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Sun's 'Creator' Is a True Contender : Page 2

Sun gave itself a mighty challenge when it set out to create a Java IDE that lets you build Web applications visually with all the ease and convenience of Visual Studio or ColdFusion. Despite some issues with this early access version, Java Studio Creator might actually live up to its billing.


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What You Get
It's obvious that Sun has made every effort to make .NET programmers feel comfortable—and that effort shows in both the selection and arrangement of the default panels visible in the IDE. The tool opens on a Welcome screen that eventually fills up with a list of links containing the titles of recent projects (see Figure 3). Clicking a link opens that project. The two buttons above the project list let you create a new project or open an existing project.
 
Figure 3. The Welcome Screen: The Welcome screen maintains a list of links to recent projects and buttons for creating new projects or opening existing projects.
Edit area: The large center area consumed by the Welcome screen in Figure 3 changes to become the editing area when you create or load a project (see Figure 4).

The editing area adapts contextually as you load and select different types of files into the IDE. For example, when you first create a new project or a new page, the editing area functions as a canvas on which you drop both visual and non-visual controls to build a UI. Similarly, when you open a code file, the editing area functions as a code editor.

 
Figure 4. Java Studio Creator: : This screen capture shows the central design editing area surrounded by a number of specialized resizable docking panels.
Around this central editing area are docking panels containing support functionality. You can rearrange and hide them to your heart's content, but by default, moving clockwise from the top right in Figure 4, the panels are:

  • A Properties panel, which also serves as a Dynamic Help panel. You switch back and forth between those two panel functions using the tabs below the panel. The Properties panel is exactly what you'd expect—it contains a list of properties for the currently selected item (control or form) in the editing area, along with editable fields, dropdown lists, and sometimes-complicated property editors for that item.
  • A Project Navigator panel, which shows both a "Logical View" (see Figure 4) containing pertinent items in your project arranged by function, and a "FileSystem View" (see Figure 5) containing all the project's files (automatically generated configuration and deployment files included) arranged by folder. Unfortunately, unlike the Properties panel, the Project Navigator panel doesn't have tabs to switch the view; you must do that manually, by right-clicking on the top-level project item (not just any blank area of the panel) and selecting "Show FileSystem View" or "Show Logical View" from a popup menu.
  •  
    Figure 5. The Project Navigator FileSystem View: The FileSystem view available from the Project Navigator panel shows you all the files that make up your Creator application.
  • A Document Outline panel, which shows you a hierarchical view of the items on your .jsp page.
  • An Output panel, which shows comiler output, error messages, and functions as the output area for any console messages, and pulls double duty as the Debugger panel when you launch your application in debug mode. In debug mode, the panel shows the call stack, local variables, and watched values by default, but has a complex set of other debugging-related information that you can display by clicking icons at the left of the panel.
  • A Palette, which holds various controls and widgets. The Palette, via the Clip tab at the bottom, also functions as a code clip library. On the widget side, the Palette is pre-populated with all the common visual Web controls, such as text fields, output fields, buttons, list and combo boxes, a grid control, and so forth as well as non-visual validator and converter controls. On the clip side, Creator ships with a small number of pre-built clips. You will eventually be able to add user-defined controls (a feature not available in this prerelease version) and code clips (available now) to the Palette.
  • A Server Navigator panel, which shows you the database servers, Web services, and deployment servers available from your development system. You can browse database tables, views, and stored procedures, and drag-and-drop database objects onto controls in the visual UI editor to bind controls to data.


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