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Sun's 'Creator' Is a True Contender : Page 4

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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Performance and Prognosis
It's not fair to make hard performance comparisons between the release version of Visual Studio and this early access version of Creator, so I'll avoid doing that, and just use this review as a heads-up warning to Sun that the current performance is not acceptable. I'm running the product on a dual Pentium IV 2GHz machine with 2GB of RAM, and it's still slow. The code editor can take up to several seconds to check code syntax after your cursor leaves a line, even in very small code files. When you're ready to test your project, the IDE compiles and deploys your code to the application server and launches a browser. For the IDE to function well as a rapid application builder, that edit-test cycle should be very fast—preferably nearly instantaneous, but in this version, it takes far too long—often thirty seconds or more. As optimization is (rightly) a task performed at the end of projects such as Creator, one can hope that the release version won't suffer from the performance problems of this early access version. The IDE includes a toolbar that purportedly shows you the IDE's current memory usage. Clicking on the toolbar display forces a garbage collection. However, the figure displayed in the toolbar doesn't jibe with the Task Manager memory usage figures, which show that the "runide.exe" (Creator's executable file) process consistently uses over 96MB of RAM, even with very small projects loaded. The toolbar consistently displays much smaller memory usage values.

Overall Impressions
So, does Java Studio Creator meet the expectations of current .NET developers? Will it lure them away from Visual Studio to take advantage of Java's broader platform support? That depends. Creator certainly has the potential to lure .NET developers to Java because it offers many of the features that can help wean them away from Visual Studio. As an ASP.NET developer familiar with Visual Studio, if I had to deliver applications to a mixture of Windows and non-Windows platforms, this tool would be among my top choices. It's instantly familiar, and Sun has done a good job of hiding functionality that you don't always need to build typical corporate database-driven Web applications.

But much of Creator's potential is as yet unrealized. First and foremost, the planned release version of Creator doesn't target desktop applications; it can only build Web applications. Desktop application development is planned for a future version (code named "Mako") which will target not only Web applications, but also desktop and mobile-device applications, using a "develop once, deploy everywhere" model. That version will be far more similar to Visual Studio's current capabilities than is Creator in its current form. When that happens, the two products will become more equal, with the nod toward Creator because it outputs standard Java code, which isn't limited to Windows machines or PocketPC devices. Second, although Sun's done a good deal of the work to create a viable competitor to Visual Studio, ColdFusion, and other Web application IDEs, it's not going to attract that audience unless the release version of the product is considerably less buggy and faster than this early access version. Now, Sun needs to focus on solving problems, improving Creator's performance, reducing its memory requirements, and adding the missing convenience features that, more and more, differentiate one IDE from another.



Sun wouldn't provide a price for the release version of this product, but Sun's Jim Inscore did say that it would be competitive with similar development tool offerings from other companies. Inscore also said Sun plans to release the product in late June at JavaOne. Overall, Creator, in its current implementation, is a slick, if slow, IDE that offers ASP.NET developers an environment that immediately feels comfortable and familiar while simultaneously giving them an easy path to target platforms other than Windows in the future.



A. Russell Jones is the Executive Editor of DevX.
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