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IBM officially releases Workplace Designer 2.5 development tool

IBM releases Workplace Designer 2.5, an Eclipse-based tool designed to help Domino developers move into the J2EE space as well as build components to use in composite applications.

This week IBM officially released Workplace Designer 2.5, an Eclipse-based development tool designed to help Domino developers move into the J2EE space as well as easily build components to use in composite applications running in the IBM Workplace environment.

Because composite applications are quickly assembled from reusable components, they allow organizations to adapt software to changing requirements, as well as enabling customers to re-use data to create new processes for partners, suppliers, customers or employees during time-critical situations such as mergers and acquisitions or new product rollouts.

Workplace Designer is a scripting tool based on JavaScript, but because it and Domino Designer share the same views, data connections and logic, it will allow Domino developers to build Workplace components using methods they are familiar with. "It looks almost identical to Domino Designer – the same icons, the same window pane," said Dirk Nicol, program director of IBM Workplace Application Platform. "For instance, we've taken JavaScript and extended it to similar constructs and syntax, like @ functions."

According to Dick McCarrick, a content developer for developerWorks: Lotus, "If your background is in Notes/Domino programming, you can think of Workplace Designer as a tool for providing Domino Designer type application development functionality to the IBM Workplace family of products. But Domino Designer will still be available as the primary tool for developing applications within a Notes/Domino environment, he noted. With Workplace Designer, Nicol added, IBM was able "to take a lot of functionality based on Eclipse -- code complete, color coding of classes and objects within classes you're writing, and an advanced IDE experience – and make it available to the Domino developer community."

Gives Domino developers jump-start
The Workplace Designer 2.5 tool had been available as a trial download since June 27. Since that time, more than 2,000 developers have used it to build applications for the Workplace platform, according to James Russell, director of application development tools for IBM's Workplace, Portal and Collaboration Group, noting, "We got a lot of good feedback."

According to developer Rob Novak, President of SNAPPS, a long-time IBM Business Partner and now an IBM Design Partner, Workplace Designer gives Domino developers a "jump-start" to developing applications for Workplace.

If you look at the world of IBM Web developers out there, it's pretty compartmentalized.

Rob Novak

"If you look at the world of IBM Web developers out there, it's pretty compartmentalized. Imagine IBM WebSphere Portal developers in one room, and Lotus Domino developers in another. IBM Workplace Designer doesn't just unlock the door between them, it kicks it down."

Workplace Designer incorporates three industry standards: XML for data access and exchange, HTML/CSS for portal development and JavaScript. According to Russell, a number of AJAX-style controls that will be supported in next year's release.

On the workstation, Workplace Designer runs within IBM Workplace on Linux and Microsoft Windows 2000 or XP. On the server, Workplace Designer applications runs on Workplace Services Express 2.5 and Workplace Collaboration Services 2.5 on all supported platforms.

Database platforms supported by Workplace Designer include IBM Cloudscape, DB2, Oracle and Microsoft SQL Server. It also supports the LDAP servers supported by IBM Workplace products.

Attract VB community
IBM is also hoping that Workplace Designer will attract some of the Visual Basic community. "With the recent announcement that Microsoft is dropping support of Visual Basic 6 and moving it to .Net, the VB community is faced with a choice," Nicol said. "If they want to move to a scripting environment that will support J2EE, this would be a seamless move for them." One difference between Workplace Designer and VB, according to Nicol, is that all the components created in Workplace Designer are XML-based.

Workplace Designer 2.5 is now available for download from IBM's Passport Advantage site, at a price of $649 per user. IBM Business Partners can download IBM Workplace Designer from the IBM Software Access Catalog.

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