Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Custom Tags for Organization Charts

We have created an interesting example of Backbase Custom Tags. Its goal is to simplify the creation of complex HTML structures by creating tags that have a higher abstraction level.

The example is an organization chart: this is usually somewhat complex to create in HTML and CSS, and requires quite a lot of HTML code: it's difficult to maintain, and it's easy to make mistakes. Therefore we created two shortcut tags 'orgchart' and 'subordinate' that can be used like this:

<b:orgchart b:label="Boss">
<b:subordinate b:label="My subordinate">
<b:subordinate b:label="My sub-subordinate"></b:subordinate>
<b:subordinate b:label="My subordinate">
<b:subordinate b:label="My sub-subordinate"></b:subordinate>
<b:subordinate b:label="My sub-subordinate"></b:subordinate>
<b:subordinate b:label="My subordinate"></b:subordinate>

And this is how it looks (we used minimal styling):

Organization Chart

The 'orgchart' and 'subordinate' tags are translated to HTML on the client-side, using the <s:htmlstructure> tag. Please have a look at the example: use View Source to see how it's done.

The Custom Tags are defined here: (again use View Source).

And this is the CSS:

Of course, this is just one example where custom tags can be useful. Everyone can make their own custom tags, for whichever application. And maybe the best thing: slowly we are getting more of these examples on the Backbase Forum, creating an exchange of useful custom tags.

Java Pet Store with AJAX & XML

My colleague Mark Schiefelbein has written an nice article for BEA Dev2dev in which he explains how we've rebuilt the Java Pet Store with AJAX and the Backbase XML Pipeline Server. The Java Pet Store is a well-know Java example application.

A common problem with AJAXifying an existing application is that the existing back-end is not optimized for an AJAX front-end: usually the flow of events is slightly different, and the data loading patterns are more 'on-demand'. The XML Server creates a bridge between disparate back-end systems and the Backbase AJAX engine. It can link to databases, Java objects, Web Services and custom connectors. Using an XML pipeline language you can link everything together. You can have a look at the AJAXified Pet Store here:

So although the Backbase AJAX Engine itself is a client-only application written in JavaScript, you can use various server-side add-ons that speed up AJAX application development. Backbase has both J2EE and .NET compatible products: the XML Server works on both J2EE and .NET, and the .NET Server features WYSIWYG AJAX application development using Visual Studio.NET. We're also working on a similar JSF application that uses Eclipse for WYSIWYG development.

Backbase has been classified both as a multi-platform technology (see Wikipedia) and as a pure JavaScript application (AJAX Patterns). We are actually both: we have a client-only AJAX engine, complemented with (optional) server-side components for .NET and J2EE. We feel this gives more flexibility than products with a mandatory back-end such as JPSpan (PHP), DWR (Java), AJAX.NET (.NET) or WebORB (.NET & Java). And more power than client-only products such as Dojo and OpenRico.

Some people ask why we don't offer a PHP version. Of course, you can use our client-only version together with PHP: actually, we'll soon launch a very interesting sample application that uses this combination. The difficulty with PHP is that there is no standard for GUI development. At Backbase we like to adhere to standards, so we've select JSF for Java, and use the defacto standard for .NET: Visual Studio.NET. But we haven't found a similar standard for PHP. I'm open to suggestions here, so let me know through the comments, of via jep [at] backbase [.] com.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

AJAX jobs...

It's pretty difficult to find good software engineers right now, especially engineers with the right experience. They should be good software engineers in general, but also have some experience with web applications, or ideally with AJAX. It's funny to see that even Google is accused of hiring all the bright engineers (NY Times article). Also see a surprisingly well-organized discussion on Slashdot about it.

In our own organization one potential employee went to Google (Zurich), instead of to Backbase, and several other people we've hired also considered Google. So I can't say that Google is luring away 'our' engineers. But I can confirm that it's difficult to find the right people, especially AJAX developers.

We've put job postings on Monsterboard, but very few people respond to our advertisements, and the Monsterboard CV database has very few interesting CVs. It's probably best to conclude that the economy is improving again. Which is good news, of course :-)

But anyhow: if you're a good software engineer and you would be interested to join a leading AJAX company, have a look at R&D is based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, which is very nice place to work. It even seems that the Dutch government improved their immigration procedures, so we can actually get work permits for people from outside Europe. We already have over 10 nationalities in our office in Amsterdam, so feel free to add to this.

PS. We're also hiring sales people for our new office in San Francisco.

Monday, August 08, 2005

InfoWorld reviews Backbase software

No, it's not an advertorial, and we weren't even allowed to review the text before publishing. I find it very positive that the writer (Peter Wayner) really worked with the software himself and gave an unbiased opinion.

Read the review ยป