, what if the user wants to
link a column in a table to elements of a result set from an SQL query?
What about nested tags (where the html produced by some inner tag is
allowed to depend on the value of the outer tag)?

A tool like UltaDev has "Live Data Mode", which allows us to ping the
server (Tomcat) with dynamic data, and get back a static html
representation identical (hopefully:) to what is seen in a browser. Thus
once the tags are in place, the user can interact with them and move them
around like standard html elements, and always know what the new page will
look like.

The heart of the matter is defining the mechanism for inserting and editing
the tags. Should we force the tool to provide some route for
inserting/editing custom tags based on other elements in the page or
elsewhere, or lean towards providing developers with a way to express such
dependencies through the spec (via the TLD or otherwise)? Our desire of
course is to provide a tool-independent solution that allows developers to
express these dependencies with as little effort as possible. The solution
I wrote adds no more work for the developers or authoring tools, but it
doesn't allow for a wizard-type interaction where the user can choose
values based on other tags, result sets, etc... Of course, there is
probably some inherent mutual exclusivity here.

We're very interested in all of your thoughts on these issues, and Keyton,
we're happy to discuss this issue with you. Our work with the tool vendors
is ongoing, and it would be a great help to approach them knowing the
wishes of developers like all of you.


At 2:20 PM -0500 12/3/00, A. Keyton Weissinger wrote:
>Hi Group.
>I am beginning work in earnest on my book. Several of you have indicated
>some very useful additions to my planned content. THANK YOU!
>Although I certainly have many dev-related technical things which I'd like
>to discuss, I'd like to start my entry as a participant in this list on a
>more philosophical note. I'd like to start a discussion on how we as taglib
>developers can make it easier to use taglibs, i.e. incorporation of tag
>libraries into authoring tools.
>Few want to address it because it's sticky and pretty non-glamorous, but it
>is bigtime important. It's my understanding that Macromedia has made some
>mention of putting this feature (the ability to "hook" in tag libraries)
>into Dreamweaver. Anyone have any details? What about other design/layout
>tools (Homesite, FrontPage (doubt it), etc)? This seems like a hugely
>important part of getting tag libraries into the hands of those people from
>which we all talk about "hiding complexity." It would seem to me that if we
>really want taglibs to "take off" that what we want is for page designers
>(i.e. HTML/XHTML folks not java/JSP programmers) to think "I need a
>german-based first name field. Oh yeah, I just have to press CTRL+whatever
>and up pops the attributes for a <formsutil:firstName/> tag." As simple as
>placing a <INPUT> tag on the page.
>As we all know, approachability is the key to this topic's growth in
>importance. Incorporation into authoring tools is a biggie. We (and I will
>definitely help on this) need to "lobby" to make this "cake" for authoring
>tools vendors. If these taglibs do not become easier to incorporate into the
>day-to-day development tasks of the average web page developer, taglibs'
>success going forward will be more difficult, relying solely on its use by
>junior java developers that have been relegated to the JSP end of the
>project because the EJBs are, at least currently, not within their skillset.
>Now don't anyone get upset. I freely admit that I am making HUGE, SWEEPING
>generalizations here. I know that there are awesome EJB developers that love
>to code JSP. There are HTML gods that "drop down" to code stuff. But most
>shops have programmers and designers. And even though JSP has made the
>separation of functions between these two groups simpler, the efficient
>incorporation of taglibs into designer tools would make it MUCH simpler
>Along these same lines, help systems is a whole 'nother topic along these
>lines. Yes, we have this incredible JavaDoc system that programmers can use
>to see how tags are put together, but joe-schmoe web page designer doesn't
>care. He wants easy to use (preferably pop-up) help on how to USE the
>things. How best to do this? It's up to us as tag library developers to
>provide this help. How to make the incorporation of this help and the tag
>libraries themselves easy?

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