Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Ext Designer 1.0: WYSIWYG application design tool for the Web

Category: Showcase

<p>extdesigner

The long awaited Ext Designer is out.

“Our developers write in Ext.”

This has been said because Ext is a very high level language for Web development. It is almost DSL like versus offering low level functions that you can sprinkle in your code. If you buy into the Ext way then you can build UIs in a very simple manner through JSON. This is all perfectly setup for a design tool, and with Ext Designer, they have it.

Feature Highlights

  • Fast prototyping of the look and feel of an application. Ext Designer enables developers and designers to assemble robust layouts by dragging and dropping their components together.
  • Fine-tuning without hand coding. Easily change the layout of a specific component, or use the inspector to fine-tune detailed properties.
  • User client-side data stores. Ext Designer includes several new ways to incorporate and configure data stores, which can then be bound to components like DataGrids and Trees. Whether your data is in JSON, XML, a simple JavaScript array, or an Ext Direct connection, Ext Designer can help you build a data store for it faster than ever.
  • Compatible with other development tools. Once the application design is finished, code can be exported on a component-by-component basis, as either JSON or JavaScript classes. Ext Designer creates tight JavaScript that can be imported into any popular IDE.

Interestingly, the took is a desktop application versus a Web app like Bespin, CodeMirror, or Ares. Some will be happy with this, as it gets the benefits of a desktop tool…. but I am a fan of where Ares in particular innovates (it lets you easily integrate your desktop files with the cloud…. via a Java applet).

If you already develop on Ext, it is a no brainer to give the designer a good walk through. At $219, if it saves you a couple of hours of work it is probably worth it :) The fact that Ext offers layout, rich components, and service integration, means that you can get an app up and running in short order.

What do you think?

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Posted by Dion Almaer at 1:02 am
23 Comments

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4.1 rating from 73 votes

23 Comments »

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@communicatedesign: Thats true. This was neccessary due some browser compatibility i think. Take a look at this thread and participate if you want: http://www.extjs.com/forum/showthread.php?t=91596

It is not only about IE6 compatibility, but also other old browser version (FF 1.5,…)

Comment by ThomasF — March 30, 2010

This release of the Designer is not exactly something to be thrilled about. With the exception of Windows 98 ME, I have never seen commercial software being released that contained as many bugs as Ext Designer did.

Comment by jax — March 30, 2010

The premature release of Ext Designer was done for the child-like reason of releasing on the developer’s birthday. Although I bought the program more than a month ago, I still do not have a licensed version because of their incompetence and disdain for paying customers.

Grow up, ExtJS. Stop acting like spoiled programmers and more like a company that wants to survive.

Comment by turingtest — March 30, 2010

Man, this reminds me of TIBCO General Interface.

Comment by zachleat — March 30, 2010

Great, now JavaScript programmers can develop even less in JavaScript :(

Comment by RyanMorr — March 30, 2010

I can’t speak for this product as I haven’t used it. The reason being that GXT (the GWT implementation of extjs) was the worst commercial software experience I’ve ever had. Not just at an API level but at a support level as well. Just browse their ‘help’ forum and see how they belittle their users when they can’t pull off ‘trivial’ things in the GXT API.
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Crippling bugs that are only ‘fixed in SVN’ for months on end. When I say ‘crippling bugs’ I’m talking stuff like hitting enter while a table has a row selected will reload the page in IE. This is fatal for a 100% ‘Ajax” app. The response is ‘get it from SVN’ (you need a license just to have SVN access). The 1.x branch has major issues and hasn’t been updated for a year now.

Comment by abickford — March 30, 2010

I have to say, it’s every software developer’s greatest dream to some day be compared to Windows ME, or perhaps Netscape 4, or maybe even Knights of the Old Republic II. That said, these comments are very fair. Apologies to our first week’s customers: we should have delivered a higher quality product day 1.

Deciding when software is ready to ship is a bit of a judgment call. We had a lot of people waiting for Designer who had a trouble-free beta, so we decided to ship to get the software in their hands as early as possible. Looking back on the number of bugs reported in the first day after ship, we definitely should have held off for at least another week or two. We’ve fixed 20 major bugs in the last week, and we think it’s now in the shape it should have been when we shipped it. This is our first release of a packaged product as opposed to a library, so we definitely learned a lot.

@turingtest. Again apologies for the backup in your license activation. We’re in the process of actually getting our forum, our billing and our CRM stuff to talk to each other. Until then, it’s a manual process worthy of your severe opprobrium.

Comment by ajxmullany — March 30, 2010

@AngusC. Designer is a **standards based** interface builder & code generator. You can tab between layout and code view and you can see exactly what code is being generated. The code is just regular Ext JS javascript/css/html. The whole reason that people use ExtJS is that it’s HTML/Javascript. Otherwise what would be the point — people would just go use Flex or Flash.

Michael Mullany
ExtJS

Comment by ajxmullany — March 30, 2010

@Michael Mullany – Sorry – it was unfair to compare ExtJS Designer to GWT – apologies – and I do think this is an amazing achievement software-wise.
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My comment was more a cry of anguish from a hardcore JavaScript developer (as the previous comment put it: “Great, now JavaScript programmers can develop even less in JavaScript :(” ). Was not intended to bash your product.

Comment by AngusC — March 30, 2010

@AngusC No worries. Actually the coolest thing about Designer is that it’s all built — itself — with HTML5, CSS3, and Javascript – on top of a embedded webkit browser. It’s sort of a showcase for what you can do with this next gen stuff.

Comment by ajxmullany — March 30, 2010

@V1: if it saves you 8 hours of ExtJS handwritten stuff you are at $0.

Comment by Aimos — March 30, 2010

I couldn’t agree more with @abickford. ExtJS as a company seems to care little about their paying GXT customers. At least that’s how I felt. So I can’t but feel a bit uninspired to purchase any additional products from them.

Comment by jprichardson — March 30, 2010

Hard to be on top — everyone’s always trying to drag you down. :P

Comment by mdmadph — March 30, 2010

I downloaded the preview and I have to say it was pretty cool. I want to dig through some of the generated code and see what it looks like. If it’s good code, for small projects this could be a very handy tool. $219 is steep, but I can probably convince the company to purchase it. Of course it’s not in the cards, but being able to substitute a different JS library like YUI or jQuery would be a very cool feature. maybe ExtJS would consider open sourcing their IDE someday :)

Comment by azappdeveloper — March 30, 2010

Wow, it’s amazing the negativity that comes up on some posts these days. Personally, I don’t have a need for the designer and would probably find it faster to prototype in actual code, but do I fault them for creating it ? Of course not. Good luck to them for taking a chance and trying to base a business around something they’re actually into. No one forces anyone to buy their products. I’m a massive fan of open source and have contributed a lot of my time towards it over the years but I have no problem with forking out a few dollars for something if it’s going to save me time. Maybe the ext designer was put out prematurely but in my mind early adopters take some of that risk on. Being a commercial product, as long as you can try it out first and it stabilises fast thereafter, that’s the main thing.

Similar negativity sprang up the other day with Sproutcore (and cappuccino) and while I think the SC project have a few things to sort out before they’ll win lots of people over, they have an awesome basis for something special and are putting it out for free.

You have to have a pretty thick skin to put yourself out there these days!!

Comment by robmonie — March 30, 2010

@abickford You’re right, the 1.x branch of GXT had its last update last April. We’ve been more current on the 2.x branch, but we need to do a 1.2.5 soon to catch up some of the fixes. Sorry you experienced frustration developing in GXT. It is a powerful, but quirky framework. (I did read you saying at one stage though, that at least it was better than Java Server Faces, so hopefully it wasn’t the absolute worst experience.)

Michael Mullany
ExtJS

Comment by ajxmullany — March 30, 2010

@abickford Just checked and I think we did better than you remember. That specific bug you mentioned was fixed in SVN 5 days after you reported it in February 2009, and then released in the 1.2.3 release 2 weeks later. Go here and scroll down to the 1.2.3 release notes: http://www.extjs.com/deploy/gxt-1.2.4/release_notes.html

Comment by ajxmullany — March 30, 2010

Well, I for one think ExtJS is a great product. I have had very few issues with quality, no more than I’ve had with other development frameworks. I’ve yet to find a framework, on any platform, that I didn’t get blocked by a bug on when using it “in depth”. In most of those cases I’ve not had good support experiences, and in all of those cases I managed to find workarounds.
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The designer looks interesting. I’ll probably be buying a copy. If I’m not mistaken it doesn’t do full round tripping (pulling in existing applications and allowing you to edit them), but it’s still a big improvement.

Comment by Joeri — March 31, 2010

What rob said. Personally I find typing {id:’myPanel’} faster than dragging, dropping, clicking a property grid, typing something. But fair play to them for writing a really powerful piece of UI code. OK flawed in its first release, but it’s going to get better. And the cost is pocket change compared to the cost of developing a project. Peanuts! Never forget: TANSTAAFL!

Comment by ExtAnimal — March 31, 2010

You are correct, I’d rather have dental work than use JSF! I did qualify my statement by saying ‘commercial software’ :)
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The straw that broke the camel’s back was when I couldn’t upgrade GWT because GXT was depending on a private variable (through JSNI) that went away in GWT (something w/the event preview stack if i remember right). That’s just poor coding practice.
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Anyway, this thread is about the extjs designer, not GXT. Good luck w/the designer.

Comment by abickford — March 31, 2010

>I have to say, it’s every software developer’s greatest dream to some
>day be compared to Windows ME,

:-) If Ext Designers (initial release) were an operating system, I’m sure it wouldn’t have even booted on 99.99 % of the hardware out there.

Comment by jax — April 2, 2010

Hm, the only feature I wanted to see was live URL handling for stores. This does not work, although I tried only with remote sources (both normal and JSONP ones).

Without this, and without the ability to edit code, the tool isn’t much more for me than the existing Ext.JS builder, which is free, meaning, it’s 100% less the price.

Also, it does not work on OS X (plain) leopard for me, just on windows.

Comment by Aadaam — April 2, 2010

I have written a tutorial, getting started with Ext Designer – for developers. Feel free to have a read, and give me feedback.

http://aboutfrontend.com/2010/07/ext-designer-tutorial-for-a-developer/

Best regards,
http://twitter.com/nilsfredrik/

Comment by NilsFredrik — July 22, 2010

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