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Eclipse Web Tools Platform 1.0 rolled out

WTP 1.0 defines a platform API for third-party commercial adoption and extension, and offers a new feature to help with deployment, as well as major documentation.

The Eclipse Foundation today launched the Eclipse Web Tools Platform (WTP) 1.0. Release 1.0, which is an upgrade of the original 0.7 release and is built on top of the Eclipse 3.1.1 maintenance release, achieves two major goals in the WTP roadmap: It defines the WTP application programming interface (API) and remains current with the underlying Eclipse platform.

The challenge we have in Web tools -- unlike the Java IDE, where you're not deploying to other than the Java VM [virtual machine] -- is you need to run a lot of different deployments.
Tim Wagner
Senior ManagerBEA Systems Inc.

"This release enables us to now serve as a platform," said Tim Wagner, the Project Management Committee (PMC) lead of the WTP project at Eclipse and a senior manager for BEA Systems Inc.'s WebLogic Workshop. "It is a collection of APIs and services that will enable companies to engage in commercial adoption."

The goal of the WTP project, which was launched in July 2004, is to extend the open source Eclipse platform to Web and J2EE application development. WTP has already been adopted by leading J2EE suppliers, including BEA, Borland Software, IBM, JBoss and ObjectWeb.

"We extend beyond the Java IDE to bring functionality to a wider array of application developers," Wagner said. "The most visible and obvious [way] is we add editors for many different languages. There are many languages in Web application development -- the goal is to provide a lot of functionality right out of the box."

The WTP project includes source editors for HTML, JavaScript, Cascading Style Sheets, JavaServer Pages, SQL, XML, Document Type Definition, XML Schema Definition and WSDL, as well as graphical editors for XSD and WSDL. "The graphical editors are important," Wagner said. "People don't always understand the different syntax. If you're concentrating on Web services, the goal is to make you productive without worrying about the details of how a WSDL file is put together."

The other focus of the WTP is to provide "tools around servers and server deployment," Wagner said. "WTP supports multiple servers from multiple vendors."

In addition to the source editors, the WTP includes J2EE project builders, a J2EE navigator, a Web services wizard, WS-I Testing Tools, and database access with query tools and models.

New in Release 1.0 of WTP is a feature called "facets," which is designed to help users understand what projects can be deployed where, Wagner said.

"The challenge we have in Web tools -- unlike the Java IDE, where you're not deploying to other than the Java VM [virtual machine] -- is you need to run a lot of different deployments. BEA WebLogic has different functionality from IBM WebSphere, for example. Facets is a method for describing what features are available and how they are related to different servers. It makes it easier for users to understand what they can build and what they can deploy where."

Wagner said BEA developed the facets technology and donated it to the WTP.

Wagner said one of the drivers behind the facets technology is that "it was very confusing for people to not understand why a deployment failed or why something refused to deploy." For example, he said, the project construction wizard helps the user understand what features can be turned on. "Say you can't deploy something to Tomcat because you need EJBs, so anything that doesn't support EJBs is unavailable."

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Release 1.0 is also more scalable and robust, Wagner said. It fixes important bugs, and includes major document and help-system contributions from IBM that include both end-user and adopter documentation. Future releases of WTP will focus more on the third roadmap goal, which is currency with Web and J2EE standards like Java EE 5 and WSDL 2.0.

The next WTP release in February will be a service pack for 1.0, Wagner said. Then in June all the Eclipse top-level projects are expected to attempt a coordinated release around the 3.2 release of the Eclipse platform, dubbed Callisto. That coordinated release, which Wagner said is subject to the Eclipse Planning Council, is expected to include the 1.5 release of WTP. The WTP 1.5 is expected to include the JavaServer Faces tools subproject, which was proposed by Oracle Corp. earlier this year and is now in incubation.

Wagner said the coordinated release is intended to simplify accessibility for users and make it more obvious what is available and what versions of different projects work together. Currently, he said, "the discovery problem alone isn't trivial."

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